At Bishop McGann-Mercy, tennis is not merely a two-month sport played in the early fall. It’s a year-round commitment for many of the players. (more…)
At Bishop McGann-Mercy, tennis is not merely a two-month sport played in the early fall. It’s a year-round commitment for many of the players. (more…)
MONARCHS 78, TUCKERS 67
First came the punch, and then came the virtual knockout.
An intense high school boys basketball game, played at a frantic pace, with one Bishop McGann-Mercy player ejected for punching a Mattituck player, all but dashed Mattituck’s playoff hopes.
McGann-Mercy, already eliminated from playoff contention, dealt a severe blow to Mattituck’s chances. The Monarchs punctuated their Senior Night by outscoring Mattituck, 27-16, in the fourth quarter for a 78-67 victory on Tuesday night.
As a towering presence on the court, Ethan Greenidge is every bit the intimidator a kid his size would appear. A 6-foot-5 forward who excels in football as a lineman, Greenidge also has another side that can get overlooked on the court.
“He’s light on his feet, and moves very well for a kid his size,” said Riverhead coach John Rossetti. (more…)
No shortage of challenges face the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls tennis team this fall. For one thing, the Wildcats do not have the use of their home courts, which have fallen into serious disrepair and are unplayable. If that wasn’t enough, for the first time in seven years, they will be without Aimee Manfredo, one of the top players in the program’s proud history. (more…)
You can’t fight city hall.
To put a twist on that old saying, the Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis coach, Mike Clauberg, offers this: “You can’t fight Section XI.”
Clauberg, concerned about what Suffolk County’s interscholastic sports governing body will do with his team in regard to the upcoming county team tournament, may have been like many coaches early this week, anxious to see if their teams would be placed into the 24-team tournament and, if so, who their opponents would be.
A seeding meeting was planned for Tuesday morning. In the meantime, coaches played the waiting game. The tournament is scheduled to start with an outbracket match on Thursday.
“It’s the luck of the draw,” said Clauberg.
Mattituck (12-0), as the League VIII champion, is assured of one of those 24 playoff spots.
“You would like to see how you measure up against some of the other schools in the county,” said Tuckers coach Jim Christy, whose team concluded a perfect regular season last Wednesday with a 7-0 defeat of Hampton Bays. “The reality is, as in any sport, you’re going to end up, with the exception of one team, with a loss. So, you see how far you can go.”
The Tuckers enjoyed a tremendous regular season in which they won four matches by 4-3 scores. A big part of Mattituck’s success has been the play of younger players like eighth-grade third singles player Liz Dwyer and first doubles players Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny, who are both sophomores. They are All-Division players and reached the Division IV Tournament quarterfinals on Monday, as did Mattituck’s first singles player, senior Molly Kowalski, who is Anna’s sister.
Mattituck’s singles lineup is strong. Kyra Martin, who plays second singles, won eight of 10 league matches. Dwyer went 12-0 in league play, and eighth-grader Emily Mowdy went 11-1.
But unlike last year, when the Tuckers relied heavily on singles, Christy said the Tuckers have been picking up points with stronger doubles play as well.
Kowalski and Penny went 10-2 during the regular season. Meanwhile, the two other doubles pairings — Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox, and Julie Krudop and Haley Martin — went 8-4.
“They took it serious,” Christy said. “They went out and they competed, and they were rewarded for competing.”
Christy said he didn’t know how good of a season it would be until the team’s season-opening match, a 4-3 win over Southampton.
Christy, who expected his team to be seeded around 12th, said he is eager to see the bracket sheet released.
“You want to see who the first team is so you can kind of help the girls prepare for it,” he said, noting that the Tuckers will scrimmage William Floyd on Thursday in preparation for their playoff match.
McGann-Mercy’s 6-8 record (2-8 in League VII) may not be particularly impressive, but Clauberg is quick to point out that the Monarchs play in what he considers the toughest league in the county, with the exception of League I. “People don’t realize how competitive we are against the top teams,” he said. Clauberg pointed out that his team defeated Miller Place, a playoff team, by a 6-1 score.
Clauberg said his team, which reached the county quarterfinals the last three years, should be seeded anywhere between 12th and 18th.
McGann-Mercy’s top two doubles teams — the pairing of senior Shannon Merker and junior Delaney Macchirole, and the duo of senior Jackie Zaweski and junior Micaela Zeboroski — both earned All-County status this year by reaching the Division IV semifinals.
Despite being hit hard by injuries and not having as much depth as they had in the past, the Monarchs produced a 6-1 win over William Floyd in their final regular-season match on Friday to remain in postseason contention. They prevailed without one of their singles starters, sophomore Jamie Lessard, who attended a funeral that day.
Macchirole (4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) over Laura Kesnig), Katie Brownfield (6-3, 6-4 over Nicole Horn) and Nicole Gravagna (6-3, 6-3 over Emily Cereoli) brought the Monarchs wins at singles. In addition, the Monarchs swept the three doubles matches. Merker and Angelika Osiniak defeated Sarah Jurgielewicz and Cassie Rivera, 6-4, 6-3; Zaweski and Savannah Seijka beat Taylor Bourguignon and Julia Cutler, 6-1, 6-2; and Sally Burdiladize and Magda Duda were 6-0, 6-2 winners over Sam Quinn and Sam Skolas.
The only point McGann-Mercy lost was at first singles, with Jackie Dukzin handing Zeboroski a 6-0, 6-1 loss.
The Monarchs, who are in their third straight year in League VII, will be dropped down to League VIII next year, something that Clauberg is not happy about. There is a considerable difference in talent between the two leagues, and Clauberg likes the competition League VII offers his players.
“You want to be in League VII,” he said. “You want to play the top dog. It’s like being in an AP course.”
In the meantime, Clauberg was looking forward to a favorable seeding for his team in the county tournament. The waiting game continued for him and the other coaches.
“We’ll see,” Christy said. “You focus on the season and you basically think about everything after the season is over as kind of gravy. You relax and have a good time.”
DIVISION IV INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
They don’t give out any trophies or medals for winning the Suffolk County Division IV girls tennis singles title, but Aimee Manfredo did bring home some intriguing spoils of victory Tuesday: the draw sheet of the tournament and a bag of candy corn — her favorite candy — given to her by her teammates.
“I have the draw sheets from every time I’ve won,” the three-time division champion said. “So it’s a nice little memory.”
Manfredo certainly also brought home some nice memories from William Floyd High School, as the Shoreham-Wading River senior culminated a brilliant tournament and performance with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Eastport/South Manor’s Jackie Bukzin. In her five tourney matches, Manfredo lost only four games.
Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen called the win “very efficient. Awesome. Very few mistakes throughout the whole match. She kept herself in control the entire match.”
While she savored winning another league crown, Manfredo realized that she had yet another challenge looming over the horizon — the county championships at Smithtown East High School on Saturday and Monday.
“I think I’m going to rest tonight and then get back because I need to eat my candy corn, so I don’t think I should eat it and play tennis.” she said. “I’ll definitely be back [Wednesday].”
And then Manfredo will set her sights on winning her first county title. She reached the final last year.
“I expect a tougher draw because … [the division tournament] wasn’t really competition until the semis and finals,” she said. “That’s when I was really focused and tried to play my best tennis. I expect the counties will be every single match you will have to play your best match to get there. I really just have to hope that I am on my game that day.”
So does Lutjen, who has high hopes for Manfredo.
“Playing the way she played today, the sky’s the limit,” Lutjen said. “If she plays like this, she’s as good as anyone out there. She’s really playing well. She’s playing the best tennis of her career right now. That’s what you want. You want to be peaking at the right time going into the tournament. She’s playing with confidence and playing with a lot of maturity and control.”
Manfredo demonstrated that Tuesday, breaking Bukzin’s service four times.
“I played really well,” she said. “I warmed up really well. I felt I was hitting the ball great. Then I got into the match and I was so nervous because the last match I played against her went to three sets. It was: ‘Oh my gosh. It was going to be tough.’ I just came off hitting well on both sides. Nothing bothered me. In my last match, I had some issues. If I lost a game, I would be like, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to lose.’ But today, I don’t even remembering those two games. I just forgot about everything and played my game.”
The key to Manfredo’s game was a strong backhand.
“I loved my backhand today,” she said. “I think that was the MVP of my strokes. My backhand was really solid today and she tried to attack it. But I just got it back every single time. My forehand, I made more errors off of it, although I was winning points. I just felt more solid off my backhand and I could hit like 100 shots in a row. Hit it to my backhand, I’m hitting it back.”
In the doubles consolation match, Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Mike Clauberg found himself in the enviable and unique position of watching an encounter between a pair of friends and teammates from his own school. The M&Ms — Shannon Merker and Delaney Macchirole — defeated Z-squared — Jackie Zaweski and Micaela Zebroski, 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’m just happy that we have four All-County selections, which I believe is the first time in school history. Both teams played really well today.”
If this is the golden era of Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis, the shine on that gilt may be getting duller.
The Monarchs have enjoyed great success, reaching the playoffs the past five years and compiling a 55-7 league record during that time. Prior to last season, they had an unbeaten string at home that lasted for nearly five years.
All of that, of course, was not by happenstance.
“We put a lot of time into the program,” said coach Mike Clauberg, referring to elementary school, junior high school and summer camp programs.
Currently, two former McGann-Mercy players, Liz Rossi (Mount St. Mary’s) and Cassidy Lessard (Wagner), are playing in college. The Monarchs undoubtedly wish they still had them. Clauberg, who is in his 13th year as the team’s coach, said he sees a lot of holes in his lineup.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think we’re going to pull any miracles this year,” he said. “This is one of my most inexperienced teams in a lot of years.”
McGann-Mercy went 12-6 last year, reaching the Suffolk County Team Tournament quarterfinals for the third year in a row. Returning to that stage will not be easy, although Clauberg said qualifying for the playoffs is a realistic goal. A League VII team, McGann-Mercy is ranked fifth among League VII and League VIII teams by the coaches. The Monarchs face a tough schedule, too. They will play four of the top eight teams in Suffolk in league matches: William Floyd, East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson, Westhampton Beach and The Ross School.
Two seniors head McGann-Mercy’s returning cast, Shannon Merker and Jackie Zaweski. Merker, the team captain, played for the top two doubles teams as well as second singles last year. She was an all-division selection along with Jamie Lessard, a sophomore.
Speaking of Merker, Clauberg said, “She’s the best doubles player I ever coached.”
Delaney Macchirole, who played first doubles with fellow junior Micaela Zebroski last year, is also back. Magda Duda was part of the singles lineup last season at the No. 2 or No. 3 spot. Brittany Folkes played third doubles and fourth singles. Katie Brownfield was a third doubles player.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Clauberg said. “We’re going to be an underdog this year for the first time in a long time.”
Shoreham-Wading River has produced some pretty good players over the years, such as Cath Galvin, who was a two-time county champion, and Jennifer LoRusso, who has a county title on her résumé as well. Aimee Manfredo ranks right up there with them, according to coach Debbie Lutjen, who has been coaching in the program since 1984.
Private lessons and the experience of playing in United States Tennis Association tournaments has made a difference. Manfredo brings a 63-19 career record into her senior season and sixth at the varsity level. The two-time Division IV singles champion was a county runner-up who went 17-1 last year.
Lutjen said Manfredo is “very strong, very motivated. I think she’s very excited about her senior season. She loves the game.”
Although the lineup was being finalized, Lutjen said two sisters, freshman Joelle Benigno and eighth-grader Daniella Benigno, will play second and third singles. Michelle Hoffmann, a sophomore, and junior Anna Simos were competing for the fourth singles position. Heather Sager, a sophomore who was the junior varsity team’s top singles player last year, is projected to be a doubles player.
Another sophomore, Katya Perricone, is ranked sixth among singles candidates and is expected to fill a doubles spot. She is new to the team along with junior McKenna Farrell, freshman Amanda Betiberis and sophomore Katie Stern.
“We have a strong group of girls,” said Lutjen.
Riverhead (7-9) finds itself in an interesting situation in terms of personnel.
“I lost a lot but …,” said coach Jerry Duvall, who at the same time conceded that his team returns a good deal of experienced players, many of them juniors.
Since last year, Riverhead lost five players, all of whom were slotted in key lineup positions, and yet it’s not as if the Blue Waves can cry poverty. They still have seven players back who were in the lineup in 2012. That includes junior Lydia Keiffert, senior Michelle Behr and junior Katherine Chmielewski, who look destined for places in the singles lineup along with what Duvall referred to as “a player to be named later.”
That’s not a bad starting point. “Lydia, Michelle and Katherine are not bad singles players,” said Duvall.
Keiffert played first doubles and second singles last year behind the graduated Charlotte Palmer and seems poised to make the jump to first singles.
“She’s our most experienced singles player,” Duvall said. “She keeps the ball in play. She’s fast and runs real quick. She can make the other person run, too.”
Behr and Chmielewski both saw time at third and fourth singles, as did Samantha Carter, a junior.
Two juniors, Cassidy Brown and Abigail Wehunt, played a lot at first doubles and formed what Duvall called his most consistent doubles team. Another junior, Jessica Purick, has varsity experience as a doubles player.
Danielle Alaimo, a junior, and Amy Methven, a sophomore, are also returning players.
Courtney Troyan, a sophomore who was one of the top singles players on the junior varsity team last year, is a new addition. Perla Leon is a senior who can play doubles. Paired at doubles are juniors Kate Prjlaina and Danielle Alaimo, freshmen Taylor Marelli and Kathleen Gregory, and juniors Brianne Corwin and Stefanie Costello.
“These kids have great potential,” Duvall said. “They’re all gung-ho kids. They’re all anxious to play.”
Duvall said he appreciates the “team-first” attitude of his players. He said, “It may be the most unselfish team of players I’ve had the privilege to coach.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Cassidy Lessard of Jamesport has accepted an athletic and academic scholarship to play tennis at Wagner College, a NCAA Division 1 school on Staten Island. With her parents, Kelly and Dave watching, Lessard signed her letter of intent on Wednesday during a commitment ceremony held at the McGann-Mercy chapel.
Encouraged to play tennis by her parents, Lessard first picked up a racket when she was 5 years old. During her four years as a first singles player for the Monarchs, Lessard built an overall record of 60-12.
“Cassidy has had a tremendous impact on our program,” McGann-Mercy coach Mike Clauberg said in a prepared statement. “We could always count on her to come up with the big win under pressure. Her athleticism, work ethic and leadership as a captain is a big reason why we have been top 10 on Long Island for the past two years.”
Lessard has also received all-county honors and was awarded a Suffolk Zone Leadership Award.
In addition to her athletic prowess, Lessard is a dedicated student, earning an overall grade-point average of 94.16 percent. “Cassidy is a great student/athlete who continuously strives for excellence in both tennis and academics,” McGann-Mercy’s athletic director, John Lonardo, said in a press release. “She truly is a great kid who is going to do well in life.”
In reflecting on why she decided to sign with Wagner, Lessard took both athletic and academic concerns into account. “I chose Wagner for two reasons,” she said. “First, the tennis team and coaching staff are a perfect fit for me, and second, for their excellent nursing program.”