It may have looked as though Mattituck’s Joe Pfaff had Riverhead’s Seth Conrad right where he wanted him in the first set.
On most points, Pfaff, the Tuckers’ No. 1 singles player, was sending Conrad, Riverhead’s top singles player, scurrying back and forth along the baseline. Yet it was Conrad, not Pfaff, who won the first set during Monday afternoon’s Suffolk County League VIII boys tennis match at Riverhead High School.
Pfaff was the only Tucker to drop a set in Mattituck’s 7-0 sweep of the Blue Waves. The Tuckers’ overall and league records are now 5-1. Riverhead dropped to 1-7, 1-6.
After Pfaff lost the first set, Mattituck Coach Mike Huey pulled him aside for a moment.
“I wanted him to go to the net, which he was doing in the first set,” Huey said. “[Conrad] was very consistent. If [Pfaff] doesn’t put the ball away, he’s playing right into the guy’s hands.”
Instead of ending a rally on his first or second volley, Huey said, Pfaff was playing too tentatively. He was not consistently hitting through the ball on his forehand, Huey added, whether he was on the baseline or at the net.
But that changed in the second set, as Pfaff started playing more aggressively. Conrad, for all his efforts, was barely managing to get the ball back in play. But he forced Pfaff to end the points. With the second set on the line, Pfaff finally did, smashing a Conrad lob to the fence to take the second set, 6-3.
Pfaff jumped out to a quick lead in the third set, and looked as though he would finish the match easily. But Conrad, serving down 3-1 in games, 40-0 in points, won three straight points before dropping his service game on a double fault. Pfaff took the next game with a backhand passing shot and then a backhanded drop volley.
But Conrad held his serve, forcing Pfaff to serve for the match.
“He kept trying and didn’t give in,” Riverhead Coach Bob Lum said. “That’s a good sign. When you get behind you can easily just throw it in, so that was good.”
“You get aggravated,” Lum continued. “It’s very easy to do. You have to play one ball at a time and focus on one point at a time.”
In the last game, Conrad hit as aggressively as he had all match. Looking for a break point at 30-all, Conrad whipped a forehand down the line, but Pfaff stabbed the ball just before it got by him, dumping it cross court to give himself match point. A smash ended the three-setter in Pfaff’s favor, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The second singles match ended on a similar note, with a volley from Mattituck’s Connor Davis sending Riverhead’s Devon Brewer scrambling into a corner to chase it down. But Brewer’s lob got caught in the wind gusts that were blowing across the courts all afternoon. Davis won, 6-3, 6-1.
Pfaff and Davis were the Tuckers’ No. 1 doubles team last year. This year, as seniors, they are both playing varsity singles for the first time.
“When I put them together for doubles last year, it was because of their athleticism,” Huey said. “I didn’t even know they were going to be my number one doubles team. They ended up beating the number one doubles team. They went to the quarterfinals in the division tournament. I knew after that they were going to be my one and two players for [this] year.”
Lum does not have that kind of luxury, as he returned only six players from last year’s team. Three of his first-year players are seniors who have never played competitive tennis before. But one, Victor Camacho, has already caught Lum’s eye. Camacho, playing second doubles with Geoff Wells, lost to Kevin Reyer and Jeff Strider, 6-1, 6-1.
“He wants to play singles,” Lum said of Camacho. “He hasn’t been able to break the top four yet. That’s his goal.”
The Tuckers, meanwhile, will look to finish in the top tier of League VIII, as well as avenge their only loss of the season to date. That came at the hands of the William Floyd Colonials. They will meet again on May 5 in the final regular-season match for both teams.
The Tuckers swept the rest of Monday’s matches in straight sets. At third singles, Tim Young defeated John Rios, 6-2, 6-1. Casey Ciamaricone, in Mattituck’s fourth singles position, beat Efe Erol, 6-3, 6-0.
At first doubles, Jake Gamberg and Brett Jermusyk defeated Andrew Plattner and Stephen Loquet, 7-5, 6-0, and at third doubles Eamon Deegan and Nick De Long were 6-3, 6-1 winners over Patrick Carroll and Parker Ellis.