BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS
Taryn Enck, left, and Kayleigh Macchirole were an all-division first doubles team for Bishop McGann-Mercy last year.
Bishop McGann-Mercy has accomplished quite a lot in recent years, especially since it is the second smallest high school competing in girls tennis in Suffolk County. The past five years have been the glory years for the Monarchs, who have won three League VIII championships in that time, including titles the past two years. Last year’s team, featuring a loaded lineup, virtually ran on auto pilot before finishing with a sparkling 14-1 record.
Things may not look so easy this year.
McGann-Mercy not only lost seven players from last year’s team, but it lost seven players who were in the lineup. That includes Liz Rossi, the greatest player in school history, and Brooke Lessard, who was the team’s second singles player. Only three of the current squad’s 16 players were on the team last year.
And yet, Coach Mike Clauberg believes the Monarchs can be competitive this year. That says as much about the program as anything else. It’s a program that has seen Mike Maloney’s junior varsity team produce undefeated seasons the past two years.
“I’m really optimistic,” Clauberg said. “I think we can finish somewhere near the top. It’s going to be a battle, though. Everything’s a battle. There are going to be no walkovers.”
McGann-Mercy has its first doubles team of Taryn Enck and Kayleigh Macchirole back. The two seniors reached the quarterfinals of last year’s Division IV tournament, finished with 15-2 records and received all-division awards. They are the team captains.
The team’s only other returner is senior Elizabeth Barlow, an all-league player who teamed up with the graduated Audrey Zaweski in second doubles.
Cassidy Lessard and Lindsey Merker are the team’s only other seniors and both are singles players. Among those who are also competing for singles spots are Jessica Allen, Stefanie Blanco, Isabella Franz and Terry Spath.
Shannon Merker, Marianne Naleski, Jackie Read and Ashley Yakaboski can play either singles or doubles. Erica Blanco, Caitlin Lawler and Alyssa Mize are listed as doubles players.
“There’s a little more coaching involved; there’s a little more strategy involved,” Clauberg said of this year’s situation. “There’s going to be more challenge matches than ever before and there’s going to be kids fighting for those third doubles spots.”
Four days into preseason practice is not a lot, and Riverhead Coach Jerry Duvall was nowhere near finished putting the pieces of this year’s puzzle together. Trying to figure out who will play where can be trying, but with the competition that the Blue Waves have for places, Duvall said, “It’s a good problem to have.”
Riverhead (6-10 last year) has plenty of returning players that Duvall hopes will answer those lineup questions. Sandra Rattkayova, Gaby Savaneviciute and Briana Ristau look to fill the top three singles positions that have been vacated by the graduations of Alexa Markel, Gabi Misiano and Amelia McCombe.
Brittany Martens and Nichole Treadwell may form one of the top doubles teams. Another possible pairing would be that of Jessica Langdon and Elizabeth Morrison. Morrison is a four-year varsity player as is Jordan Barnard, who played doubles last year, but may play singles this season as well.
Milena Chzranowska, Alexandra Norbury, Ashley Wilk and Meyling Zuniga are returning players. Four sophomores have been promoted from the JV team: Charlotte Palmer, Alexa Quintana, Klaudia Szczesba and Juana Obrzynski.
“The first four practices have been excellent,” Duvall said. “They’re hustling, they’re running. … I like the great attitude. They’ve shown real good energy. They listen, they learn. We feel that … this is the most enthusiastic group that we ever had. The potential is great.”