Coach Bob Lum didn’t need much time to answer the question of what he likes best about his Riverhead High School boys tennis team. The answer: the team’s maturity.
“They have good sense of humors, but I don’t have to check them that much,” Lum said. “I like when I don’t have to baby-sit.”
Bob Lum, the baby-sitter, can take the season off while Bob Lum, the coach, does his thing.
Lum must also like the fact that he has seven returning players from last year’s team, three seniors among them. In his five years as the Blue Waves’ coach, he has never had that many returning players. “Seven helps,” he said.
At the same time, six of the 13 team members are first-time players who have picked up a racket for the first time.
Expected to be at the top of the lineup once again is sophomore Seth Conrad, who went 6-6 last year at first singles.
The Blue Waves (2-10) can also count on seniors Efe Erol and Andrew Plattner, who played first doubles last year. Another senior, Parker Ellis, played third doubles. The other returners — juniors John Rios and Geoff Wells and sophomore Patrick Corroll — were also doubles players.
Two of the new players, juniors Christian Aguirre and Joseph Inzalaca, may play doubles together. The team’s other new faces are junior John Weaver, sophomore Boris Capri and freshmen Jose Chinchilla and Timothy Saltel.
“They’re having a good time, and I’m inspired,” Lum said. “Wins and losses are nice, really nice, but that’s really determined by the kids themselves [and] the other teams. … Success to me is: Did my kids get better? Are they having a good time? Are they growing as human beings?”
“The wins, that’s extra,” he continued. “If they lose, they better learn from the losses because in life there’s losses. Do you learn from them? Hopefully they can get a lot of wins along the way. It’s always much more fun with wins.”
The season may be just getting underway, but it hasn’t taken Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats Coach Rich Muller long to figure out his team’s strength this season — doubles.
“My doubles I’m just loaded,” Muller said during practice Tuesday. “They’re good players and good kids, too.”
In a highly competitive League VII that includes teams like Westhampton Beach and The Ross School, the Wildcats (4-10) may not always match up skill-wise against the top competition. But Muller knows where his players have the advantage, and that’s in outhustling the other players.
“Shoreham has such good athletes and that takes you a long way when you’re playing tennis,” Muller said. “We hustle more than [Westhampton Beach and Ross] do; they just have the skill that defeats us. That can be frustrating in a lot of ways, but they don’t get frustrated.”
Ben Dalecki and Brian Cuzzo will play first doubles. Kyle Davis, a newcomer to the varsity level, will play with Matt Da Volio, who was at second singles last year. Ryan Buckley, who played first doubles last year, will play with a new partner this year, Kevin Galligan, at mostly third doubles.
Buckley said playing doubles comes down to strategizing.
“You have to do things you’re not used to,” he said. “It really challenges you because in singles you can hang back and attack the net, where in doubles you’re put in a position based on what your opponents do or your partner does.”
The Wildcats have a seventh grader, Chris Kunule, who could see time in singles. “He’s very, very good,” Muller said.
The Wildcats singles players include Louis Bamonte, Tyler Yaskinsch, Justin Laino and Pete Deleon.
Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.