Girls Tennis: Rain puts Mercy’s pursuit of league title on hold

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy's first singles player, Ashley Yakaboski, and her teammates are pursuing the team's fourth straight league championship and fifth since 2000.

The process of determining the Suffolk County League VII girls tennis champion has been extended to the final day of the league season, plus one.

Players, coaches and fans will have to wait until at least Friday to see if the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs claim a share of their fourth straight league championship and fifth since 2000.

McGann-Mercy’s final regular-season match was suspended on Thursday after an accumulation of a fine mist and light rain settled on the tennis courts at Southampton High School, making for slippery conditions. None of the six individual matches that were being played had gone beyond three games before the coaches, Mike Clauberg of McGann-Mercy and Rich Wingfield of Southampton, called their players off the court. The contest has been scheduled to resume tomorrow afternoon.

“It’s something you can’t control,” Wingfield said. “… What’s happened is safety first. At the end of the day, what I feel good about is that we made the decision in favor of the kids. The courts are too wet, they becomes hazardous, let’s call it. They’ll come back and fight another day.”

McGann-Mercy (12-2, 7-2) started the day in second place behind the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes (9-2, 8-1), who were matched against the William Floyd Colonials (10-3, 6-3) at the same time. A Westhampton Beach loss, coupled with a McGann-Mercy win, would earn the Monarchs a share of first place.

“The fact that this program has come this far, we could be neck and neck with Westhampton, I think that says something for us,” said Clauberg.

Clauberg said his team has been a surprise this season, and contends that some teams don’t respect the Monarchs.

But Wingfield isn’t buying any of that. The Monarchs went 16-3 last year, and have a 58-7 record over the past four years.

“Believe me, nobody underestimates Mercy,” Wingfield said. “Mercy, not just their tennis, I think their whole athletic program is on the rise. Everybody’s saying: ‘Hey, wait a minute. Don’t sleep on Mercy.’ So those days are gone where somebody is going to pencil in a ‘W’ because they’re playing Mercy, because what Mercy has done is taken that ‘M’ [in Mercy] and flipped it around the other way” to a ‘W.’

Entering the final regular-season match, singles players Cassidy Lessard (12-2), Marianne Naleski (10-2) and Jackie Zaweski (11-3) all have winning records. Ashley Yakaboski, the first singles player, is 5-9.

But perhaps even more impressive is what the Monarchs’ three doubles teams have done. The first doubles team of Erica Blanco and Shannon Merker is 11-2. Stefanie Blanco and Delaney Macchirole, the No. 2 doubles pairing, are 13-1. The third doubles team of Caitlin Lawler and Alyssa Mize are 10-4.

“He has a great group of kids,” Wingfield said. “The results are just evident. Those kids are playing great tennis. He has them feeling confident in themselves and that’s important.”

The Monarchs are winners of their last 11 matches. They defeated the Southampton Mariners, 6-1, when the teams met in Riverhead on Sept. 19. Southampton is 2-9, 1-8, and has lost its last three matches.

Coming off the team bus before the match, the Monarchs looked like they were all business as they marched in double file toward their team bench and what they hope will be another league crown. But if the Monarchs are to continue their league-title run, they will have to be patient and wait another day for it.

“We have to see what happens,” Clauberg said. “It is what it is. I think we exceeded our standards. We improved tremendously. Everybody across the board has improved so much this year that regardless of what happens with Westhampton and what happens with us with Southampton, it’s been a successful season.”

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