As it turns out, you can go home again. At least the Shoreham-Wading River high school boys tennis team can.
After two years as road warriors, the Wildcats have a true place to call home.
Shoreham (8-7 last year) had been forced to practice and play its “home” matches at Longwood Middle School the past two years while its own courts had fallen into disrepair and were unplayable. Now, though, the Wildcats have new courts at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
Nine new courts have replaced the 10 that were bulldozed. In order to meet safety guidelines and allow for more footage between each court, one court was lost. The second phase of the project will see lights at the courts erected next year.
Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen likes how the new courts look. “They’re beautiful,” she said.
Having had to travel to Longwood daily for practices and home matches was a grind, and because of scheduling the Wildcats were limited to 90-minute practices, at most, said Lutjen.
“It was like an away game every day at practice,” she said. Now, the team will enjoy “full practices. The boys are just going to develop more this year because they have more practice time.”
Perhaps just as exciting as Shoreham’s new courts is one of the players who will be playing on them. Chris Kuhnle, the defending Suffolk County singles champion, finished fourth in New York State last year, the furthest a Shoreham boy has ever gone. His record was 27-2. The senior enters his sixth year on the team with a promising season ahead of him.
“I think Chris has come back even stronger than last year,” said Lutjen, whose team lost to Patchogue-Medford in the first round of the Suffolk County Team Tournament. “He’s become a leader on the team.”
Lutjen said what separate Kuhnle from other players is that he isn’t just a good tennis player, but he also works hard on his physical conditioning to help him become stronger and faster than many of his opponents.
Two other seniors are projected to hold the next two singles slots. Doug DeMaio, who played second singles last year, could be back in that position. Brandon Dorcely, a doubles player last year, may play third singles.
One of the big question marks is who will play fourth singles?
Four players are in contention: two former doubles players, senior Cameron Weber and sophomore Nicholas Lange, and senior Matthew Epp and junior Rohin McIntosh, both of whom make the jump from the junior varsity team.
Also in the mix are Will Loper, Alex Bacos, Andrew Hupner, Jack DelDuca, Ryan Field and Kelvin Ma. They are all seniors except for Bacos, a sophomore who played a couple of varsity matches last year.
Of these 13 players, the Wildcats will keep 10 for the varsity team, with another 10 on the junior varsity team. Lutjen said players may move back and forth between the two teams. “Right now we’re mixing and matching,” she said.
All in all, from new courts to players, the picture has brightened for the Wildcats.
Said Lutjen, “I think we’ll be just as strong this year and I think we’ll be stronger in the doubles.”
Riverhead coach Rose D’Orsogna did not return phone messages prior to the deadline. The Blue Waves went 1-11 last year.
Photo caption: Suffolk County singles champion Chris Kuhnle went further than a Shoreham-Wading River boy ever did last year when he finished fourth in New York State. (Credit: Katherine Schroeder, file)