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Girls Tennis: Mercy opens season on winning note

The start to the fastest season in high school sports began Thursday for girls tennis players throughout Suffolk County. Like a new package being unwrapped, it’s the first true glimpse teams get of themselves, and their opponents, in match competition. Who knows what it will all lead to later this fall? That’s part of the allure.

One thing is for sure:

“The season goes by so fast,” Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Jamie Densieski said. “It’s sad, but it’s a lot of fun.”

That fun began in the sun. Absolutely beautiful weather with brilliant sunshine contributed to an idyllic setting for the season opener for both Patchogue-Medford and Mercy in a non-leaguer at Mercy’s Keith Goodale ’95 Memorial Tennis Courts. The cherry on top for Mercy was a 5-2 victory.

“It was a nice day for McGann-Mercy tennis,” said coach Mike Clauberg, whose team has been promoted to League VII after winning the League VIII championship last year and going 18-1.

It was a nice day for Rose Hayes, too. The eighth-grader, in her second year as Mercy’s first singles player, became the school’s first all-state player last year. She went 25-6 and reached the Suffolk Division IV singles final, virtually unheard of for a player that young.

Hayes said she is “a little different player now. Last year I really did just wait for the others to make mistakes. But now I feel like I’m being more forceful and I’ll put the ball away.”

True to her word, Hayes did just that as she began the new season in convincing fashion, blasting away 16 winners as she rolled to a quick, tidy 6-0, 6-2 win over Patchogue senior Taylor Hanscom. Hayes has a way of pressuring opponents into mistakes. One reporter’s count had her for no unforced errors to 13 for Hanscom.

And yet, when asked afterward how she thought she played, Hayes answered, “Not too great.”

Asked if she is a harsh critic of herself, Hayes responded, “Sometimes I’m too hard on myself because then I get frustrated and make mistakes, but I mean, if you don’t see what you did wrong, then you can’t get better.”

What did Clauberg think of what he saw from Hayes?

“Rose is Rose,” he said. “She is fundamentally just so sound.”

Opening day is also about sorting through nerves, which the Monarchs appeared to do well.

Densieski registered a 6-1, 6-2 victory over fellow junior Shelby Kurera at second singles.

“We had a lot of 40-alls,” Densieski said. “She really kept up, but in the end, I kind of thought and worked on my placement, but it was a great match.”

In third singles, after winning the first set, 6-3, and dropping the second, 7-5, Mercy sophomore Kelsey Bundrick prevailed over junior Trinity Barberis on a 7-3 tiebreaker.

Mercy’s third doubles team of juniors Julia Cappiello and Lizzy Hannah gave their side a 4-1 lead in team points with their 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback triumph over eighth-grader Isabelle Baginski and senior Heather Holzer. It was Cappiello’s varsity debut. Hannah played one varsity match last year.

The other Mercy team point came from the first doubles duo of Brooke Kappenberg and Ryan Waski. They defeated Emily Berkmeyer and Faye Kho, 6-4, 6-4.

Patchogue’s wins came at fourth singles through Julia Keiffert (7-5, 6-3 over Karina Ellis) and second doubles through Angela Avecillas and Marissa Yun (6-1, 6-3 over Jocelyn Lessard and Jordyn Stromski).

“The doubles combinations are working well,” Clauberg said. “We did better than I thought we would at doubles, and I learned that we have a lot of work to do. We’re in a tough league, but we’re going to get better.”

Hayes likes her team — on and off the court.

“They’re all super nice,” she said of her teammates. “Mercy is probably the kindest team you’ll ever meet. They’re so nice, all of them. They’re almost too nice.”

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Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy eighth-grader Rose Hayes opened her season with a tidy 6-0, 6-2 defeat of Patchogue-Medford senior Taylor Hanscom. (Credit: Bob Liepa)