Boys tennis: Riverhead outmatched by Tuckers

Some doubles partners take a while to find their rhythm.

Then there’s the Mattituck High School duo of seniors Mike Finnegan and Phoenix Samolewski, who get along quite nicely, thank you.

The partners won for the fourth time since they were paired together earlier this season, helping the Tuckers to a 6-1 win over host Riverhead in a Suffolk County Division IV encounter on a chilly Friday afternoon.

“Riverhead’s got a similar record to ours, so we knew it could have been a close match, but our guys played pretty well today,” said Mattituck head coach Cory Dolson, whose team improved to 4-5, 4-2, while the Blue Waves dropped to 3-7, 2-5.

The Tuckers’ win started with their first seeds, senior Tommy McGunnigle at first singles, and Finnegan and Samolewski in first doubles, defeating Macklin Jordan and Christian Seymour, 6-3, 6-1.

They didn’t start out well, making several mistakes in the opening set before finding themselves.

“They started a little slow,” Dolson said. “They were playing a little sloppy in the first set and then picked it up. They cleaned the game up a little bit. They’re playing pretty well together. That’s definitely our best doubles team, a team that we think can go pretty far at the end of the year.”

All things considered, Finnegan and Samolewski’s transition to doubles partners has gone well.

“Mike plays really well at the net. I play fairly decently on the back,” Samolewski said. “Whenever I had a nice cross court shot, he’s always able to like connect and end the point.”

Finnegan noted that the duo’s height — they’re each 6-foot-2 — has helped them gain an advantage.

“We’re both pretty tall so we’re able to take advantage at the net and win a lot of points very easily,” he said. “I would say that was going really well for us.”

The duo also has developed some solid communication, which has gone a long way.

“It’s very important,” Samolewski said. “If some guy lobs it over our head, I yell switch, which means I just slide to the other side of the net and then just keep playing like nothing ever happened.”

In the first singles confrontation, McGunnigle downed Ben Dono, 6-3, 6-0.

“Tommy’s got a big serve and he hits the ball well on the baseline,” Dolson said. “He wore the guy down a little bit. He got better as the match went on. He looked good today.”

McGunnigle wasn’t about to argue that.

“Things went really well,” he said. “He’s a good player and I just played very well. I was very consistent today. I wasn’t hitting balls into the net or out.”

Mattituck had plenty of consistent performances, winning four other matches.

Jack Carter bested Chris Carved in second singles, 6-0, 6-2. In third singles, eighth grader Graham O’Connor dropped the first set 7-5, but rallied to win the second, 6-3, before taking the tie-breaker against Jaxon Hubbard, 10-3.

“Anytime you have an eighth grader do that in singles, that’s pretty impressive,” Dolson said.

In second doubles, Max Gaveau and Ethan Sciottio downed Quinn Stromski and Cyril Turner, 6-3. In third doubles, Jonah Schwartz and Peter Krogulec beat Sean Dougherty and Randy Hoverkamp, 7-5, 6-0.

The Blue Waves’ lone win came in the last match of the afternoon, as sophomores Alex Suwiak and Bralen Blom beat James Jurik and Landon Goldsmith, 6-3, 6-6, 7-5, in fourth doubles.

Robert O’Rourk photos

“They were great,” Riverhead head coach Mike Laffey said. “They’ve been in a couple of really close matches this year. Just the way that they fight every single match is really impressive. Whenever they get down, they’re always trying the best that they can to get the result that they want. It worked in their favor today. I’m really proud of them.”

Although Riverhead recorded just one victory on Friday, Laffey has liked what he has seen from his team this spring.

“They’re fighting. They’re getting better,” he said. “Last week, we played three of the better teams in our division in Westhampton, Ross and Shoreham-Wading River.”

That resulted in three 7-0 home losses.

“A lot of times, kids can get down when they play through tough matches in a row, but they never wavered,” Laffey said. “In every match they were trying their best. They have a great attitude about it. They’re always giving themselves a chance to win. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”