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09/04/14 5:00pm
09/04/2014 5:00 PM
The Shoreham-Wading River High School tennis courts have been closed and locked since March after they were declared unsafe. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The Shoreham-Wading River High School tennis courts have been closed and locked since March after they were declared unsafe. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)


No shortage of challenges face the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls tennis team this fall. For one thing, the Wildcats do not have the use of their home courts, which have fallen into serious disrepair and are unplayable. If that wasn’t enough, for the first time in seven years, they will be without Aimee Manfredo, one of the top players in the program’s proud history. (more…)

09/13/13 7:40pm
09/13/2013 7:40 PM


So, what is a high school girls tennis coach to do when he’s searching for just the right first doubles team?

Answer: Pair together two players with singles backgrounds. What else?

Knowing full well the value of a first doubles team and what it can do for a team’s lineup, Riverhead coach Jerry Duvall spent the first couple of weeks of the new season mixing and matching, trying to find the right partner for his team captain, Lydia Keiffert.

In the first three matches of the season, Keiffert played with three different partners at first doubles. The senior teamed up with Jessica Purick, then with Cassidy Brown and then on Friday with Courtney Troyan. By the way, Riverhead won all three of those first doubles matches.

As it turns out, Troyan may be the one that works best. The sophomore, a varsity rookie, played first singles for the junior varsity team last year and third and fourth singles in the first two matches of this season. She worked well with Keiffert on Friday when the two combined for a 7-5, 6-1 win over Southampton freshmen Julia Kepczynska and Marcelina Kropiwnicka.

Afterward, referring to his search for the best first doubles combination, Duvall said, “I think I may have found it.”

Southampton’s only doubles win of the day proved decisive, though, giving the Mariners a 4-3 victory at Riverhead High School. Southampton improved its record to 2-2, 2-1 in Suffolk County League VII. Riverhead is 1-2, 1-2.

With the team score even at 3-3, Southampton’s second doubles team of Maria Neknez and Megan Goleski prevailed, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, over Purick and Abigail Wehunt. Purick and Wehunt were on the precipice of going down earlier, but staged an impressive comeback from a 5-1 deficit in the second set.

The pairing of Keiffert and Troyan, who never played together before, may have been the best thing to come out of the match for Riverhead. The two players share similar attributes. Both are athletic, move well on the court and have an affinity for doubles.

“They both have net skills,” Duvall said. “They can move and cover the court. That makes it a tough number one team.”

Keiffert, Riverhead’s only four-year varsity player, has played singles and doubles fairly equally over the course of her time with the Blue Waves. “Last year I was second singles, so it was almost expected that I would play first singles this year,” she said. “For my last year I wanted to enjoy the sport, and I knew I could get most enjoyment out of doubles.”

Troyan said that she, like Keiffert, feels more comfortable playing doubles.

Both players spoke about the benefit of having a teammate on the court next to them during a match.

“When you’re getting your water, switching sides, there’s always someone there to talk to you,” Keiffert said. “You’re down, and there’s always someone there to bring you up, and you don’t realize how much that truly improves your game when you have someone constantly there, cheering you on.”

With only one practice as doubles partners the day before, the two Riverheaders meshed together quite well, and quickly.

“We’ve never played doubles together, and I think we did really well, and we’re going to be playing a lot together in the future,” said Troyan.

A 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-3 win by Brown over Keynu Banks at third singles tied the teams at 3-3. It was only Riverhead’s second singles win this season.

Riverhead’s other point came from the third doubles pairing of Danielle Alaimo and Kate Prijakina. They bounced back after dropping the first set, 6-3, to Pauline Dela Cruz and Johanna Moore, by taking the last two sets, 6-3, 6-2.

Southampton was strong in singles, though. The Mariners have junior Noa Dubin, one of the top players in the league. She cruised in her first singles match against junior Sam Carter, 6-0, 6-0.

The string on Carter’s racket popped while she returned the first serve of the match, and she had to use a backup racket she had not played with in a year. (It was Friday the 13th). The racket change clearly threw her game off. She didn’t score her first point until the second game of the second set. Dubin used 17 service aces and outpointed Carter, 48-9. The first set was completed in 14 minutes and the match was over in 31 minutes.

Carter said she had never broken a racket during a match before. “First time,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Duvall said Carter, who played third doubles last year, has come a long way with her game. “She’s three levels above what she was last year,” he said.

The other singles contests brought similar results in Southampton’s favor: Cecilia Schuerer beat Katharine Chmielewski, 6-1, 6-0, and Jade Kalbacher downed Amy Methven, 6-0, 6-1.

It has been an exciting start to the season for Riverhead. The Blue Waves’ first three matches have been 4-3 results, including a win over Hampton Bays and a loss to Mattituck.

“It’s a pleasure to coach this team,” Duvall said. “They’re unselfish players. They’re there rooting for each other, so it’s just fun to come to practice every day.”

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09/04/13 10:00am
09/04/2013 10:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shannon Merker, Bishop McGann-Mercy’s senior captain, was called the best doubles player Mike Clauberg has ever coached.


If this is the golden era of Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis, the shine on that gilt may be getting duller.

The Monarchs have enjoyed great success, reaching the playoffs the past five years and compiling a 55-7 league record during that time. Prior to last season, they had an unbeaten string at home that lasted for nearly five years.

All of that, of course, was not by happenstance.

“We put a lot of time into the program,” said coach Mike Clauberg, referring to elementary school, junior high school and summer camp programs.

Currently, two former McGann-Mercy players, Liz Rossi (Mount St. Mary’s) and Cassidy Lessard (Wagner), are playing in college. The Monarchs undoubtedly wish they still had them. Clauberg, who is in his 13th year as the team’s coach, said he sees a lot of holes in his lineup.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think we’re going to pull any miracles this year,” he said. “This is one of my most inexperienced teams in a lot of years.”

McGann-Mercy went 12-6 last year, reaching the Suffolk County Team Tournament quarterfinals for the third year in a row. Returning to that stage will not be easy, although Clauberg said qualifying for the playoffs is a realistic goal. A League VII team, McGann-Mercy is ranked fifth among League VII and League VIII teams by the coaches. The Monarchs face a tough schedule, too. They will play four of the top eight teams in Suffolk in league matches: William Floyd, East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson, Westhampton Beach and The Ross School.

Two seniors head McGann-Mercy’s returning cast, Shannon Merker and Jackie Zaweski. Merker, the team captain, played for the top two doubles teams as well as second singles last year. She was an all-division selection along with Jamie Lessard, a sophomore.

Speaking of Merker, Clauberg said, “She’s the best doubles player I ever coached.”

Delaney Macchirole, who played first doubles with fellow junior Micaela Zebroski last year, is also back. Magda Duda was part of the singles lineup last season at the No. 2 or No. 3 spot. Brittany Folkes played third doubles and fourth singles. Katie Brownfield was a third doubles player.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Clauberg said. “We’re going to be an underdog this year for the first time in a long time.”

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Aimee Manfredo returns for her sixth varsity season with a 63-19 career record with Shoreham-Wading River.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Aimee Manfredo returns for her sixth varsity season with a 63-19 career record with Shoreham-Wading River.

Shoreham-Wading River has produced some pretty good players over the years, such as Cath Galvin, who was a two-time county champion, and Jennifer LoRusso, who has a county title on her résumé as well. Aimee Manfredo ranks right up there with them, according to coach Debbie Lutjen, who has been coaching in the program since 1984.

Private lessons and the experience of playing in United States Tennis Association tournaments has made a difference. Manfredo brings a 63-19 career record into her senior season and sixth at the varsity level. The two-time Division IV singles champion was a county runner-up who went 17-1 last year.

Lutjen said Manfredo is “very strong, very motivated. I think she’s very excited about her senior season. She loves the game.”

Although the lineup was being finalized, Lutjen said two sisters, freshman Joelle Benigno and eighth-grader Daniella Benigno, will play second and third singles. Michelle Hoffmann, a sophomore, and junior Anna Simos were competing for the fourth singles position. Heather Sager, a sophomore who was the junior varsity team’s top singles player last year, is projected to be a doubles player.

Another sophomore, Katya Perricone, is ranked sixth among singles candidates and is expected to fill a doubles spot. She is new to the team along with junior McKenna Farrell, freshman Amanda Betiberis and sophomore Katie Stern.

“We have a strong group of girls,” said Lutjen.

Riverhead (7-9) finds itself in an interesting situation in terms of personnel.

“I lost a lot but …,” said coach Jerry Duvall, who at the same time conceded that his team returns a good deal of experienced players, many of them juniors.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Lydia Keiffert is the favorite to play first singles.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Lydia Keiffert is the favorite to play first singles.

Since last year, Riverhead lost five players, all of whom were slotted in key lineup positions, and yet it’s not as if the Blue Waves can cry poverty. They still have seven players back who were in the lineup in 2012. That includes junior Lydia Keiffert, senior Michelle Behr and junior Katherine Chmielewski, who look destined for places in the singles lineup along with what Duvall referred to as “a player to be named later.”

That’s not a bad starting point. “Lydia, Michelle and Katherine are not bad singles players,” said Duvall.

Keiffert played first doubles and second singles last year behind the graduated Charlotte Palmer and seems poised to make the jump to first singles.

“She’s our most experienced singles player,” Duvall said. “She keeps the ball in play. She’s fast and runs real quick. She can make the other person run, too.”

Behr and Chmielewski both saw time at third and fourth singles, as did Samantha Carter, a junior.

Two juniors, Cassidy Brown and Abigail Wehunt, played a lot at first doubles and formed what Duvall called his most consistent doubles team. Another junior, Jessica Purick, has varsity experience as a doubles player.

Danielle Alaimo, a junior, and Amy Methven, a sophomore, are also returning players.

Courtney Troyan, a sophomore who was one of the top singles players on the junior varsity team last year, is a new addition. Perla Leon is a senior who can play doubles. Paired at doubles are juniors Kate Prjlaina and Danielle Alaimo, freshmen Taylor Marelli and Kathleen Gregory, and juniors Brianne Corwin and Stefanie Costello.

“These kids have great potential,” Duvall said. “They’re all gung-ho kids. They’re all anxious to play.”

Duvall said he appreciates the “team-first” attitude of his players. He said, “It may be the most unselfish team of players I’ve had the privilege to coach.”

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09/07/11 11:10am
09/07/2011 11:10 AM

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Erica Blanco was a member of Bishop McGann-Mercy's first doubles team, which reached the third round of the Conference IV Tournament last year.

Coming off the biggest shock in his coaching life, Mike Clauberg declared that he isn’t making predictions any more.

After his Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs lost eight players from the previous season, Clauberg and the rest of the Suffolk County high school girls tennis world watched in amazement last year as the Monarchs advanced further in the county team tournament than they ever had before. Following upsets of the No. 9 seeded Patchogue-Medford Raiders and the No. 8 West Islip Lions in their first two playoff matches, the No. 24 Monarchs reached the quarterfinals before bowing out to the No. 1 Half Hollow Hills East Thunderbirds. It was a heady season for the Monarchs (16-3), who went unbeaten in League VII for their third straight league championship.

“I got to say that was pretty huge,” Clauberg said. “I think everybody was pretty shocked, players, the administration, myself. None of us believed we did as well as we did.”

It has been a wonderful run for the Monarchs. Their record over the past three years is 46-5. The team has built a reputation for itself and more than a few undoubtedly are wondering what the Monarchs have in store for 2011.

Well, coach?

“We’ll find out,” Clauberg said. “I think we should be able to compete. Whether we take last or we take first, I think we’ll be competitive.”

The Monarchs have been moved to League VIII, but that may not be a demotion. Clauberg said League VIII could be the second-best league in the county, with traditionally talented teams like the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes, the East Hampton Bonackers and the Southampton Mariners to contend with. To illustrate how well-respected the league is, Clauberg said the Monarchs could win only two or three regular-season matches and yet still receive the No. 8 seed in the county team tournament.

“This is going to make our girls better,” Clauberg said. “Now we’re competing at one of the toughest levels possible in Suffolk County. They’re putting us in the upper echelon of teams, and we’ll see where it plays out.”

Last year, the first doubles team of Erica Blanco and Kayleigh Macchirole reached the third round in the Conference IV Tournament, as did the second doubles pairing of Shannon Merker and Taryn Enck. While their partners have graduated, both Blanco, a senior, and Merker, a sophomore, are back.

Ashley Yakaboski, a senior who played first singles last year, and Cassidy Lessard, a junior who played third singles, were all-league selections.

Stephanie Blanco, who is Erica Blanco’s younger sister, also saw court time last year as did Caitlin Lawler and Marianne Naleski.

Alyssa Mize, Jackie Read, Terry Spath and Catherine Andes are also varsity veterans. Meanwhile, Jessica Allen, Sarah Guasp and Delaney Macchirole, Kayleigh’s younger sister, are new to varsity tennis.

While it may not be as strong as past McGann-Mercy teams, make no mistake, the Monarchs are still a team to be taken seriously.

“Even our players who don’t start, they’re good tennis players,” Clauberg said. “Our starting 10, they can all hit the ball.”

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead senior Sandra Ruttkayova has a firm hold on the first singles position.

The 2010 season was something of a surprise to the Riverhead Blue Waves (10-4) as well. Despite having many new players, the Blue Waves still finished in third place in League VIII.

“Hopefully, I’m going to have some surprises this year,” said Riverhead Coach Jerry Duvall.

With a roster full of tough names to spell that are even harder to pronounce, the Blue Waves head into the season with senior Sandra Ruttkayova entrenched in the first singles spot. Two former doubles players, Meyling Zuniga and Charlotte Palmer, are competing for the second singles position. Lydia Keiffert holds the fourth singles spot.

Keiffert and Palmer went 9-2 as a doubles team last season.

“Those first three players, any of them can win on a given day,” Duvall said, “so it’s a matter of how consistently they play.”

At the start of this week, Milena Chrzanowska and Yevgeniya Komzyuk were paired at first doubles. Juana Dobrzynski and Alex Quintana (who went 7-4 in her first year of varsity play) or Nicole Treadwell were considered for second doubles. Klaudia Szczesba may be in the mix at third doubles.

The Blue Waves return 10 players, seven of whom were in the lineup last year. Brittany Martens is one of the players who bring varsity experience.

Michelle Behr and Amber Nicholson are new to the team along with Szczesba.

“They played with no fear last year,” Duvall said of his players. “But the league isn’t any easier than it was last year.”
Duvall said League VIII has become “incredibly strong” with the additions of the Mattituck Tuckers and the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats.

“I want to see them advance and improve like they did last season,” Duvall said of his players. “They really love to drill and they couldn’t try any harder. You can’t ask for any more than that.”

Entering her fourth year of varsity tennis, Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Aimee Manfredo is ready to take the next step.

As a freshman last season, Manfredo took an undefeated record into the Conference IV Tournament before ultimately falling in the quarterfinals. She finished one round shy of advancing to the county tournament.

“She’s hitting even stronger this year,” said Shoreham Coach Debbie Lutjen. “Her goal should be to advance to the county tournament. I think she’s capable of that.”

Manfredo, 17-1 last year, is a year-round player who has a strong all-around game, Lutjen said.

“She has very solid ground strokes, but she’s also strong at the net,” Lutjen said. “She has strong approach shots and a good net game.”

Manfredo’s lone loss came against Erica Bundrick of Mattituck, whom she had beaten during the regular season.

With Manfredo locked into the first singles spot this season, a position she has held since eighth grade, it gives the Wildcats flexibility to try several different options throughout the rest of the lineup. Lutjen said many of the players could see time at both singles and doubles throughout the season.

The Wildcats have nine seniors on the team, including Nanette Stirpe, who saw time at both singles and doubles last season. She will likely play more singles this season. A newcomer to the varsity level, junior Natalia Rodriguez, will play singles. Junior Kiera Latham was a singles player on JV last year along with Rodriguez. She will play some singles this season as well as some doubles.

The first doubles team from last year’s JV team, seniors Ashley Etienne and Nicole Smith, also move up together to the varsity squad.

A returnee at doubles is junior Jaclyn La Sita, who may also play some singles as well. Seniors Brielle Mauder, Courtney Hauf and Emma Stoll all played doubles and are returners.

The youngest player on the team is freshman Anna Simos. Seniors Felicia Da Vollo, Teresa Terraccina, Soo Jin Lee and Kim Giacalone round out the Shoreham lineup.

The Wildcats are scheduled to open the League VIII season Friday at home against Rocky Point. Their first non-league match is Thursday against William Floyd.

“We should be competitive with the teams in our league,” Lutjen said.

Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.
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