Girls Tennis: Tuckers see league title chances slipping away

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kate Freudenberg won her third singles match in two sets as part of Mattituck’s sweep of Shelter Island.

TUCKERS 7, INDIANS 0

Considering that the Mattituck girls tennis team lost eight players from last year’s team, the Tuckers have done quite well for themselves this season. While they have helped themselves to another winning season, the Tuckers will need some help if they are to retain a share of the Suffolk County League VIII championship.

Mattituck breezed to victory on Monday, but it may be too little, too late. By beating Shelter Island’s first-year varsity team, 7-0, Mattituck kept its mathematical chances of securing a share of the league title alive, but that’s about it. In reality, the Tuckers may have said goodbye to their league title hopes with a 4-3 loss to first-place Eastport/South Manor on Friday.

In order for second-place Mattituck (10-3, 10-2) to catch up to Eastport/South Manor (14-1, 12-0), the Tuckers would not only need to win both of their remaining matches against Hampton Bays and Southampton, but they would need the Sharks to drop one of their two remaining matches against Shelter Island and Center Moriches.

“We need someone to beat them for us,” said Mattituck’s junior second singles player, Kyra Martin.

Not very likely.

Mattituck coach Jim Christy, a realist, said, “We’re going to end up in second.”

That means the Tuckers will miss out on the playoffs, but it doesn’t detract from what the team has accomplished this season. Strong, consistent play from the singles lineup of Molly Kowalski (10-3), Martin (12-1), Kate Freudenberg (13-0) and Caitlin Penny (12-1) has been the key ingredient in this winning recipe. The four seniors, who have been joined by 12 new additions to the squad, bring a professional, all-business approach to the court.

It could be argued that Mattituck has the best singles lineup in the league. The Tuckers have swept singles points in all of their matches except for the two they played against Eastport/South Manor and one against Southampton. In each of those matches Mattituck won three of the four singles contests.

“I guess I noticed after maybe the fourth or fifth match that they were going to be very tough to beat because they don’t beat themselves, they just don’t,” Christy said. “All four of them — it’s hard to describe — they just seem to be able to have the ability to stay in the moment. It’s like, I almost know if it gets to the 3-3 point, we’re going to win it, and if it’s the match point, we’re going to win it, and I think they believe that. They seem so calm, so relaxed.”

It sure seemed like that on a cool Monday afternoon when Mattituck had little trouble winning on its home courts against winless Shelter Island (0-13, 0-13). Once again, Mattituck’s singles lineup took care of business. Kowalski (6-3, 6-3 over Lisa Kaasik), Martin (6-1, 6-1 over Corrine Mahoney) and Freudenberg (6-0, 6-1 over Brianna Kimmelman) won their matches in two sets. Mattituck’s fourth singles player, Penny, took a win by forfeit.

But a good tennis team does not live by singles alone. Mattituck’s doubles teams kept up their end as well, winning two-set affairs. Perhaps the most competitive was in third doubles. Molly Fogarty and Autumn Harris prevailed in a first-set tiebreaker against Caitlin Binder and Madi Hallman, 7-4, before taking the second set, 6-1.

In the other doubles matches, Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny beat Serina Kaasik and Taylor Sherman, 6-2, 6-0, and Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox were 6-3, 6-2 winners over Nicole Poleshuk and Evi Saunders.

“Everyone just plays their game,” said Martin, who put 26 of her 29 first serves in play and outpointed Mahoney, 49-17. “Everyone’s an integral part of the wins.”

As a first-year team, it’s not surprising that Shelter Island has taken its lumps and is still awaiting its first varsity win.

“It’s not going to happen this year,” said coach Sue Warner, whose team has one match remaining against Eastport/South Manor.

Shelter Island made the jump to varsity tennis after two years of middle school and three years of junior varsity tennis. But adversity struck the Indians when they lost the services of two of their top singles players, Keri Ann Mahoney and Melissa Ames. Mahoney, who was an undefeated second singles player for the junior varsity team last year, underwent knee surgery, and Ames opted to play volleyball this fall.

“It hurts,” said Lisa Kaasik.

But this season has been about more than wins and losses for the Indians.

“Obviously our record doesn’t show how close we’ve been, but it’s been fun because we did J.V. for two years and it’s been more serious this year, but I think it hasn’t really changed our energy or our feeling for tennis,” Lisa Kaasik said. “We come out here to have fun.”

Warner said Shelter Island will likely go back to playing at the junior varsity level next year because of the young players she will have. But that doesn’t mean that the Indians haven’t learned a thing or two this season.

“I think they’re learning about tennis,” Warner said. “They’re learning sportsmanship because they’re not winning, so they need to learn to be courteous.”

“They’re resilient and they come back laughing every day,” she continued. “The young kids have really been a spark on my team this year. You know, winning isn’t everything. I think they’re still having fun, which helps. It helps the pain of losing.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

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