NAUGATUCK — The optimistic approach of Naugatuck girls tennis coach Jose Sendra has led to players coming out in droves to be a part of the team.
Last year 28 girls showed up for tryouts and the rebuilding Greyhounds, without any seniors, pulled off an 11-7 season. Naugatuck started out on fire with a 7-1 record, and the top teams in the Naugatuck Valley League quickly took notice. The Greyhounds fell in the NVL quarterfinals to St. Paul but the experience gained during the season will be the team’s strength this year.
“We had over 30 girls come out for tryouts this year,” said Sendra, entering his fourth year at the helm. “They are all working hard competing for spots as we haven’t set any playing order yet.”
Naugatuck returns a few players who turned some heads last season, including senior captains Hannah Kim and Kayla Gallant. Kim and Gallant, the team’s top two singles players, both reached the second round of the NVL singles tournament.
For a team that had no one to look to for leadership without any seniors, Naugatuck comes into this season with a little bit of a swagger. Returning seniors Mikaela Santo (No. 3 singles), Kayla Rotatori (No. 1 doubles) and Chelsea Iglesias (No. 2 doubles) give the Greyhounds a starting point to work with as Sendra molds a lineup around the strength of the returning experience.
“We have good balance on the team this year,” Sendra said. “We have some new players who are enthusiastic and they are eager to learn the game from our more experienced players.”
That experience also comes from a junior class that returns Liz Perez and Wynter Tremeltt who played Nos. 2 and 3 doubles last season. Junior Karla Iglesias will also compete for a spot on the doubles teams.
Sendra is looking for sophomore Sarah Cook to take on a larger role this season. Cook played at No. 4 singles last season and reached the NVL doubles quarterfinals with Santo.
“Sarah has come a long way since last season,” Sendra said. “She has really developed her serve.”
Sendra said the team’s goal is to be among the league’s top five teams and to earn a state tournament spot.
The Greyhounds will get the season underway April 9 when they host Crosby in a 3:30 p.m. match. Naugatuck will be at Holy Cross on April 10 and will conclude the first week of the season with a home match April 12 against Ansonia.