NAUGATUCK — Graduation will take its toll on the Naugatuck girls tennis team, but head coach Jose Sendra has some underclassmen waiting in the wings.
No. 4-seeded Naugatuck saw its season come to an end in the first round of the Class M state tournament dropping a 7-0 match to No. 13 Woodstock Academy on Saturday. The loss came a week after the Greyhounds battled to defend their NVL title but came up short in the semifinals of the league tournament against St. Paul.
“We defeated St. Paul during the regular season, but they had our number in the semifinals,” said Sendra, who has compiled a 94-35 record over seven seasons at the helm and will be approaching a milestone 100 wins next season. “Facing a team like Woodstock exposes the girls to some of the higher levels of tennis that is out there in the state.
“We have faced Greenwich, New Canaan, Simsbury, Farmington before in the Class L. Woodstock is a good team, but I thought we played well against them.”
The Greyhounds (14-4) will lose five seniors to graduation: singles players Floraine Evardo, Kelly Murphy and Diana Velasco, doubles player Lori Dietz and senior Syeda Sultana.
“We are losing some talented singles players,” Sendra said. “With Floraine, Kelly and Diana there will be some big shoes to fill. We do return five solid players with Kelly Carr being our number one.
“We will have some of our doubles players move up to singles, like Patricia Escaleira, Kelly Redmond, Sabrah Cegielski and Gina Greco. That leaves a lot of opening for some of the younger girls to take on a bigger role next season.”
The Greyhounds saw steady improvement throughout the season from those younger players. Justes Cureton played in doubles matches and freshman Brielle Behuniak finished up the year in the lineup as a doubles player.
“The nice thing is I have several freshmen who came so far this season,” Sendra said. “Hailey Russell, another freshman, is one who could end up in the doubles rotation. I will need to approach next season as a rebuilding year with a lot of freshmen and sophomores with a handful of experienced players.”
Evardo and the doubles teams of Cegelski and Redmond and Dietz and Escalaria will represent the Greyhounds at the girls state tennis open, which starts Saturday.