NAUGATUCK — In a two-year span, Naugatuck boys tennis coach Anthony Mariano and the Greyhounds have restored the winning ways on the courts.
Mariano, a basketball player during his time at Naugatuck High and Keene State College, may not have known a whole lot about tennis when he took over a 5-11 team two years ago, but he did know how to succeed.
“It begins with growing your confidence and that only happens through many repetitions until you have an idea of what it takes to be successful,” Mariano said.
Naugatuck finished 9-6 last season and improved to the third best team in the NVL this year at 11-5. Mariano attributed the steady improvement to the boys and the commitment they have made to the program.
The Greyhounds were represented in the Class L tournament on Saturday by Marcos Rebelo and Alec Durante, who both lost in the first round, and Nelson Lavoura and Brandon Sampaio, who both dropped matches in the opening round.
The Greyhounds, who advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament, were led this season by a solid core of seniors in the starting lineup with Rebelo at the No. 1 spot. P.J. Morrissey at No. 3 singles and No. 5 Matt Triscritti both had ten wins this season.
“We will lose a tremendous amount of skill with the graduation of our seniors,” Mariano said. “But the biggest loss will be in the leadership they provided. We have a lot of young players who gained experience this season, but they are more than ready to step into bigger roles next season.”
Sophomore Michael Rivera, who was in the No. 2 slot this season, is ready to step up to the number one spot and lead the Greyhounds next season. Durante, a junior, was at the No. 4 spot this season.
Naugy excelled with junior Sampaio, freshman Jay Mezzo and sophomore Zakary Robushi finding their way into the rotation.
“We are returning five solid players at the top of our rotation,” Mariano said. “This year’s team went above my expectations, and to finish third in the league was a major accomplishment.”
The Greyhounds also showed some depth with juniors Dylan Triscritti and Nattanit Chalemwisutkul, sophomores Yeshe Rakagme, Jon Lauer and Jessie Lanci, and Lavoura, a freshman, getting into varsity matches.
“I brought much of next year’s team to the state tournament,” Mariano said. “It was an eye-opener for them. I discussed with them the fact that these kids were so good because they took the time to perfect their craft year round. I was trying to instill in them to work on their game and come back next year much more improved.”