WATERTOWN — The Hawks got a grit-your-teeth win from Mike Krakowski at No. 1 singles, but it was the team’s lone victory Monday morning in an 8-1 loss to Watertown at Crestbrook Park.
The right-handed Krakowski was playing with ruptured blood vessels in his dominant hand, a nagging affliction that has caused head coach Jim Amato to hold back his ace between matches.
“He’s had to take it a little easier during practices, which is good for the hand, but it reduces his preparation,” Amato said. “I’ve been telling him he doesn’t have to kill every shot. Make your opponent move around the court.”
For the most part, Krakowski adhered to that advice during his 8-4 triumph over the Indians’ Steven Lewis; he seized a 7-2 lead with superior footwork and net play. But serving for the match and perhaps eager to relieve the throbbing hand he clenched and shook after each point, Krakowski abandoned his game plan.
On break point, he attempted to unload a two-handed backhand winner but blasted the ball long. Lewis then used a strong service game—capped by an ace—to draw within 7-4.
“I wasn’t as consistent,” Krakowski said of his late-match lapse. “I was trying to hit winners, and I wasn’t coming up to net, like I was in the beginning. I was kind of staying baseline, like he was, and when I was coming to net, since he’s a baseline player, it kind of threw him off. I stuck to baseline, same as him, and gave him the advantage, and that’s how I lost in the middle.”
After a brief conference with Amato, a refocused Krakowski resumed his serve-and-volley approach. He claimed a 30-0 lead by inducing an error with an overhead slam from the T then set up match point by turning a Lewis drop shot into a charging forehand winner. He sealed the win on the next point by burying crosscourt shot in the back, left corner of the court.
Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, Krakowski’s success proved isolated. Most of the squad’s other entries struggled to compete with their opponents; only freshman Stephen Pec, at No. 4 singles, managed to stay within a single break of his foe, in an 8-6 defeat.
On the singles slate, Pat Bradley lost, 8-1, to Connor Fenn, Mohamed Shitia fell to Mitch Valente by the same score, Chris Zmuda dropped his contest with Ben Runge, 8-2, and Matt Murphy lost, 8-2, to Tyler Van Steenbergen. In doubles, the duo of Murphy and Ahmed Galal was beaten, 8-3, by Tom Baker and Kevin Lvovich, Kyle Beynor and Pat Dietz were dumped, 8-5, by Allan Dodge and Billy Crotty, and Jeremy Rosa and Mike Ventimiglia lost, 8-2, to Tom Zaborowski and Angelo Guerrera.
The loss to unbeaten Watertown dropped the Hawks to 3-3, and though it wasn’t the team’s best showing, Amato remains upbeat about the season. There have been several satisfying moments, he said, most notably the program’s first-ever win over Naugatuck April 8. Many of his players are inexperienced—seven of 12 are freshmen—and even some upperclassmen, like Shitia, a senior, are still learning the game.
“He won the school ping pong tournament,” Amato said, grinning. “We tell him this is just like that, only you’re standing on the table.”