Naugy boys’ tennis in shape after rain

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys’ tennis team has a new look.

First, there are new faces guiding the team. The Greyhounds will operate with co-head coaches Sean Dunn and Jason Cebula.

Second, the team will count on new top players. Junior Tim Simons and seniors Ryker Nolan, Ed Betkoski and Josh Matthews will compete for the team’s top seeds.

Third, with a host of new and young players, the coaching staff has a multi-pronged plan. The focus: lots of conditioning drills, with a mix of tennis fundamentals and team spirit.

“We had a lot of rain in the preseason and spent a lot of time running indoors,” Dunn said. “We joked with the team, we’re a track team who plays tennis.”

Dunn said he hopes the preseason workouts will pay off later in the year.

“In our season, you can play one match and it lasts 20 minutes, then you could go back out there and play a four-hour match,” Dunn said. “You never know.”

The season was scheduled to start Wednesday at Torrington. And with the hard work of the preseason complete, Dunn and Cebula will look to Simons and his aggressive play to pace the team.

Simons uses a strong serve and solid net play to win points. The coaches like what they see.

“Tim is showing a lot of ability to play good tennis,” Dunn said.

Nolan features a tall frame and, like Simons, is assertive. His aggressive nature, height and wingspan could lead to lots of success.

“Ryker has the ability to cover the entire court,” Dunn said.

Betkoski and Matthews have similar games and will likely compete for the third and fourth spots, according to Dunn. Both need to limit their mistakes.

“They just need to keep the ball in play,” Dunn said. “If they can keep the ball in play longer, they’ll get the point. They need to let the opponent make the mistakes.”

Dunn also is pleased by two sophomores, Jake Burrell and Lain Burger.

“They’re two young players trying to make a positive impact,” Dunn said. “They have great attitudes and a great work ethic.”

Dunn said two senior newcomers to the team have a chance to be in the mix. Manny Nobre and Augusto Clari, both soccer players, have come out for the team.

“They have the ability to move laterally,” Dunn said. “Their soccer skills could help them.”

Right now, the coaching staff isn’t worried too much about wins and losses. It’s about progress and effort, according to Dunn.

“The kids have to get along, work hard and do the best they can,” Dunn said.

If the team follows that lead, postseason accomplishments could follow.

“We could surprise some people,” Dunn said.