BEACON FALLS — Naugatuck High girls tennis coach Jose Sendra knew the rematch with Sacred Heart was going to be tough heading into the Naugatuck Valley League tournament final.
The regular season match, which Naugatuck won 4-3 to stay unbeaten and hand the Hearts their only loss, featured two tiebreakers and could have gone either way. On Thursday, the match went the other way as Sacred Heart beat Naugatuck, 5-2, at Woodland Regional High School to win the NVL championship.
Sacred Heart (18-1) swept the singles matches and also won at No. 1 doubles to earn the school’s first NVL girls tennis title.
“They’re a very good team,” Sendra said of the Hearts. “There’s a reason they were undefeated up until the final regular season match.”
With the Greyhounds (17-1) down 3-2, the crowd gravitated to the No. 2 singles match between Naugatuck’s Patricia Escaleira and Sacred Heart’s Nellie Drewry. Drewry could clinch the title with a win and was up 7-4, but Escaleira had no intentions of going down quietly. Escaleira fought off five match points and then broke Drewry as the Hearts senior tried to serve out the title.
Drewry broke back and topped Escaleira, 8-5, to earn the championship.
“She’s scrappy,” Sendra said about Escaleira. “I wish everybody could be as consistent as she is. … She’s not an easy win by any stretch of the imagination. She’s always battling.”
The Hearts had a cushion as Escaleira and Drewry went back and forth, because at No. 4 singles, Sacred Hearts’ Siobhan Gilmore was up over Naugatuck’s Kelly Redmond, before pulling away for an 8-1 victory.
Naugy won two doubles matches. Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell beat Katie Uszakiewicz and Katie Brown, 8-3, and Cristina Rego and Natalie Paradise won over Hannah Dombroski and Najma Braddock, 8-2.
In a tight match at No. 1 singles, Sacred Heart’s Colleen Flanagan defeated Kelly Carr, 8-6. Ava Longo picked up an 8-3 win over Gina Greco at No. 3 singles. The Hearts won at No. 1 doubles as Alexa Gallino and Nhi Nguyen beat Sabrah Cegielski and Catarina Rego, 8-2.
“The girls had a tremendous season. I’m very proud of them,” Sendra said.
Carr echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“We still had an amazing season. … We were undefeated up until this point, all our girls really battled, and that’s all anyone can ask for,” she said.
Class M tournament: Naugatuck, the No. 1 seed in the Class M state tournament, will play the winner of a qualifying match between No. 16 Watertown and No. 17 Bethel Saturday at Crestbrook Park in Watertown in the first round.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.