Finishing strong a trademark for Greyhounds

Naugatuck High seniors, from left, Natalie Paradise, Catarina Rego, Sabrah Cegielski and Alison Bodyk will lead the girls tennis team this season. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls tennis team seems to be in rebuilding mode every season, but head coach Jose Sendra has proven to be a master architect when it comes to building a team that finishes strong.

The Greyhounds have made five straight strips to the Naugatuck Valley League tournament semifinals under Sendra, who is 112-35 overall in his nine years leading the team. Last year, Naugatuck went 18-0 in the regular season before falling in the NVL championship match to Sacred Heart.

Naugy will need to replace all four singles players this season, but that doesn’t seem like a huge challenge since the 2015 squad had to replace five starters and went 17-2. The following year, as the No. 5 seed, the Greyhounds won the NVL title.

The Greyhounds come into the season needing to find out who will fill the singles void, but they do return a solid core of doubles players with All-NVL tandems in seniors Catarina Rego and Sabrah Cegielski and juniors Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell.

“It may come down to breaking up our doubles teams to fill the roles of the singles,” Sendra said. “It’s still too early to tell. There is some healthy competition going on. And as I’ve said many times before, it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. We have been very fortunate to have finished strong the last several years.”

Sendra said there will be competition among players to decide who will play singles.

“We have some real good athletes who have shown an improvement in their skill level,” he said. “We will have a tournament and see who emerges as quality single players. There’s nothing like a little competition that brings out the best in players.”

Naugatuck is scheduled to open the Monday at Holy Cross. The Greyhounds will head to Wilby April 3 before hosting their first home match April 5 against Ansonia.