Commitment carries Greyhounds

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls tennis team’s 8-0 start to the season comes down to one thing for head coach Jose Sendra — commitment.

“The girls are just committed on and off the court,” Sendra said. “I show a genuine interest in them getting better and they buy into that. Instead of just handing them a tennis racket and sending them out there.

“They work extremely hard to get better each and every day, and along the way they develop a tenacity that helps them to be successful. Our No. 1 singles player Sabrah Cegielski has to take on the best of every opponent we play, and she is a perfect example of putting in the work regardless of the outcome.”

Naugatuck made quick work of Ansonia and Kennedy last week with 7-0 sweeps.

Cegielski, Catarina Rego, Cristina Rego and Yahna Ancheta won all four singles matches against the Chargers and Eagles.

Naugatuck entered the season having to replace all four singles players. With only his three doubles pairs returning from last year, the coach split up two of the pairs to form a new singles unit, and Sendra looked to last season’s All-NVL doubles team of Cegielski and Catarina Rego to take on the top two singles roles.

“We have had several seasons where we replaced four and five starters, but it’s never a rebuilding mentality it’s more of a reloading agenda,” Sendra said.

The tandem of Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell is the only returning doubles team, but the teams of Natalie Paradise and Abby Lariccia and Adriana Moreno and Alison Bodyk haven’t missed a beat for the Greyhounds. The three teams completed the sweeps of Ansonia and Kennedy last week.

“I talk to them all the time about what it takes to be a winner,” Sendra said. “Tenacity, grit, persistence, heart, these are all attributes needed to be successful. Sure you need to learn how to have an effective overhand or a good serve, but what it comes down to is once you develop those skills how do you become successful.”

Naugatuck will need all of those attributes going down the stretch of the season.

The Greyhounds play Watertown on Monday. The earlier match between the two sides was suspended at 3-3 due to rain. The teams will finish that match up before playing again.

Naugatuck will play Torrington twice and Crosby this week before finishing out the regular season next week with Wolcott, Seymour and Pomperaug.

“There is no better scenario heading up to the NVL championship than facing teams that will challenge you,” Sendra said. “I excited for the girls to be playing a team like Pomperaug from the SWC. That will tell a lot about where we are competitively and where we need to be.”