A season of learning for surprising ‘Hounds

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Naugatuck’s No. 1 singles player Hannah Kim returns a volley on Tuesday during her match with Kennedy’s Sara Namazi at Chase Park in Waterbury. The Greyhounds fell to the Eagles, 4-3. –KEN MORSE
Naugatuck’s No. 1 singles player Hannah Kim returns a volley on Tuesday during her match with Kennedy’s Sara Namazi at Chase Park in Waterbury. The Greyhounds fell to the Eagles, 4-3. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls tennis team got out to a surprising 7-1 start on the season but slowed down a little by dropping matches against Naugatuck Valley League leaders Seymour, Woodland and Watertown.

The Greyhounds recovered to split the next four matches, defeating Crosby and Wilby and dropping matches to St. Paul and Holy Cross, to settle in with a 9-6 record.

“It’s been a learning experience for the girls,” Naugy head coach Jose Sendra said. “We are a young team without any seniors. The strength of the team is in our singles but there were a couple of close matches where the doubles pulled it out and we won the match. There has been improvement throughout the lineup and that is very encouraging looking ahead to next season.”

Hannah Kim, the No. 1 singles player, has been steady throughout the season, followed by No. 2 Kayla Gallant. No. 3 Mikaela Santo has been coming on late in the season along with No. 4 Sarah Cook.

Naugy’s doubles ranks, led by Martina Niebryzdowski, Kayla Rotatori and others, have also been strong.

“We had a very competitive match with Sacred Heart and if it wasn’t for the play of the doubles we would have lost that match,” Sendra said. “Every team we face has different strengths and to get where we are at this point in the season it has been a total team effort. They are doing considerably better than a lot of people thought we would be for such a young team. It all comes down to showing up and being ready to compete, and for the most part we have done that.”

On Tuesday at Chase Park in Waterbury, the Greyhounds faced a much improved Kennedy squad and fell, 4-3, to drop to 9-7 on the season as the Eagles improved to 6-11.

Kim had her hands full taking on the Eagles No. 1 Sara Namazi. It was a back-and-forth match until Namazi pulled out the 8-6 win to put Kennedy ahead. Kristina Luarasi handed Gallant an 8-3 loss to give Kennedy a 2-0 lead before Naugatuck rebounded to tie the match heading into the doubles portion of the match.

Naugatuck’s No. 2 singles player Kayla Gallant. –FILE PHOTO
Naugatuck’s No. 2 singles player Kayla Gallant. –FILE PHOTO

Santo continued her hot streak as she defeated Brittney Coran by an 8-3 margin. Cook took it to Chynnia Piland in an 8-0 win and it came down to the doubles matches.

Marileala Maxhari and Sema Hasanago teamed up to get by Niebryzdowski and Rotatori, 8-3, in the No. 1 doubles match to give Kennedy a 3-2 advantage. Alma Sabovic and Franghelika Duro clinched the match by beating Edesiri Igbuya and Chelsea Iglesias, 8-3.
Naugatuck won the final doubles match as Wynter Tremlett and Liz Perez battled to an 8-6 win over McKenna Jacovich and Franchesca Villar.

“I know we can compete with the teams in the NVL,” Sendra said. “I thought our matches against Holy Cross and St. Paul were very competitive and I consider those two teams the strongest in the NVL. Even the match with Woodland, another top team in the league, our rallies would just go on for over an hour. It wasn’t like we were in and done, it was very competitive. Regardless of where the score ends up, that is indicative of a very competitive player. And through that we are becoming a very experienced team.”

Naugatuck is set to face Sacred Heart on Wednesday in the regular-season finale. The NVL team tournament begins Thursday at Woodland. The singles and doubles tournaments start Monday.