BY KEN MORSE
What the Naugatuck boys tennis team lacks in experience, they certainly make up in enthusiasm. It’s not rare to see the Greyhounds still on the court two hours after practice has ended.
It has become a daily ritual and whether that will evolve into victories remains to be seen, but by the looks of it, it certainly hasn’t hurt their chances. The Hounds (2-3) split a pair of matches last week and were set to face the league’s top two teams from last year over the next three matches.
Naugy evened its record with a 4-1 win over Kennedy on April 12. Senior,Julio Perez remained unbeaten on the season with a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles. Junior William Zheng proved to be a tough out at No. 2 singles, dropping a close 6-4, 1-6, 10-8 battle.
Junior Aidan Lau survived a point-for-point showdown, taking a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 decision at No. 3 singles. In doubles play, a pair of juniors, Brian Barth and Manase Mutshima earned a slim 6-4, 6-4 decision. The duo of Marcus Baptist and Melih Yilmaz took a 7-5, 6-2 decision.
“Julio (Perez) has been a great leader,” said Naugy coach Brett Hayward. “Our motto is show up, work hard and good things will happen. Nothing is given and everything is earned. “These guys have bought into that. And Julio is leading the way as the example. He is showing the newer players hitting techniques, staying late, even practicing with the girls team to get extra work in.”
Hayward continued: “It really is amazing to see because I don’t think he said 10 words total all of last season. To see him succeed the way he has early in the season shows all the players that yes, work hard and good things will happen.”
Naugatuck ran into Torrington for the second time in two weeks on April 12 and dropped a 4-1 decision. Perez was dealt his first loss of the season. After escaping with a win two weeks ago over Torrington, Perez fell by a 7-5, 1-6, 10-5 margin.
Lau pulled out all the stops but came up on the wrong side of a 6-4, 5-7, 10-8 outcome and Zheng came up short 6-4, 6-1. Barth and Mutishima lost the first doubles match 2-6, 6-4, 10-3. The Greyhounds picked up their only decision of the match with senior Alex Felix and junior Brandon Miranda taking a 3-6, 7-5, 10-4 decision.
“The boys are working hard,” said Hayward. “They are showing up early, staying after practice to work on their craft on their own time. That is dedication right there. All the hard work will pay off. Maybe not today, but in due time, it will pay off.”
Naugatuck was scheduled to play defending NVL champion Watertown on April 16. The Hounds are back in action against Woodland on Friday in Beacon Falls.
BY KEN MORSE