Desire to succeed paying off for Greyhounds

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Naugatuck sophomore Jake Morrissey has been the tennis team’s primary No. 1 singles player this season. The Greyhounds face their biggest test to date on Monday against defending Naugatuck Valley League champions Woodland. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — During a recent practice, Naugatuck boys tennis coaches Brian Mariano and Tony Loomis gave their players an option — complete a particular drill successfully or face practicing on the upcoming Saturday.

The team completed the drill as required and wanted to practice on Saturday, too.

“The team wanted to practice anyways,” Mariano said. “The kids want to play, and they want to be better.”

That’s the early season theme for the Greyhounds, who have shown a desire to be on the court. After an opening-day loss to Wolcott, the Naugatuck boys tennis team has won five straight.

Naugy’s most recent win happened at Crosby on Monday afternoon. The Greyhounds swept the Bulldogs, 9-0.

Perhaps the team’s best trait is its passion for tennis. Mariano said the team’s enjoyment of the game has translated to wins.
The Greyhounds have used a mix of experience and fresh faces.

Sophomore Jake Morrissey has been the team’s primary No. 1 singles player. He may be the team’s steadiest player.

“Jake is our most consistent player,” Mariano said. “He always finds a way to get the ball over the net and that frustrates his opponents.”

Senior Jake Burrell, who played the top spot Monday in the win over Crosby, continues to be an all-around player, according to Mariano. Burrell won his match, 8-0, over Norbert Jakova.

“Jake is very good at planning his shots and keeping his opponents guessing,” Mariano said.

Another sophomore, Nick Hernandez, has been the team’s usual No. 3 player. Mariano said Hernandez’s aggressive style has led to success.

Senior Lain Burger has been slotted in the middle of the lineup, along with freshman Mike Popescu. Both Burger and Popescu secured key victories against Wolcott, who defeated the Greyhounds, 5-4.

Sophomore Tyler Posser and senior Randy Kostka rounded out the Greyhounds’ singles lineup on Monday. Both won their matches by wide margins.
The doubles teams have seen a variety of combinations.

“We’ve been toying with different lineups,” Mariano said.

In the team’s most recent match, the ‘Hounds used the combination of Burrell and Popescu in the No. 1 spot. Burger teamed with Marcos Velasco, while Posser played with Kostka.

All three teams won their matches.

The Greyhounds may get their biggest challenge yet to date on Monday at Woodland. The defending league champion Hawks have opened the season with a 6-0 mark. The match starts at 3:30 p.m. in Beacon Falls.