Greyhounds build foundation for future success

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls swim team finished the season 5-3 and built a sturdy foundation for future success along the way.

The past few seasons have been a numbers game for the Greyhounds, who didn’t have a large enough roster to stay with the top teams in the league. This season, Naugatuck had its largest team — 22 swimmers — in the past three years, which provided the Greyhounds with the kind of depth that allowed them to have four swimmers in each event.

The Greyhounds didn’t get the chance to see how they stacked up in the Naugatuck Valley League championship meet after the NVL canceled the postseason last week due to COVID-19 concerns. But, looking back on the season, Naugatuck head coach Jim McKee said the team accomplished its top goal.

“Everyone made the adjustments that were needed to make this season,” he said. “We were also fortunate that no one came down with COVID. And that really was our number one goal — to keep everyone healthy.”

A trio of seniors — Katelyn Fortney, Abby Shugdinis and Belle Jason — led Naugy this year.

Fortney, who played a key role for the 2018 NVL runner-up Greyhounds as a sophomore, was slowed by a shoulder injury last season. This year, Fortney stepped up as a leader along with Shugdinis, who swam in two top five relay finishes at last year’s league championships, and Jason.

“Katelyn was injured last year but did manage to comeback,” McKee said “This year she was a leader, and on the girls level, I think senior leadership makes a bigger difference. We will definitely miss her next year.”

“Abby has really developed into a key member of our relays,” he added. “Over the past few seasons she had tremendous drops in time and knocked a few girls out of the relays.”

The Greyhounds will look to a deep class of juniors — Jacqueline Uva, Haley Deller, Alena Rotatori, Kayla Bartlett, Kelly Brodeur, Emily Meyer and Davinity Smallwood — to lead the team next season.

Uva put up a career-best time of 1 minute, 1 second in the 100 butterfly this season. Deller posted her best time in the 100 backstroke this year with a time of 1:03.

“Jacqueline and Haley will be the keys to the future success of this team,” McKee said. “Both of them put up some impressive times this year. But we had a lot of girls step up.”

Sophomore Ayana Williams also saw significant drops in times this season and is in line to be one of the leaders in the pool next season.

“I think going into next season, we are a much deeper team than the past few years,” McKee said. “We can put four girls in each event, and when you can do that you can be competitive with any team in the league.”