NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls tennis team brushed aside its inexperience and put together a solid 2013 season — and next year should be even better.
Without a senior on the roster, Naugy won seven of its first eight matches and qualified for the state tournament. Head coach Jose Sendra said the team surpassed his expectations with a 10-7 regular-season Naugatuck Valley League record.
“My team exceeded my expectations,” said Sendra, who was in his third season as coach. “I wasn’t sure what to expect having graduated six seniors last season.”
The ‘Hounds also showed progress as throughout the year players made opponents fight for every point, Sendra said.
“What impressed me most about the girls was the quality of their play,” Sendra said. “All of the singles players competed very well in the NVL and were able to rally for extended points against all of their counterparts in the NVL.”
Junior Hannah Kim, the team’s No. 1 singles player, qualified for the State Open. Sendra called her the “team’s most improved player.”
“I was thrilled with how all the players stepped up this season,” Sendra said. “For example, Hannah Kim was a No. 3 doubles last year and this year played No. 1 singles and won 60 percent of her matches.”
Junior Kayla Gallant used her impressive forehand and backhand with spin to have a successful season at the No. 2 spot. Junior Mikaela Santo, at the No. 3 position, developed an ability to return shots. Sarah Cook, the team’s fourth singles player, might have the highest talent ceiling after her freshman season.
“Watch out — once she develops a strong serve and matures in the game, she will be a top NVL singles player,” Sendra said of Cook.
Sendra said all the doubles players were new to the varsity lineup this year with the exception of Martina Niebryzdowski, who joined Kayla Rotatori at the top spot. Both were aggressive players who helped the ‘Hounds pick up some key victories during the year.
Juniors Edesiri Igbuya and Chelsea Iglesias were both new to tennis, but worked hard throughout the year to improve their games at the No. 2 doubles. Sophomores Liz Perez and Wynter Tremlett competed in the third doubles spot.
Naugy also received contributions from exchange student Amelie Franzen, junior Ashley Burkman, and sophomores Tathiana Serrano and Carla Iglesias.
Sendra said he focuses on fundamentals during the season and the team has responded.
“The girls have come so far and continue with each match to improve, and are developing a savvy and understanding for the game that will help us next year,” Sendra said.