Greyhounds gain precious experience

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The Naugy girls tennis team learned a valuable lesson this season—there’s no substitute for experience.

After an 0-5 start for a team that lost seven of its 10 starters from 2010, the Greyhounds finished their conference season with an 11-2 record. Despite an opening-round loss to Farmington in the state tournament last week, Naugy found its stride down the stretch.

Head coach Jose Sendra, in his first season, attributed the strong completion of the regular season to positive thinking, leadership and playing time.

The team rebounded to beat several teams it lost to early in the season, including Torrington, Woodland and Kennedy.

“They didn’t have a lot of experience playing,” Sendra said. “But, when they got that experience, it made a difference.”

Success started at the top. Junior Miranda Jang, the team’s No.1 seed, faced off against the best the competition had to offer every time she hit the court and finished better than .500 on the year.

Jang played most of last season at the No. 3 position, and had to adjust to facing the NVL’s elite players. She finished the conference season with a second round loss in the NVL tournament and just missed qualifying for the state open.

“Miranda in her position had a lot of responsibility and pressure,” Sendra said.

Three other juniors progressed throughout the season for Naugy.

Kaitlin Carter, Katie Bottinick and Andrea Jiminez performed as seeds two through four.

Sendra said all three players won key matches throughout the year. He singled out Bottinick, who struggled early in the season but finished strong.

On the doubles side, the junior tandem of Alexa Ramos and Jess Buckley almost qualified for the state open following a second-round defeat in the NVLs. As Naugatuck’s top doubles team, Ramos and Buckley were key for the Greyhounds throughout the season.

“They were consistent all year and worked well together,” Sendra said of Ramos and Buckley.

Naugatuck’s No.2 doubles team of senior Megan Wilson and junior Lani Chucta also played well, as did the No. 3 doubles team of seniors Kristen Cuzzi and Abigail Janneke.

“Kristen and Abigail won a lot of matches for us,” Sendra said. “Abigail was on crutches last season, and came back this year to play a sport and was good at it.”

Off the court, the team had several leaders—including its seniors. Leadership was a quality that became infectious for the Greyhounds as the season progressed.

“As the season went on, everyone became their own leaders in their matches,” Sendra said. “We played smart by keeping the ball in play and letting our opponents make mistakes.”

The Greyhounds return a majority of their team next season. But, the Greyhounds will savor 2011 for now.

“We had a great bunch of girls who stayed positive all season,” Sendra said.