NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys tennis team spent some long, hard hours last summer trying to hone its game. That work looks like it’s about to pay off as second-year coach Tony Loomis noticed the change in the Greyhounds’ play when practice opened this season.
“You could tell the difference immediately when they stepped onto the court,” Loomis said. “Last year the team went beyond all expectations. But we also had five seniors who set the tone and led the way. You can’t replace what Jake Burrell, Lain Burger, Randy Kostka, Marcos Velasco and Derek Ritter brought to this team. But we have a seasoned group of juniors who are ready to take the next step and make an impact this season.”
Naugatuck finished with a 14-4 record last year, tying the record of the 2007 team that won the Naugatuck Valley League title. This season, the Greyhounds will have a secret weapon in No. 1 singles player Julian Milek, a senior exchange student from Germany.
“Julian is a very experienced player and earned the number one slot through his play during the preseason,” Loomis said.
The ‘Hounds will add to a formidable lineup with junior Tyler Posser earning the No. 2 slot with sophomore Mike Popescu working hard to take the No. 3 position.
Naugy is short one of its top underclassmen from last year, Nick Hernandez, but Loomis thinks the addition of Milek will be more than enough to offset the absence.
“We did lose a very good player in junior Nick Hernandez, who is studying abroad this year as an exchange student,” Loomis said. “But having Julian more than makes up for that loss. A lot of the younger guys put in a lot of time in the offseason working out together. Now we will see if that translates onto the court once the matches begin.”
Junior Yun Chao Chen will be the No. 4 seed with junior captain Jake Morrissey as the No. 5 seed and junior Jeff Hensley rounding out the singles rotation as the No. 6 seed.
Loomis is still undecided on the three doubles teams and the competition is heating up. Junior Yun Yue Chen and Nate Lindsly are back from last year’s squad and will face junior newcomers Marcus Cruz and Fernando Branco in a battle for the doubles spots.
Sophomore Jake Gingold has an equal shot and rounding out the team is freshman Jacob Torres.
“I’m looking forward to the season and so far I see some real good potential on this team,” Loomis said. “But right now I’m being cautiously optimistic. The NVL is a very tough league with Torrington, Wolcott, Watertown, Holy Cross and a few of the city teams getting better each year. We will have to be ready to play our best in every match and hopefully we can make that transition from a hard-working team to a successful team once we get out on the court and the matches begin.”
The Greyhounds will find out right away just how much that hard work has paid off. They will host Wolcott on Wednesday and visit Holy Cross on Thursday. Naugatuck returns home Saturday against Torrington.