NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck girls tennis head coach Jose Sendra had the chore of trying to pick up the pieces after the Greyhounds made a run at an NVL title last season.
The rebuilding project went ahead of schedule as Naugatuck, last year’s NVL runner-ups, quickly became a team to be reckoned with. Led by No. 1 singles player Sarah Cook, the Greyhounds started out 3-2 on the season.
Once seniors Liz Perez at No. 2 singles and Tathiana Serrano at No. 4 gained experience, Naugatuck took off winning six of the next seven matches. Seniors Karla Iglesias and Crystal Wooster began to establish the doubles tandem making the Greyhounds a legitimate threat.
Along the way the development of junior Ally Mezzo, sophomores Kelly Murphy, Abigail Jang and Floraine Evardo, and freshman Kelly Carr made the Greyhounds a formidable unit.
“We came into the season needing to fill six spots in the starting rotation,” Naugatuck head coach Jose Sendra said. “We had a good core of senior leadership and some of the younger girls really stepped up to fill the void.”
Sendra added, “We had a very successful season but every once in a while it doesn’t hurt to get a lucky bounce or two, and we did have four matches that was decided by a 4-3 margin.”
One of those 4-3 matches was a loss in the semifinals of the NVL team tennis tournament May 20 to Woodland in Beacon Falls.
The No. 3-seeded Greyhounds fell behind early in the semis as the No. 2-seeded Hawks took three out of four singles matches. Cook fell to undefeated Ally Mayne, but then Naugatuck went to the wire dropping a pair of tough 9-8 decisions with Perez and Serrano coming up on the short end.
Carr gave the Greyhounds some hope pulling off an 8-5 win the No. 3 singles matchup. Woodland closed the deal earning an 8-4 win over Jang and Evardo in the first doubles. Mezzo and Murphy came through with an 8-6 win in the second doubles, with Iglesias and Wooster taking the third doubles by an 8-1 final.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Sendra said. “We finished as one of the top teams in the NVL and over the past three years we have put on a good run ending up in the quarterfinals, the NVL runner-up last year and in the semis this year.”
The Greyhounds made it to the semifinals by beating Kennedy, 6-1, in the quarterfinals May 18. After Cook dropped a tough 8-6 match, the rest of the team responded. Perez earned an 8-4 win, Carr won an abbreviated match, 6-5, and Serrano picked up an 8-0 win to give the Greyhounds a comfortable 3-1 edge heading into the doubles portion of the match.
Naugatuck closed out the quarterfinals sweeping the doubles. Jang and Evardo needed to pull out all the stops escaping with an 8-6 win. The tandem of Mezzo and Murphy battled through an 8-5 win and the doubles team of Igleias and Wooster closed the deal with a convincing 8-0 win.
“Hopefully we can make another run next season,” Sendra said. “We have a solid group of returning players and are looking forward to some of our younger talent to fill in for our graduating seniors.”
The NVL individual tournament started Tuesday. The semifinals and finals are set for Thursday.
The doubles teams of Jang and Evardo, and Mezzo and Murphy reached the quarterfinals. Jang and Evardo advanced to the semifinals after beating Woodland’s Alyssa Varesio and Chloe Ariola, 8-6. Mezzo and Murphy fell, 8-6, to Brittany Kennedy and Isabella Sabino of St. Paul.
The Greyhounds will play in the Class L state tournament next week where they are currently ranked 10th out of 32 teams in the division.
“We have had some tough draws in the states the past few years, so we are looking to do our best and to be competitive,” Sendra said.