Learning on the links

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Naugatuck’s Nick Tribanas led the Greyhounds with a 79 at the Naugatuck Valley League tournament May 31 at the Watertown Country Club and earned All-Copper Division honors. –FILE PHOTO
Naugatuck’s Nick Tribanas led the Greyhounds with a 79 at the Naugatuck Valley League tournament May 31 at the Watertown Country Club and earned All-Copper Division honors. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck golf team learned some valuable lessons this season and that overall improvement showed at the recent Naugatuck Valley League tournament. The ‘Hounds didn’t exactly crowd the leaderboard, but this season wasn’t about that — it was more about each individual improving.

Holy Cross won the NVL title and set a new league record by blistering the course at the Watertown Country Club with a head-shaking 303, as Jay Hogan was the medalist with an even-par 72.

Watertown (319), Wolcott (343), Torrington (344) and St. Paul (347) rounded out the top five, while Naugatuck finished seventh with a team total of 364. The consistency of the team and the sparkling round by junior Nick Tribanas, who shot a 79, that got the attention of Naugatuck coach Craig Blanchard.

“As a team we played a few practice rounds on the course and hit in the mid-80s,” Blanchard said. “In the NVL tournament the course seemed to run a little faster but Nick had an outstanding round. On at least three holes he took a three after getting it on the green in one.”

The NVL tournament was one of the most competitive outings in quite a few years, according to Blanchard. Nine players broke into the 70s, including Tribanas. Last year only six players broke into the 80s; 12 players topped that mark this time.

Tribanas’ 79 led the Greyhounds. He finished only nine-tenths of a point from making the All-NVL team but earned All-Copper Division honors. Juniors Brendan Waldron (94), Matt Jackson (95) and Tyler Sounanthanam (96) all just missed the coveted 80s milestone May 31.

At the midway point of the season, Blanchard was anxious to get the team out to other courses to challenge the team and broaden their game. Naugatuck fared well on its home course at Hop Brook but the coach was looking to see how the team adjusted to some of the more challenging courses throughout the NVL.

“We had a couple of tough matches that got away from us, like the one against Sacred Heart,” Blanchard said. “But this season wasn’t about the team record (6-15); it was more about player development and working on consistency. We saw vast improvement across the board.”

Some of that improvement was in the quality of depth on the JV team, which included sophomore Erica Spino and freshman Cara Rotatori.

“We carried two girls on the team this year,” Blanchard said. “They are both very enthusiastic about the game and showing tremendous improvement.”

Blanchard was also high on freshman Jake Alcorace and Nick Fox.

“Jake is just a freshman but when he hits the ball it looks like he is going to jump out of his socks,” Blanchard said. “He has the ability to become a very good player for us. Nick is also a freshman out of St. Francis and is an excellent putter. At our season-ending event he won the putting contest, sinking a 43-footer.”

Blanchard also lauded junior Dan Capone for his improvement.

“Dan is our most improved player,” Blanchard said. “In two matches later in the season Capone broke the 45 barrier, shooting a 42 and a 43.

Junior Tom Karas will help lead next year’s squad with sophomore Willow Martin and freshman Ethan Maxwell looking to continue their improvement in making the ‘Hounds a formidable threat on the links.

“We averaged in the 171 range this season,” Blanchard said. “If these kids work hard on their game this summer and we can get it down into the 160s we can be very successful next season.”