By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
Starting with basically whole new crews from 2019, the start of the season was more of a testing ground for the Naugatuck and Woodland girls tennis teams to figure out where they are and where they need to go.
Naugatuck, the 2019 NVL champions, returned only one player with any varsity experience in senior Ashley Antunes. Woodland found itself in a similar boat, returning senior captains Samantha Erickson and Olivia Vallejo along with a group of untested players.
Naugatuck opened the season 0-2 with 4-3 losses to Holy Cross on April 10 and Ansonia on April 14.
The Greyhounds went into the doubles portion of the match against the Crusaders tied at 2-2, after Antunes (8-6) and Mia Grella (8-0) picked up wins at No. 3 and No. 4 singles, respectively.
Naugy took the lead when the No. 1 doubles tandem of Diana Rebelo-Tiffany Nguyen won 9-7. Holy Cross picked up wins in the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles matches to earn the victory.
Naugatuck had to forfeit a couple matches against Ansonia due to quarantining.
“My assistant coach Stephanie DeLuca has been doing a good job keeping the girls competitive,” Naugatuck head coach Jose Sendra said. “We did have to forfeit two doubles matches with Ansonia due to players quarantining. It’s a crazy world we are living in these days. But we are dealing with it.”
Woodland opened the season with a 5-2 loss to Wolcott on April 10.
The doubles teams of Meghan Ruhl-Autym Dahlman (8-0) and Cori Patchkofsky-Kayleigh Huk (8-1) earned wins for the Hawks.
Facing a 4-0 deficit after singles play on April 13 in a 4-3 loss to Sacred Heart, the Hawks swept the doubles matches. Vallejo-Erickson won 8-6, Ruhl-Dahlman won 8-5 and Huk-Patchkofsky won 8-2.
The Hawks improved to 1-2 on the season April 14 with a 7-0 win over Wilby.
Brooke Reilly, who dropped a 9-8 decision to Sacred Heart’s Janet Lliguizaca, came out strong with an 8-0 win to start things off for Woodland.
Audrey Fencil (8-1), Yasmeen Galal (8-0) and Cate Fazzone (8-0) completed the sweep in singles play. Vallejo-Erickson and Ruhl-Dahlman earned 8-0 wins in doubles. Huk-Patchkofsky were awarded a forfeit at No. 3 doubles.
“We find ourselves in unfamiliar territory,” Woodland head coach Jessica DeGennaro said. “We don’t have that cushion of returning starters to allow beginning players to develop. Eight of ten girls are playing varsity for the first time.”
“Being alone on the court and trying to play through the nerves and pressure will be their toughest challenge,” she added. “It takes experience to become comfortable and confident on the court. But every time we step out there is an opportunity to learn and improve.”
Naugatuck and Woodland were scheduled to play each other April 19 but the match was postponed.
The Greyhounds are set to play Watertown on April 20, Torrington on April 21 and Wolcott on April 22.
Woodland is scheduled to play Ansonia on April 21 and St. Paul on April 24.