Naugatuck, Woodland tennis teams have battled on the hardcourts

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BY KEN MORSE

CITIZEN’S NEWS

The Naugatuck and Woodland tennis rivalry didn’t really begin in earnest until 2008 when the Hawk boys posted a 9-9 record, their best until that point.

The Greyhounds were in a bit of a transition period for a number of years. Following the boys’ 2007 NVL championship, the team went through a series of eight different coaches until Brett Hayward guided the 2019 team to an NVL title, going 17-2.

Under Carlos Correia (2011), Tony Loomis and Brian Mariano (2012-2014) and Anthony Mariano (2015-2017), the Greyhounds began to take shape under Mariano’s tutelage.

The Woodland boys were in their own stretch of different coaches, but with much different results. Jim Amato, the girls volleyball coach, had a three- year stint of NVL championships from 2011-2013 where the Hawks reeled off 54 straight wins.

Over the past decade or so both teams have settled into a more stable environment with the Naugy girls being headed up by Jose Sendra, in his 11th season. The Woodland girls haven been guided by Jessica DeGennaro with a brief two-year reign by Kate Gavigan, the assistant coach.

“Being a Naugatuck graduate you always feel that connection, so the rivalry thing may be a little amped up when we play each other,” said DeGennaro, “I’m probably more focused on my girls and how we are doing because that is the only thing you can hope to control is your own team’s play.”

Hayward wasted no time in getting the Greyhound boys battle-tested, winning the NVL championship in his second year at the helm in 2019. Mike Magas has been the Woodland boys coach in between two-year stints from Charlie Ostrander and Ryan McEvoy.

“I served as the boys coach in the past, so this is my second go-around,” said Magas. “Ryan did a great job and the team was pretty much set when I came in this season.”

What stands out the most in this rivalry is not the numerous coaching changes but the teams that stood out among the rest of the two-plus decades of tennis. There was the Woodland boys three-peat as NVL champions under Amato from 2011-2013. There were also the 2008 and 2010 Woodland girls NVL championship teams, who both posted 19-2 marks under DeGennaro.

For the Greyhounds, it was the first time in school history when the boys and girls won the NVL championship in the same season in 2019. The girls also captured the 2016 title and the boys team came a long way from a team that won just one match in 2010.

“We have had many tremendous battles with Woodland,” said Sendra. “I think the girls on both sides really get excited for this match. In a way it probably even brings out the best in all the players. And of course you always want to win, no matter who you are playing.”

Woodland’s notable players include Kyle Beynor (2012 and 2013 NVL singles champion); Steve Pec (2012 NVL doubles champion with Jim Tompkins, 2013 NVL doubles champion with Pat Dietz). In 2009, Joe Rosa was the first Woodland player to reach the Class M quarterfinals.

Former NVL champions for the Hawks also include: Mike Krakowski (2011 singles); Mike Roulamaitis (2016 singles); Ally Mayne (2017 singles, the only girls champion); Josh Powanda (2019 singles); and the back-to-back doubles champions Tyler Macdowall and Andy Hopkinson (2021, 2022).

Prior to Sendra taking over the girls team, Amanda Petruzzi guided the girls to a 15-5 record in 2009, followed by a one year stint by former Naugy girls basketball coach Jodie Burns (Ruccio) in 2010. Burns guided the surprising Greyhounds to the league runner-up with an 18-3 mark. While Sendra holds the reins of the girls team, his former assistant Stephanie DeLuca has taken over the boys squad and quickly guided them to a No. 2 seed in the NVL this season.

Past NVL champions for Naugatuck include: Franzi King (2006 girls singles); Matt Cappello (2007 boys singles); Rob Simons (2009 singles); and the 2019 doubles champions; Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell for the girls, and Jay Mezzo and Jared Montini for the boys.