Naugy brings balance to courts

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The Naugatuck boys tennis team will be led this season by, from left, Chris Cook, Alec Durante, Jay Mezzo, Brandon Sampaio and Jared Montini. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — After finishing 11-5 and reaching the NVL semifinals last year, the Naugatuck boys tennis team won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season.

The Greyhounds did lose a wealth of talent from last year’s team with the graduation of Marcos Rebelo, Peter Morrissey and Matt Triscritti in singles play. But Naugatuck returns a lineup with players who have been developing their skills over the past few seasons.

“We graduated three of our top six guys,” Naugy head coach Anthony Mariano said. “But those next three guys are up and coming. They are a year older and come in with more confidence, and they are ready to fill those top three spots.”

Mariano added, “We are just looking to progress and get better day by day. Pretty much how we handled last season. Luckily for us we had some great senior leadership that showed these younger guys not only how to prepare but how to lead as well when it came their turn.”

Seniors Alec Durante, who posted an 8-3 mark last year, and Brandon Sampaio, along with juniors Michael Rivera, Jared Montini and Zakary Robushi give Mariano solid players to build a singles lineup around.

Naugy did have a few younger players exceed expectations last year with sophomore Jay Mezzo recording a 6-2 mark and sophomore Nelson Lavoura, who showed the skills to be an impact player.

One thing the Greyhounds do have is depth. Senior Dylan Triscritti and juniors Jesse Lanci and Jonathon Lauer strengthen the back end of the singles lineup and provide options for the doubles teams.

“We are a team that has a lot of balance,” Mariano said. “We don’t have that one key guy at the top of the lineup who is going to compete for a league title. But what we do have is a lot of guys who are gaining the skills to be successful.

“As far as doubles go, it’s going to take about a week or two to sort it all out and see who works well together out on the court.”

Naugatuck went from 9-6 and the No. 4 seed in Mariano’s first year as head coach to 11-5 last year. Four of the five losses came to Wolcott, which hasn’t lost a NVL match in three seasons, and Torrington, the team that knocked the Greyhounds out of the semifinals.

One surprise this preseason has been the emergence of freshman Chris Cook, who has caught the coach’s attention. He is vying to take one of the top three spots in singles play and is the brother of former Naugy girls tennis No. 1 singles player Sarah Cook.

As the Greyhounds make their way through the preseason, Mariano said they are working to find where they fit on the court.

“Guys have different styles of play and it’s a work in progress with goal to get better each day,” he said. “I believe we have the guys who can compete in every match, and by the end of the season we want to be one of those teams playing for an NVL title.”

Naugatuck will open the season on Monday at Kennedy and then take on Woodland on Wednesday in Beacon Falls. The Greyhounds will host Watertown on April 9 for their first home match.