Naugy golfers on the hunt for NVL title

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NAUGATUCK — This is an important week for the Naugatuck golf team.

Key matches loom for the Greyhounds, who will host St. Paul and Watertown this week with a chance to put themselves in the thick of the Naugatuck Valley League title race.

“The big test is going to be this week,” Naugy head coach Craig Blanchard said. “If we can beat [St. Paul and Watertown] the match against Holy Cross will be a big match.”

Blanchard was referring to a home match at Hop Brook against the Crusaders on May 10. Before then, the Greyhounds were slated to play three league matches—St. Paul on Wednesday, Watertown on Thursday and at Wilby on Monday.

In the first meeting between the Crusaders and Greyhounds on Tuesday, Holy Cross beat Naugatuck, 158-178, at Western Hills. Mike Leona led the team with a 43, while Tim Fleck, Nick Tribanas, and Aaron Johnson each shot a 45.

So far, the Greyhounds (3-3) have received solid play from numerous players. Fleck, the team’s top returning senior entering the season, has posted four rounds in the 40s, including a medalist performance against Kennedy on April 13 at Western Hills.

Leona, another important senior, has been impressive lately. Leona shot a team-best 41 at Torrington on April 18, then followed up with the squad’s top round—a 45—against Woodland a week later.

The ‘Hounds have also received some timely play from Tribanas, a newcomer who posted three straight rounds in the 40s. Tribanas has stepped up while others have been out of the lineup.

Tribanas’ future appears bright.

“Nick is going to be a good player for Naugatuck,” Blanchard said.

Also in the mix for Naugatuck are two seniors, Johnson and Colin Waldron. Both can shoot in the 40s and will be called upon to contribute as Naugatuck as the NVL season progresses.

This week, Blanchard said he expects to have a “home-field” advantage in the team’s home matches.

“Both St. Paul and Watertown play on more open courses,” Blanchard said. “You can get in trouble off the tee easily at Hop Brook.”

While any home-course edge may give Naugatuck a five- or six-shot cushion, it will still come down to executing for the Greyhounds.

To keep the level of competitiveness up for the 15-member Greyhounds team, Blanchard has been holding weekly qualifying matches within the team. The concept is simple: If a player wants to be a part of the varsity matches, he has to score well in practice and be on the top of his game.

More importantly, if a player didn’t qualify one week, he can qualify the next. There’s a constant opportunity for players.

“If you work on your game and practice,” Blanchard said, “you might make it the next week.

One thing is clear: The coming week will be less about practice and more about performing in match play. After this week, we’ll know what kind of team we have.”