NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls tennis team comes into the season needing to replace 60 percent of its starting lineup. The Greyhounds graduated seven seniors from a team that made a run at the league title, finishing as runner-ups.
Head coach Jose Sendra, who is entering his fifth year at the helm, knows how to get the most out of his charges. He turned a Naugatuck team that went 11-7 two years ago into a 17-2 title contender last season.
“We lost a solid core of players that’s for sure,” Sendra said. “But we still have a competitive group of seniors coming back this season and we will still be looking to contend in the NVL.”
Sendra knows his ‘Hounds will have their work cut out for them.
“It may be a little tougher to do this season with the new conference lineup,” he said. “The NVL has gone from two divisions to three so we will have our work cut out for us. We are in the Iron Division, which means we have two matches each against Wolcott, Woodland, Watertown and Torrington, four of the toughest teams in the league.”
Naugatuck will need to replace last year’s captains Hannah Kim and Kayla Gallant along with go-to player Kayla Rotatori. The ‘Hounds also will be without Mikaela Santo, Ashley Burkman, Ederisi Igbuya and Chelsea Iglesias, as graduation took its toll throughout the starting lineup.
But the Greyhounds do not come into the season empty-handed. Returning seniors Tathiana Serrano, Liz Perez and Crystal Wooster all made their presence felt on the court last season and are looking to take it up a notch.
Seniors Wynter Tremlett, Karla Iglesias and Isabella Hernandez all have shown the talent and ability to keep Naugatuck competitive.
“We do have some players who have gained experience and we are looking for them to step up and fill some open spots,” Sendra said. “But we also have a few younger players who can make some noise this year as well. We don’t have any set lineup yet, outside of our No. 1 singles player, and that will be junior Sarah Cook, who has gotten better each year on the court.”
Cook may very well lead the singles and the doubles tandems as the Greyhounds most accomplished player on the court. Coach Sendra is also high on the abilities of sophomore Abigail Jang and freshman Kelly Carr, who are both year-round players and can bring a solid level of play to the court.
“Right now we are just working on the fundamentals,” Sendra said. “We want to begin the season in our best physical shape so we need to put in the hard work required to get that done. I have all the confidence in these girls that they will be ready to be competitive and make another run at an NVL title match.”
Naugatuck will have a few heavy-hitters to start the season. The Greyhounds are scheduled to host Watertown on April 8 and will have a title rematch at Woodland on April 9. Naugy ends next week on the road versus Ansonia April 10.