Naugy returns solid lineup

Naugatuck boys tennis players, from left, Jared Montini, John (Jay) Mezzo, Chris Cook, Brandon Sampaio and Andres Maldonado will lead the team this season. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys tennis team has built a solid reputation over the past couple of seasons under former head coach Anthony Mariano, advancing to the Naugatuck Valley League tournament semifinals the past two years.

This season, the Greyhounds will be under the guidance of a new head coach Brett Hayward, who coached the team in 2015.

“We have some great numbers that came out this year,” Hayward said. “Our seniors are experienced players who will help the younger kids get better. We are just hoping to compete every day against some strong teams in the league.”

Hayward will have to adjust this season for a new format implemented by the NVL.

In the past, meets consisted of six singles matches and three doubles matches that were played in sets to eight. Previously, singles players could come back and play in doubles matches.

This year, though, meets will consist of three singles matches and two doubles matches played in a two-set format, but each athlete will only be allowed to play one match per day, meaning each teams will need to have seven players ready to go.

“We used to have nine matches and we were able to crisscross and use our strengths to stay competitive,” Hayward said. “With the new rule change it’s a lot more condensed and you have to bring your best seven players out there and there is no crisscrossing. You either play singles or doubles, and that makes my job a little harder making sure I get the most out of the lineup I put out there.”

“It certainly opens the door to competition in practice, which will make our team that much better in the long run,” Hayward added. “There is always the opportunity to get better and to move up in the ranking.”

The Greyhounds bring back a healthy blend of experience and success. Naugy boasts All-NVL doubles players senior Jared Montini, junior John Mezzo and sophomore Chris Cook.

Senior singles players Brandon Sampaio, Sergio Rodriguez and Andres Maldonado bring experience to the mix, and sophomores Travis Caetano and Fernando Moreno will be looking for expanded roles this season.

Newcomers senior Jon Vincent and sophomore D.J. Fine are also challenging for roles in the new condensed lineup.

“Every sport is specific as far as the skill set goes,” Hayward said. “But it still comes down to working hard to better yourself as a player and to compete at the highest level. The mindset of working hard and doing things the right way never changes, and that is what we will rely on to put a competitive team out there on the court for every match.”

The Greyhounds are scheduled to open the season with three home matches next week: Monday against Crosby, Wednesday versus Wilby, and Friday against Pomperaug.