NHS boys’ tennis improving but still winless

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NAUGATUCK — Entering Monday’s home match with Torrington, the Greyhounds boys’ tennis team was 0-9, doubled up—or worse—in all but one contest. But that one contest was the most recent one, a 5-4 nerve-wracker against Woodland last Thursday, and Naugatuck’s coaches believed this would be the day their charges broke into the win column.

“We sure hope so,” said Sean Dunn, half the NHS head coaching tandem, before play began. “It should be.”

“The Woodland match really energized the guys,” added Jason Cebula, Dunn’s partner. “That was the first time we’ve come out of the singles matches 3-3, and it got them really excited.”

Their optimism was justified but unrewarded, as the Red Raiders overpowered the Hounds, 7-2. Torrington won five of six singles matches, solidifying the victory before the doubles portion got underway.

Jake Burrell, a sophomore showing promise, picked up the lone singles win, 8-3, over Jack Weber in the No. 5 match.

Naugatuck's No. 1 player, Tim Simons, prepares to uncork a two-handed backhand during his match against Torrington's Steve Consolini Monday. Simons broke Consolini's serve in the game to take a 4-3 lead but lost the match, 8-4.
Naugatuck's No. 1 player, Tim Simons, prepares to uncork a two-handed backhand during his match against Torrington's Steve Consolini Monday. Simons broke Consolini's serve in the game to take a 4-3 lead but lost the match, 8-4.

The Hounds certainly possessed enough skill to make the match closer. Team ace Tim Simons appeared to take control of his duel with Steve Consolini, when he went up a break, 4-3. In that game, Simons used a series of precise returns to force Consolini into a 0-40 hole. After squandering three break points, the Naugy junior ripped a two-handed backhand winner up the right line to claim the advantage then won the game on a Consolini error.

From that point onward, however, Simons’ serve betrayed him. Consolini broke three straight times and won the final five games of the match, to earn an 8-4 win.

Sophomore Ed Betkoski, a player on the rise within the NHS program, struggled to an 8-2 defeat at No. 2 singles. He lost the first six games to Phil Welford, before splitting the final four. It was Betkoski’s second straight 8-2 loss in the second singles slot, an unwanted encore to his performance against Woodland’s Pat Bradley, but Dunn and Cebula admire his competitiveness.

“He was playing in the five spot earlier in the season, but he’s kept challenging the higher seeds for their spots,” Dunn said, referring to the team’s system of intra-squad challenge matches, which determine players’ seedings. “He wants to play those tougher opponents.”

“We knew at the beginning of the season he was one of our better players,” Cebula added. “He probably should have been No. 2 all along, but he lost his challenge matches early on, so we were forced to put him No. 5.”

The Lain Burger-Mike Antiformi pairing, at third doubles, provided Naugatuck’s other win against Torrington, an 8-4 triumph over Mike Ellis and Justin Clark.

Additional losses included Ryker Nolan, 8-3, to Ryan Leonard at third singles; Josh Matthews, 8-0, to Ryan Fredriksson at fourth singles; John Dana, 8-4, to Pat Dzurill at sixth singles; Burrell and Randy Kostka, 8-5, to Brandon Conforti and Marco Melaragno at first doubles; and Sean Kim and Corey Andrew, 8-2, to Haris Fisic and Griffin Rapsilber at second doubles.