No backing down for Greyhounds

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck’s Julio Perez returns a shot during a match against Woodland’s Tyler MacDowall on May 4 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys tennis team came into the season with an inexperienced group of players.

That inexperience has shown with a 2-7 record a little more than halfway through the season. But that record can be deceiving as opponents quickly find out the Greyhounds mean business when they take the court.

That was evident when the Hounds posted back-to-back 3-2 wins over Holy Cross and Torrington to close April.

“We are an inexperienced team,” Naugy head coach Brett Hayward said. “But every match we give 110%. All I can ask of the boys is to give it their all and never back down. We are getting more and more competitive as the season progresses.”

No one is more competitive than Jay Barth, a senior more accustomed to being on the pitch and basketball court.

That competitive spirit showed in the Greyhounds’ 5-0 loss to NVL contender Wolcott on May 4. Barth, who took up tennis this season, battled through two tiebreakers before coming up short, 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (9-11), 5-10.

“The kid is an animal. He just doesn’t stop,” Hayward said. “He never quits and is in on every point. He was down 3-0 in the second set and battled back to force a tiebreaker.”

“The boys look up to Jay,” Hayward continued. “Not because he’s our tallest player or that he’s a senior, it’s because he’s a leader. The way he carries himself on the court and in the classroom. It’s a pleasure to have him on the team.”

That never-quit attitude runs throughout the team. The Wolcott match was part of a stretch of four straight 5-0 losses, including two to Watertown and one versus Woodland.  But the final scores don’t show how the Greyhounds have developed over the season.

“We began the season getting swept in both sets 6-0, 6-0,” Hayward said. “Now we are seeing the boys in singles and doubles battling and taking points away from the competition. That to me shows tremendous progress.”

“We pulled out a couple of close wins against Holy Cross and Torrington, and I think that inspired the boys to dig a little deeper,” he added.

Naugatuck’s Aidan Lau serves during a doubles match with teammate Brian Barth against Woodland’s Kayo Niebrzydowski and Brian O’Connell on May 4 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Against Woodland, No. 1 singles player Fernando Moreno fought in a 6-4, 6-0 setback to Austin Roberts. The tandem of sophomore William Zheng and freshman Ethan Campana pushed Tyler Cyr and Nick Bshara in doubles, before falling 6-4, 6-3.

In the Wolcott match, No. 3 singles player Julio Perez battled for every point against Caidan Pilarski, who won the match 6-3, 6-2.

“We started the season against some very good experienced teams, Southington, Woodland and Wolcott,” Hayward said. “We are in the middle of the second go-around with these teams and we are seeing our boys fighting back.”

Naugatuck has four matches left on the schedule and is set to end the regular season on May 17 at Kennedy.