NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys and girls tennis teams are relying on senior leadership to forge ahead and bring back a little prominence to Greyhounds tennis.
Over the past several seasons both teams have gone through numerous coaching changes and the only consistency has been in the desire to serve up a winning season.
The girls team came in last year on the heels of a very successful, two-year run going 15-5 and 18-3 under two different coaches. Jose Sendra stepped in last season as the third head coach in three years and the team struggled with an 0-5 start.
Sendra kept encouraging his charges and the Lady Greyhounds eventually got on track and ripped off 11 wins over the final 13 matches. It was a nice turnaround that culminated in a quarterfinal appearance in the NVL tournament and a spot in the state tournament.
Sendra returns this season marking the first time in four years that the girls enter a season with coaching consistency. Will that equate to a move up the ladder in the NVL rankings? That will be decided by a very committed group of seniors.
“With what we have coming back we should be very competitive,” Sendra said. “The goal is to go as far as we can in the NVL and qualify for the states.”
Leading the Lady Greyhounds is senior captain Miranda Jang, who made it to the semifinals of the NVL tournament last season.
Jang will have a lot of help leading the team with the experience of seniors Katherine Bottinick, Kaitlin Carter, and Andrea Jimenez along with Alexa Ramos and Lani Chucta.
“I think having gone through so many coaching changes it has really bonded the seniors together,” Jang said. “Coach Sendra has experience and he knows how to get us to excel. But now that we are all seniors we want to go out and have the best season ever.”
The Lady Greyhounds will be looking to formulate effective doubles squads. They will have sophomores Martina Niebryzdowski, Hannah Kim, Kayla Gallant, and Mikaela Santo to choose from along with Kayla Rotatori.
The Naugatuck boys team is one in transition as well. After winning the NVL title in 2007, the ‘Hounds went through a number of coaching changes.
Last year another new coach Carlos Correia stepped forward and Naugatuck finished an up-and-down season with a 9-9 mark.
This year the Greyhounds will usher in a new coaching tandem of Brian Mariano and Tony Loomis. Once again senior leadership will play a key role as to how far the ‘Hounds will go in their quest to return to the top of the NVL.
The Naugatuck boys are a senior-laden group led by Lain Burger, Randy Kostka, Derek Ritter, and Marcos Velasco along with Jake Burrell, who reached the quarterfinals on the NVL last season.
“We lost a few key players from last year,” Mariano said. “But we do have a strong core of kids coming back and we should be competitive.”
Loomis added, “A lot of these kids have been playing as a group during the off season. That is always an encouraging sign to see that kind of commitment level going on.”
The new coaching staff will be hard at work assessing the rest of the team and finding the final pieces as they put together the doubles team.
Sophomores Yun Chao Chen, Yun Yue Chen, Jeff Hensley and Nick Hernandez join fellow sophomores Nate Lindsly, Jake Morrissey, Namgyal Rakagme and Tyler Posser as viable options for the Greyhounds.
Freshmen Jake Gingold and Michael Popescu will also vie for playing time at the varsity level.
Naugatuck will find out where they stand right away as they open the season with four matches in six days. The boys opened the season at Wolcott on Wednesday and the girls played host to the Eagles. On Thursday girls were at Holy Cross and the boys hosted the Crusaders. The teams match up against Torrington on Saturday and Sacred Heart on Monday.