NAUGATUCK — Going into Monday’s home matchup against Watertown, the Naugatuck boys tennis team had just come off losing its first two matches to Torrington and Woodland. The ‘Hounds contest against the Indians had Naugatuck on the losing end one more time, defeated 6-3, bringing their record to 0-3.
Juan “Carlos” Correira, Naugatuck’s young yet determined first-year coach, was not dismayed by the loss.
“We played our nine versus their six, and our eight versus their five,” he said, referring to Naugatuck’s apparent disadvantages due to players’ injuries. “And we still managed to make it a close one. Next time somebody plays Watertown, they’re going to spread the rumor and [other teams] will know we’re not going to be slouches. We gave them a run for their money.”
Watertown coach Eric Miller shared Correira’s sentiments.
“I think we may have been a little overconfident,” Miller said. “We defeated Naugy, 9-0, both matches a year ago. They have improved quite a bit and this year they play with a lot of heart, which I credit to their new coach, Juan Correira. I’m not looking forward to having to play them again later in the season. They seem to be very coachable and they now have a new competitive spirit.”
The most crucial match, according to both Correira and Miller, was the last singles match to leave the court, a contest which had Watertown’s No. 5 Elias Perencevich defeating Naugatuck’s No. 8 Jake Morrissey, 8-4. The victory set the stage for Watertown to only have to win one of the three doubles matches, whereas Naugatuck was forced to have to win all three.
“They had to spread out their talent, which usually gives the other team the advantage,” Miller said.
“They could have easily just gave up,” Correira said, after the loss in doubles to secure the win for Watertown. “Knowing that the match was already over, that it was already lost, they still came back and fought.”
That clinching loss in doubles came in the matchup of Connor Fenn and Kevin Lvovich of Watertown against Naugatuck’s pair of Richard Mitchell and Lane Burger. Lvovich aided Fenn in avenging an earlier singles loss to Mitchell, a Watertown loss that had led Correira and his team to stay confident and finally see their efforts paying off.
“Team spirit,” Correira said. “These kids were cheering for each other until the very last match. Other coaches are coming up to me and saying, ‘Man, I didn’t expect you guys to be that good.’ I take that as a compliment.”
Naugatuck was set to visit Crosby on Wednesday before traveling to Wolcott on Friday and hosting Sacred Heart on Monday. Correira was confident his team’s first win is on the horizon.
“Everybody was excited,” Correira said. “They can’t wait. They can’t wait to play Torrington again, they can’t wait to play Woodland again, they can’t wait to play Watertown again. Because now they’re like, ‘Coach, we’re gonna beat ’em.’”