Tennis teams weathering early storm


By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck’s Jay Barth returns a shot during a match against Woodland’s Tyler MacDowall on April 20 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Getting into a rhythm and finding consistency is key for any team to build confidence and succeed.

The combination of COVID-19 and the unpredictability of April weather has made consistency hard to come by early on for the Woodland and Naugatuck tennis teams.

Nine matches were postponed for one reason or another over the first two weeks of the season, creating a logjam of matches to make up for lost time. That doesn’t count the practices that were altered due to the weather.

“The first two weeks of the season, at the end of March, the weather was perfect and we were practicing every day,” Woodland girls head coach Jessica DeGennaro said. “But now that match play has started it’s been once cancellation after another, never mind how many practices that had to be postponed. It makes it really hard to gain that consistency that helps build confidence.”

The Woodland girls (1-2) played three matches in the first week of the season, but had to wait nine days before their fourth match — a date with Ansonia on April 23 — due to three cancellations. The Ansonia match is the first of five scheduled in a week for the Hawks.

Woodland’s Andy Hopkinson returns a shot during a match against Naugatuck’s Fernando Moreno on April 20 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“Now we are looking at four matches a week and you start to lose those practice days where you can work on the technique of the game,” DeGennaro said. “I don’t think it’s a wear and tear on the team to play that many matches, but you don’t have that practice time to get better.”

“The biggest part of the game is the mental aspect,” she added. “They need to learn that it’s one point, one game at a time and it takes endurance, and you can only learn that on the court.”

The Naugatuck girls have had to try and find some consistency through three cancellations. The Greyhounds fell to 0-4 on the season following 6-1 losses to Watertown on April 20 and Wolcott on April 22.

Mia Grella defeated Watertown’s Sophie Charbonneau, 8-5, and Wolcott’s Tyler Conroy, 8-0, to earn singles wins for the Greyhounds in the matches.

Naugatuck’s Fernando Moreno returns a shot during a match against Woodland’s Andy Hopkinson on April 20 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

With four matches scheduled for the coming week the Greyhounds will be further tested.

The Woodland boys weathered the early storm. The Hawks won three straight after dropping their opening match to improve to 3-1. The wins included a 5-0 victory over Naugatuck on April 20.

The Greyhounds and Hawks started the match on April 19, but rain forced them to push it back a day only a few minutes into the action.

Andy Hopkinson defeated Fernando Moreno, 6-1, 6-0, in No. 1 singles play to get it started. Tyler MacDowall outlasted Jay Barth, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8, in No. 2 singles. Kayo Niebrzydowski upended Julio Perez, 6-4, 6-1, in No. 3 singles.

Woodland swept doubles play. The duo of Brian O’Connell-Nick Bshara scored a 6-3, 6-0 win over Brian Barth-Aidan Lau. The tandem of Tyler Cyr-Carter Davis defeated William Zheng-Alex Felix, 6-2, 6-3.

Woodland’s Tyler MacDowall returns a shot during a match against Naugatuck’s Jay Barth on April 20 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The match was only the second one for the Greyhounds (0-2).

“We have been lucky that we have access to the courts on Saturday and Sunday,” Naugatuck head coach Brett Hayward said. “That kind of opens things up if we do need to cancel during the week. This was our first match in ten days.”

“My assistant coach, Bob Mezzo, has stepped up big time making everything work even with changes in the schedule,” he added. “[Naugatuck AD Brian] Mariano and the girls team have been great to work with ensuring both teams find time on the court in spite of all the cancellations.”

Naugatuck and Woodland are both scheduled to return to the court April 23 to start stretches of four matches in a week. They are set to play each other again May 3 at Woodland.