WOLCOTT — Mike Krakowski was the best player on the best team in the Naugatuck Valley League. So it was fitting that the Woodland senior cemented his spot last Friday at Wolcott High as the top player in the entire league.
Krakowski, seeded second, defeated No. 3 Steve Consolini of Torrington, 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinals before dismissing top-ranked Pat Vincente of Crosby, 6-0, 6-3, to capture Woodland’s first-ever gold medal in boys tennis.
“It’s not really there yet,” said Krakowski, as his championship was still sinking in. “I’m still getting over the hot flashes and dizziness. But I’m proud. I know the goals I set over the years. I got here last year, and now I won it.”
Players had to battle through the hottest weather of the season as temperatures soared through the mid-80s.
“Everyone definitely had to push and dig down for every ounce of power they had,” Krakowski said of the heat’s effect on play. “I thought my first match was worse than my second one because the sun was beating down and it was boiling.”
Krakowski broke Consolini’s serve in the last game of both sets to earn a spot in the final. Krakowski had time to watch the third set of Vincente’s semifinal match against Kennedy’s Enea Dervishi, which Vincente won, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0.
The Woodland senior breezed through the first set as he broke Vincente’s first four service games. Krakowski earned the decisive break at 3-2 in the second to take a 4-2 lead.
Krakowski held his serve twice more and on the final rally utilized a passing shot behind Vincente to clinch the gold medal.
“I definitely analyze each player before,” Krakowski said. “I looked at Pat and saw his weaknesses. I keep saying to myself while I’m playing, ‘Go for that shot, go for that shot.’ Today, it worked.”
Woodland coach Jim Amato saw Krakowski’s championship as the culmination of his work over the years.
“Mike is the only three-year player on the team,” Amato said. “He and I both started at the same time. I know we both wanted success for the program. It’s rewarding to see that he was able to translate his team goal into his personal goal and manifest that into a gold medal.”
Wolcott’s Jon Ramirez and Sean Tansley, seeded first in the tournament, easily captured the league doubles championship as they beat Naugatuck’s Riker and Richard Mitchell, 6-0, 6-1, before dispatching Woodland’s Pat Dietz and Kyle Beynor, 6-2, 6-2.
Dietz and Beynor, a pair of sophomores, helped the Hawks win the medal count with their silvers. Amato said the duo continued to play beyond their years throughout the tournament.
“They are sophomores, but they were also the No. 2 seed and I think that’s important to note,” Amato said. “It’s not how old you are, it’s the level you’re willing to play at.”
Amato attributed part of his players’ success to the team’s commitment to conditioning.
“Thank God for the hill,” Amato said, referring to the steep hill next to Woodland’s tennis courts used for conditioning. “This year I think we made sure we conditioned. We didn’t expect it to be as hot as it was, but I think it helped down the stretch to make sure we stayed in every point until the last.”
Each of the players competing in the semifinals earned All-NVL honors. In the consolation matches, Dervishi defeated Consolini, 8-4, to earn the singles bronze while the Mitchell brothers beat Watertown’s Connor Fenn and Kevin Lvovich, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (2-7), 10-8, to win the doubles bronze.
Woodland qualified for the Class M state tournament, which was scheduled to begin Thursday at Hamden High.