BEACON FALLS — The 42nd straight Naugatuck Valley League victory for the Woodland boys tennis team very nearly saw the end of an even more impressive streak.
The Hawks had no problem as a team in Monday’s 8-1 win at Wolcott, but No. 1 singles player Kyle Beynor found himself in more trouble than he ever had in his four years playing in league singles matches.
Beynor, the defending NVL singles champion who has never lost a match in conference competition, trailed Wolcott’s Alex Gauthier 1-4 and needed to change his mentality.
“He played the points perfectly,” Beynor told the Republican-American. “I had to go back and play some tennis. I just started enjoying the game instead of trying to win. If you’re down that much, you might as well just relax and enjoy yourself.”
Soon enough, Beynor’s attitude led to a turnaround. He broke back to get back on serve at 3-4 but double-faulted away his next service game to fall behind 3-5. Two games later, Beynor broke again to pull even at 6-all but he needed a final break in Gauthier’s potential match-clinching game at 7-8 to force a tiebreaker.
“Alex is a great tennis player,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “He’s accurate and very consistent. He came out ready to play. Kyle had to make some adjustments to his approach. Once he settled into a rhythm and got his momentum back, he was able to bring the match back toward his type of play.”
Beynor pulled out the victory in the tiebreaker, winning on a forehand volley at net to keep his perfect record alive with the 9-8 (7-5) win.
Amato thinks Beynor’s experience the previous week against nonconference opponent East Catholic aided the senior’s rally. Woodland suffered a 7-0 loss in that outing and Beynor failed to win a game in his 6-0, 6-0 loss that day.
“It really helped Kyle in his tight match against Wolcott,” Amato said. “He maintained his composure.”
The Hawks’ other five singles players also earned victories over the Eagles. No. 2 Stephen Pec beat Devon Northway, 8-2; No. 3 Matt Murphy knocked off Nick Mastropietro, 8-2; No. 4 Pat Dietz edged Cole Nelson, 8-6; No. 5 Nick Rioux defeated Brett Brennan, 8-2; and No. 6 Chris Zmuda hammered Zachary Pattek, 8-1.
Woodland also earned a pair of doubles victories on the day. The No. 2 squad of Jack Walsh and Mike Roulanaitis and the No. 3 unit of Alex Tulk and Mike Costa both took 8-6 wins.
Amato said his team’s depth has helped in the early going this season because several players have missed time.
“It’s one of those seasons where everybody has to step up and contribute,” Amato said. “We’ve had athletes who have been on field trips to Florida, athletes who have broken their hand, athletes who have had pneumonia, and each time members of the team have stepped up in different roles to help us push through.”
The Hawks’ only slip-up this season was at East Catholic in Manchester.
“It was a long way to go to be humbled,” Amato said. “Matt Murphy summed it up when he said, ‘No matter how big a fish you are in your pond, there’s always a bigger fish.’ It was nice to see the level of play that we would like to be able to play at by some point.”
In the NVL, though, Woodland is 7-0 after defeating Crosby, 8-1, on Wednesday and showing no signs of slowing down. The Hawks visit Torrington on Friday. They have a huge match Monday at Naugatuck, which is 9-0.
“We’re used to going against undefeated teams,” Amato said. “Nine times out of 10, we’ve gone head to head with Wolcott when they’ve been undefeated. This time it will be Naugatuck and we’ll be ready.”