By John Goralski
Tony Mauro had already circled the last week on his schedule, but the Blue Knight tennis coach is starting to learn that regular season measuring sticks are becoming harder and harder to find.
One-sided losses against teams like Hall have become closer deficits. Former contested rivalries have melted into lopsided wins.
The week that Mauro circled at the start of the year melted into a string of lopsided wins, but that’s the cost of getting better.
“We don’t have too many teams in the middle any more, so I thought that this was going to be a good week for us,” said the coach. “I was a little unsure about EO Smith and Newington. Both of them are usually pretty tough. When I looked at the people that EO Smith lost to, they were all high level teams.”
Now, fans might be able to start counting the Knights among that list of powerhouse programs. Even the looming postseason has become a welcomed challenge. Mauro has been out-spoken about the individual format in Class LL, but the Knights might be able to compete better than recent years.
“I think I actually like the postseason a little bit better this year, but I think that’s because we do have some really strong singles players,” he said. “You never know what’s going to become of our doubles because it always gets so interesting at the state meet, but our singles players could win a couple. Maybe we’ll have some pleasant outcomes.”
Last week, the singles players continued their torrid pace. Luke Pfanzelt led the way with three more straight-set victories to bring his record to 14-0. Kunal Kataria scored three wins at No. 1 singles.
Nate Mullins won his first match, but was sidelined by injury midway through his second. Grant Ogrin stepped in with a win against EO Smith. Will Lefkovitch stepped into singles play against EO Smith and almost forced a third set with a tiebreaker loss in the second set.
On the other hand, the Knights’ doubles tandems are starting to make some noise. Ben Chasse partnered with Jacob Chasse for two wins and Justin Troung for another. Rohan Kataria and Mike Balaoing finished the week 3-0, while Alex Angelillo partnered with three different players to earn a 2-1 record at No. 1 doubles.
“This is what being part of a team is all about,” said Mauro. “Sometimes the singles come through. Sometimes, it’s our doubles. It’s not about one person doing it all the time. This is what makes the character of a team.”
Now, the Knights will try to navigate the final test of their season. First, they’ll face powerhouse Simsbury on Tuesday. Next, they’ll wrap up the regular season with a tough match at RHAM.
Then, comes the final exam.