By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (7-0) remained undefeated this past week with two road wins and a homecoming conference triumph.
The Knights started the week by sweeping the Blue Devils (2-5), 7-0, in Plainville on Monday, April 27. The Blue Devils are in their second year as a tennis program since 2003, coming off of a 10-year hiatus.
Luke Pfanzelt filled in at the No.1 singles spot for the Knights after Kunal Kataria hurt his arm lifting weights. Pfanzelt defeated Plainville’s Jared Roman 6-1, 6-3. Grant Ogrin shifted up to play at the No.2 singles spot and only dropped one game against Plainville’s Joey Slivinsky, 6-0, 6-1.
Zaya Oshana stepped up to play No.3 singles and sustained an injury during his match, but was able to overcome pain with a win over Plainville’s Brandon Mello, 6-0, 6-2. Erik Krazanski played No.4 singles for the first time this season and was successful in his debut, defeating Plainville’s Joey Chacho, 6-1, 6-1.
“We had to change our lineup a couple of ways,” said Southington coach Tony Mauro. “We had Kunal play No.1 doubles with his brother after he hurt his arm. “Our No.4 singles, Mike Balaoing, was out sick so we put a sophomore in at No.4 singles and he did a nice job.”
The injury allowed the Kataria brothers, Rohan and Kunal, to team up for the first time this year as the No.1 doubles, defeating Plainville’s Adam Hushin and Gabe Yawin, 6-0, 6-1. Ben Chasse and Jake Chasse continued the brotherly love with a doubles win over Plainville’s Will Tuxbury and Ethan Hushin, 6-0, 6-1.
The No.3 doubles duo of James Hoder and Brett Daigle defeated Plainville’s Wei Luan and Ben Murak, 6-2, 6-0.
The Knights continued on the road to Rocky Hill a couple days later, where they overcame the Terriers (1-4), 6-1. Kunal Kataria returned to No.1 singles and was the only player to go down for the Knights, falling to Rocky Hill’s Rounak Gokhale, 6-0, 6-1.
Pfanzelt only dropped a game in his win over Rocky Hill’s Arian Gokhale, 6-1, 6-0, as well as Ogrin over Rocky Hill’s Michael Costello, 6-1, 6-0. Balaoing started at No.4 singles for the second time this season and defeated Rocky Hill’s Sairam Anaparthi, 6-4, 6-1.
Kryzanski combined with Rohan Kataria as the No.1 doubles tandem and were victorious over Rocky Hill’s Sarat Chakravadhanula and Hieu Tan, 6-2, 6-1. The Chasse brothers took care of business as usual with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Rocky Hill’s Paul Szaro and Dan Ellegard. Hoder and Daigle won their match in straight sets over Rocky Hill’s Brendan Boornazian and Mike Laporte.
The Knights returned to their home courts on Friday to host their first conference match of the season against the Conard Chieftains (7-2). Although they hobbled into the match with prior injuries to key players, the Knights showed resiliency and defeated the Chieftains, 6-1.
“I was very pleased today because they had to work to win,” said Mauro. “Early on in the first set and halfway through the second set, every scoring tube was only one game apart. I even pointed it out to my assistant coach. It’s good for them to have that. That’s the toughest team we’ve played so far, including EO Smith. Let’s hope we can keep that momentum.”
Kunal Kataria battled through a sore arm and shoulder to defeat Conard’s Sam Prescott in split sets after losing the second set, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Pfanzelt defeated Conard’s Isaac Gilles, 6-4, 6-2, and Ogrin defeated Conard’s Ajay Jagjivan, 6-4, 6-0. Balaoing was back at No.4 singles with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Max Schweitzer.
Oshana returned to the lineup to pair with Rohan Kataria for a split-set win at No.1 doubles against Conard’s Sam Morgan and Casey Shane that was thought to have been secured in the second set, even though it wasn’t.
Oshana and Rohan Kataria won the first set 6-1, but would fall in the second set, 7-5, after being up 5-2. However, Oshana and Rohan Kataria would finish strong to take the match with a 6-4 win in the third set.
“I was worried about Zaya because he almost didn’t play today,” the coach said. “I put him in at the last minute. He did a good job with Rohan though, but they did have me sweating because they were winning 5-2 in the second set. I don’t know if it was a lack of focus, but they lost their momentum. That happens a lot because you think you’re near the finish line, but you should never count your chickens before they hatch.”
Southington won two out of three doubles with Daigle and Kryzanski beating Kevin Gates and Brett Riley, 6-2, 6-3.
The Knights hope to stay perfect this week with a home match against the Manchester Indians (1-5).