By BRIAN JENNINGS
Three wins for the Blue Knights boys tennis team (10-0) would be an understatement to describe what kind of week it really was for the guys in blue that are not only sitting in first place in the CCC West, but are sitting high atop their white steeds dressed in shining armor.
Yes, the Knights stayed perfect after this week, but there was more to these three wins. There was something special about them.
The Knights capped the week by hosting the Manchester Indians (2-8) on Friday, May 8 and won in prestigious form with a 7-0 victory. Not only was it a win for the Knights, but it also marked Southington coach Tony Mauro’s 100th high school varsity win in nine years as coach of the Knights.
“It feels good,” said Mauro. “I didn’t know how many years it would take, and I don’t know what the next milestone is, but you have to take it one day at a time.”
Southington won easily for their coach. Kunal Kataria, Luke Pfanzelt, and Zaya Oshana all won in straight sets in singles. Grant Ogrin returned to the lineup for the first time since the first day of the month as the No.4 singles player and won in straight sets without dropping a game.
On the doubles side, Ben and Jake Chasse returned to the No.1 spot and won in straight sets. Mike Balaoing joined forces with Rohan Kataria playing No.2 doubles and won in straight sets. Brett Daigle-Erik Kryzanski also won in straight sets.
“My guys stayed focused on their task, did the job, and left it at the office,” the coach said. “Manchester’s coach [Dave Maloney] is in a building mode. Last year, that team only had seven players. That was a championship team in past years and has always traditionally had a tough team. They were one of the teams that beat us the year we went 15-3. He’s a really good coach though and a nice guy. He had a nice group of kids. He’ll be back.”
The Knights started the week off by defeating the Northwest Catholic Indians (6-4), 6-1, at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford on Monday.
Kunal Kataria and Pfanzelt won in straight sets in singles, while Zaya Oshana (moved to No.3 singles) and Mike Balaoing swept their opponents in straight sets.
The Chasse brothers lost a match for just the second time this season in split sets to NW Catholic’s Pat Lazor-Kyle Brooks. Rohan Kataria-Kryzanski dropped just a game in straight sets and James Hoder-Daigle played No.3 doubles, winning in straight sets.
“It was windy there,” the coach said. “The wind was blowing things all over the place, but our guys were playing really well. They were mixing shots. NW Catholic had a nice, strong No.1 doubles team. I think they were NW Catholic’s two best players. We had to shuffle our lineup a little bit because Grant is out with an injury, so that made everyone move up [in the lineup]. But I thought the whole team just did a good job.”
The Knights returned to their home courts two days later to host the RHAM Sachems (4-7) in another 6-1 victory.
The big story out of Southington camp came from No.3 singles Zaya Oshana when he battled back his way back against RHAM’s Nolan Hemberger. After losing the first set 7-6 (4) in a tiebreaker, Oshana went on to win the match by taking the next two sets, 6-0, 1-0 (1).
Oshana’s serve and was the biggest part of his game, and that allowed him to make the adjustments needed to win the match.
Pfanzelt and Balaoing won in straight sets in singles. Kunal Kataria lost his match for just the third time this year in straight sets to RHAM’s Danny Kmetz.
Rohan Kataria-Kryzanski (returned to No.1 doubles), the Chasse brothers, and Daigle-Hoder all won in straight sets over RHAM’s Colin Farrar-Matt Cox, Callum Henderson-James Larned, and Will Roser-Brendon D’Amaddio, only dropping four games as a whole.
The Sachems were missing two singles from their lineup, so Mauro is still concerned about the rematch later this month.
“We’re going to play them in another two weeks and you can be sure that they’re going to be at full strength,” said the coach. “I warned the players to be very carful not to get complacent about this because they’re stronger than they look. They’re record before today was 3-6, but if you look at who they played, it’s a tough schedule with the top guys in the state.”
To date, the undefeated Knights have only dropped six individual matches and have recorded a total of five shutouts (7-0) out of 10 matches. The Knights currently sit atop the CCC West, two victories ahead of Conard and 2.5 games ahead of Hall and Farmington.
The Knights look to stay perfect and on top of the CCC West with a match on the road against the Simsbury Trojans (5-4).