Experience and maturity are just some of the reasons why Southington coach Tony Mauro is calling his 2017 Blue Knight tennis team as good as—if not better than—the 2015 team that hung a divisional banner in the gym for the first time in years.
“Most of the ones coming back are seniors,” said Mauro. “You got 18-year-old kids in your top group and outside of your top group even. We have seniors at our 11th and 12 spots, and they’re pushing those guys in the ninth and 10th positions. That alone will make a big difference.”
If there’s anything the Knights posses coming into this season, it’s potential. Not only is the team returning experience, but they are returning skilled pairs of family members with chemistry.
“I think we’re balanced all the way through,” said Mauro. “Whether it is a doubles team or a single, anyone could make the difference that day, which makes for a good team. You need different people to step up at different times, and then have it all happen at the right time.”
Looking at the technical aspects of the court, the Knights will be strong in singles with an attacking style of play, posing threats at both the net and baseline. But unlike last year, the Knights will also be stronger in doubles.
“I think being solid in doubles is how you win in this league,” said Mauro. “I think you win more with them than you do with your No. 1 player. Your No. 1 player is playing the best player, so you’d be happy if the guy’s .500.”
There’s no doubt the Knights have the talent needed to be successful when it comes to mustering up wins in the doubles department. But there is still more work to be done on the tandems rather than on the singles.
“We should be working more on our doubles,” said Mauro. “If we can do that, I think we’re going to scare a lot of people. We’re going to be a seven-point threat, rather than just a three or four-point threat.”
Mauro stated that he expected his Knights to finish somewhere around .600 last year, but his young squires proved him wrong. The Knights finished last year’s regular season at 14-6 overall (7-3 home, 7-3 away) and placed fourth out of five teams in the CCC Central Blue with a regional record of 5-5 and divisional record of 2-3. Hall won the CCC Central Blue title.
Southington lost six players to graduation after last season, including key starters like Benjamin Chasse and Jacob Chasse at singles play or Kays Cetin and Ian Lawrence in doubles play. All four played in the Class LL tournament.
After playing as singles players all season long, the Chasse brothers came together one last time to play as a doubles team, as they had done for most of their high school careers, in the state tournament. The 15th-seeded family duo advanced to the third round, where their postseason season run was ended, 6-1, 6-4, by eventual runners-up, second-seeded Henry Johnson and Jack Johnson of Fairfield Warde.
Seniors Michael Balaoing, Erik Kryzanski, and Rohan Kataria were named as the team captains to lead the Knights this season. Balaoing and Kryzanski both played in the singles bracket of the state tournament.
Balaoing went 10-7 last year and played mostly No. 1 singles. He will look to play at No. 1 or 2 singles this season. Kryzanski went 8-6 last year and played mostly No. 1 doubles with some singles matches scattered in. He will battle for No. 3 and 4 singles.
Kataria missed all of last year, but will be returning to the team for this season after playing in the program in his freshman and sophomore years. He will battle for No. 3 or 4 singles.
“They all have three different styles of leading,” said Mauro. “One leads by example, one leads by a certain amount of aggressiveness, and one leads by being generally all-around. The three of them work well together.”
Other returning seniors include Samuel Johnson, Michael Listro, Michael Loose, Andrew Premus, and Turner Rodman. Johnson, Listro, Loose, and Premus all experienced playing time in the varsity lineup at various doubles roles last year. Listro also played at No. 4 singles.
Returning juniors include Kevin Chudy (11-5 in doubles), Jacob Holbrook, Alex Klinzmann, Jonathan Kryzanski (10-5 in doubles), Samuel Pappas, and Brett Rycki. Chudy will mostly likely team up with J. Kryzanski to play at No. 1 doubles.
Returning sophomores include Matthew Balaoing (14-4 in singles), Michael Kwok, Daniel Pestillo, and Nathan Zmarlicki (10-6 in doubles). Ma. Balaoing will look to play at No. 1 or 2 singles. Although he played mostly doubles last year, Zmarlicki will battle for No. 3 or 4 singles this season.
Southington added Wethersfield and EO Smith to this year’s schedule. Mauro is entering his 11th year as head coach of the program and currently holds an overall coaching record of 121-54.
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