By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington boys tennis faced their first adversity of the season this past week. After winning 6-1 at Newington on April 23, the Blue Knights lost for the first time in 2019 when the Farmington Indians came to the Bob Garry tennis courts on April 24 and left with a 7-0 victory.
Of course, Southington was a long-shot coming in against an Indian team powered by two USTA ranked players.
“We ran with them, that’s the main thing,” said Blue Knight coach Tony Mauro. “It gives the kids the chance to play guys who are better, stronger. Now when you get in the tournament, you’ve already been there and done that, so all that experience helps.”
How would Southington respond the next day, April 25, against EO Smith? The Knights were ready and knocked off a pesky Panther squad 6-1 at home. Southington improved to 6-1 overall.
Don’t be fooled by that 6-1 final score. EO Smith gave Southington a strong challenge in several matches.
“I was happy to see the other team give us that good a battle, because it made my guys work, and we need it for down the road,” Mauro said. “We need that adversity.”
Marek Kryzanski, Andrew Kudla and Kyle Naworol all won singles matches against EO Smith. Kryzanski, 6-2, 6-0; Kudla won, 5-7, 6-0, 10-8; and Naworol won, 6-0, 6-0. No. 1 singles player Matt Balaoing was defeated by Henry Willis, 7-5, 5-7, 10-9.
Kudla played at No. 2 singles in the Farmington match against USTA New England Top 100 player Jerry Zhang, and he lost, 6-1, 6-2. Kudla also had a tough match against EO Smith’s Kenny Wu, but he was able to prevail in the super tiebreaker third set.
Naworol had lost his No. 3 singles match against Farmington, 6-2, 7-6(5) to Som Sedigh, but he was able to bounce back with a straight sets win over EO Smith’s Michael Lin.
In the doubles portion of the EO Smith matchup, Nate Zmarlicki and Mike Kwok won, 6-3, 6-1; Adam Kosko and Huang Savino won, 6-2, 6-3; and Tyler Heidgerd and Jacob Sutton won, 6-1, 6-2.
“They were focused, they were playing well. Marek played well, kept his cool, I liked that,” Mauro said of his players.
A day after facing USTA New England Top 40 player Alex Salamon of Farmington, Balaoing had to contend with the strong, hard-hitting Willis. Just like his match against Salamon (6-1, 6-7(6), 10-3), Balaoing showed that he belonged among the top players against Willis.
“He’s very composed, extremely composed. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t nervous, but he was composed and he played well, played smart, he has all the shots,” Mauro said of Balaoing.
Mauro said there were some very positive things to take away from the EO Smith win. The good momentum is certainly welcomed given the tough schedule coming down the line for the Knights.
Southington won three of the four singles matches against Newington on April 23. Balaoing won, 6-0, 6-2; Kudla won, 6-2, 6-1; and Naworol won, 6-0, 6-3. Zmarlicki was defeated at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-0, by Matt Utter.
The Knights swept doubles against the Indians. Nate Zmarlicki and Tyler Heidgerd won, 6-2, 6-3; Huang Savino and Kosko won, 6-0, 6-3; and Kwok and Jacob Sutton won, 6-2, 6-2.
Up next: Southington hosted Platt on Monday, then was scheduled to play at Glastonbury on Tuesday. The Knights were slated to host New Britain on Wednesday. On Friday, Southington is at Manchester for a 3:45 p.m. matchup.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com