By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (16-0) carried momentum from one of the most dramatic weeks in the boys tennis program’s history into the final full week of the season. The boys captured three more victories and clinched the CCC West division title.
“On my way home after one of those matches, I said to myself that I fell like I just robbed a bank and got away with it,” said Blue Knight coach Tony Mauro. “It’s quite satisfying because we had set that goal at the beginning of the year. I knew the team had the potential to do that. I didn’t go so far to say that we would go undefeated because I knew Glastonbury would be tough. As far as we’re concerned, we already have a successful season.”
The Knights kicked the week off with a road win at Newington (12-5), 5-2, on Monday, May 18.
Luke Pfanzelt and Mike Balaoing won in straight sets. Zaya Oshana lost his first match of the season against Newington’s Connor Buckley after winning the first set, 6-2, but dropping the second set, 6-3, and losing a tiebreaker in the third set, 1-0 (3). Oshana holds an individual record of 13-1 on the year, including singles and doubles matches. All doubles teams won in straight sets.
Two days later, the Knights traveled out to Hebron on the eastern side of the state where they defeated RHAM (8-9), 7-0. The Knights won the first meeting between both teams earlier this month, 6-1.
Kunal Kataria, Pfanzelt, and Oshana won in straight sets. Grant Ogrin came back to win his match in the third set over RHAM’s Jackson Collins after taking the first set, but dropping the second, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Ben-Jacob Chasse and Brett Daigle-Erik Kryzanski won in straight sets. Rohan Kataria-Mike Balaoing worked hard to take their match against RHAM’s Harry Pellerin-Nolan Hemberger after winning the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
The Knights returned home on Friday to the wrap up the week with a win over New Britain (11-8), 7-0. The Knights celebrated senior day, but also celebrated an accomplishment.
Much to his surprise, the athletic department presented Southington coach Tony Mauro with a plaque and oversized tennis ball with the number “100” on it, representing his 100th career win as coach of the boys’ tennis program. The girls’ tennis team posed for a picture with Mauro and the boys’ team before boarding the bus for their road match. Both teams signed the tennis ball for Mauro.
“They were so cool about it,” said the coach. “I thought they were just going to take a picture all as a group. It was such a nice gesture on the part of the high school tennis community. I am really appreciative of it. It was a memorable moment for me.”
Both singles and doubles won in straight sets, losing just two games total. The win against New Britain clinched the CCC West Division title, marking the first time the Knights won the new CCC West Division and the first time the Knights won a division title in decades.
“There’s more going on out there than hitting a ball,” said Mauro. “There’s a social interaction, teachable moments of life, discipline, and the giving of yourself because you’re on the team going on out here. The best part of this team was that different people stepped up. They can compete with each other and still have a nice rapport with each other. That to me is everything.”
The Knights will put their undefeated season to the test when they battle undefeated Glastonbury (16-0) in their season finale at home on Wednesday.
“If we were to come out of this with a win, you’re going to see one ecstatic guy because we’re the underdogs,” said Mauro. “This team wasn’t made to give up. The Hall coach said that our team has a bunch of fighters. If the other team sees that you’re a fighter, it changes the way they play.”