Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sports

Valley Boys’ Tennis Looking Strong with Solid Mix

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Junior Nic Wyzkowski and the Valley Regional boys’ tennis squad have a 6-2 record after last week’s action against Portland and Old Lyme. Wyzkowski remained undefeated at the No. 1 singles position after winning both of his matches last week. Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky

Junior Nic Wyzkowski and the Valley Regional boys’ tennis squad have a 6-2 record after last week’s action against Portland and Old Lyme. Wyzkowski remained undefeated at the No. 1 singles position after winning both of his matches last week. (Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky )

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Junior Kaid Matesky has been a great resource for his No. 1 doubles partner junior Tucker Burr (not pictured). The pair have been serving up some solid performances this season. Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky

Junior Kaid Matesky has been a great resource for his No. 1 doubles partner junior Tucker Burr (not pictured). The pair have been serving up some solid performances this season. (Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky )

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Junior Jack Whittaker brings a calm, cool demeanor to the No. 5 singles position for the Warriors. Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky

Junior Jack Whittaker brings a calm, cool demeanor to the No. 5 singles position for the Warriors. (Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky )

The Valley Regional boys’ tennis team has come back to the court this year ready to bring its best to the rest of the Shoreline Conference. The Warriors are owners of a 6-2 record this season after picking up a split in matches against Portland and Old Lyme last week.

Head Coach Callie Riggio’s squad has been a force with five of its six wins coming in 7-0 sweeps of the competition, and the Warriors are poised to put together some postseason success this campaign.

The Warriors began last week’s slate with a 7-0 road win over Portland on April 26, and Valley ended up with a 5-2 road loss against Old Lyme. Dating back to April 23, the Warriors had the toughest stretch of the season beginning with Westbrook, which has yet to lose a match.

“The Westbrook match was notable since they are one of the better teams in the conference, and Valley did not back down without a fight. Many of our players went into third sets, and were eager to win. Although we lost 4-3, Valley played their best, and are striving to win the second match,” Riggio said. “Our match against Portland was another 7-0 sweep. The boys are doing so well with their play, strategies, and supporting one another. The match against Old Lyme was tough. The weather was problematic due to high winds and periods of rain, but this isn’t anything new. The boys tried their very best, and that’s ultimately all that ask. It’s something that we can learn from strategy-wise in the future.”

Even though the Warriors have posted an impressive mark thus far this year, Coach Riggio is mostly just happy for her student-athletes to be able to get on the court. Valley’s 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and regardless of match outcomes, everyone is just happy to play again.

“There’s a sense of relief when it comes to returning to the court this season. It was hard on everyone, coaches and athletes, when we couldn’t have a season last year. However, I’m so thankful for this season because it not only brings back the sense of happiness to have a team again, but the gratitude I hold to be coaching such an amazing team,” says Riggio. “It definitely is different considering all of the rules that were put into place because of COVID-19, but it hasn’t affected our support for one another, and everyone continues to stay positive.”

The Warriors have a nice mix of players between dedicated tennis lovers and some newer players. The nearly two-year layoff from competing with Valley hasn’t seemed to slow down many of the Warriors, and those who are still learning are getting plenty of instruction and hands-on experience

“Most of the athletes on the team have a genuine love for the sport, so many continued to play last year amongst themselves to prevent any rustiness for this season,” said Riggio. “There are a few novice players on the roster, but we try our best to integrate them into our drills and competitive play, and also try to gain experience for them, as well.”

Valley practices have been a great environment for the veterans and underclassmen alike, and that has a lot to do with the leadership of senior captain Ben Gawlak.

“I nominated Ben Gawlak to be the captain because he is very motivated, supportive, and a role model for newer players. Ben has handled his responsibilities as a captain very well,” Riggio said. “He conducts warmups along with the girls’ captains, and he makes sure that no one is left behind or struggling. He is very easygoing and motivated. Not only does he go the extra mile to help newer players, but also he supports the boys on the lineup and myself tremendously.”

The Warriors singles players have been turning in solid efforts so far this year, and they are headed at the No. 1 spot by junior Nic Wyzkowski. The junior has yet to lose a match and has been a rock at the top.

“Nic is a very strategic player and takes my advice into account very well. He is a fighter and does not give up if the match becomes tight. He is an excellent player and is undefeated at the number one singles position,” Riggio said. “Because he is a returning player, I think he tries very hard to guide newer players, but is also eager to have a strong record himself.”

Freshman Tomas Dahl has been solid at the No. 2 position as well. Dahl’s youth belies his maturity on the court. The Warriors also have another freshman in the singles’ ladder in Aidan Garrity, who is also having a solid season at the No. 4 spot.

“Tomas is a freshman, but holds prior tennis experience. He is very powerful, yet holds great placement skills. He has continued to stay motivated throughout each of our matches and motivates others, as well. He always comes to practice with a smile on his face, ready to play,” Riggio said. “Aidan has had prior tennis experience, but is new to the tennis team. He has a great baseline game and hustles to every ball that comes at him. He listens to our advice with open ears and tries his best when he combats a tougher opponent. He is a great sport, and also congratulates the other team on their successful shots.”

At the No. 3 spot for Valley is junior Hayden Lombardi, who already has some postseason experience under his belt. That experience serves him well in pressure situations. Similarly, No. 5 singles player, junior Jack Whittaker, though not a postseason vet, still maintains his cool when things get tense on the court.

“Hayden is a successful returning player, and he made the third round of states in 2019 along with Nic Wyzkowski. Hayden enjoys helping new players and wants to improve on his own skills, as well. He is a fighter,” Riggio said. “Jack is a returning player, as well. He has a successful record in his singles spot. He can easily identify his opponent’s weaknesses. Jack puts his all into every single match, and shows great sportsmanship. He maintains a calm composure, and does his best to return every ball.”

Heading up the No. 1 doubles tandem are juniors Kaid Matesky and Tucker Burr. They make a good pair since Matesky’s experience helps to guide Burr as he is relatively new to tennis. Each of them bring tremendous athleticism to the court.

“Kaid is a returning player, and Tucker is a newer player. They are both very athletic, and work very well together,” Riggio said. “They support each other tremendously and give each other constructive criticism in order to improve their play. They both show great sportsmanship and are both role models to younger players.”

Valley’s depth has been one of its biggest strengths as evidenced by the solid play of freshman Charlie Whelan and junior Sawyer Joy at the No. 2 doubles spot.

“Charlie and Sawyer work really well together. They are great at communicating and helping each other regain their confidence if they have a misstep,” said Riggio. “They are both great overall players, and close out points at net every chance they get.

“They are both new to the team; however, they are wonderful and powerful additions,” she added.

The Warriors have been mostly cruising this season, but regardless of what ultimately happens, Coach Riggio’s goal for her squad is to enjoy the time on the court. An impressive record would be a welcome bonus, though.

“My ultimate goal for this year is to make sure the boys enjoy their season and earn a great record along the way. I have all the faith in my team that we will finish strong this season. We have already created a family-like atmosphere, so this definitely helps the boys to support each other in a variety of ways,” Riggio said. “The team is open to all students no matter what their skill level is. I would encourage interested athletes to keep the tennis team in mind for next season considering we are a very safe, friendly, and fun team.”



Chris Negrini is the Assistant Sports Editor for Zip06. Email Chris at c.negrini@shorepublishing.com.

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