This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.07/20/2022 10:57 AM
Kaid Matesky was named the Unsung Hero for the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team this season. Kaid felt that it was a major honor to receive the award after he grew into a senior leader, helping the Warriors claim the Shoreline Conference championship while forming one half of their No. 1 doubles duo.
Kaid picked up his first racquet at the age of seven. Kaid’s two brothers, Kyle and Kelvin, were both tennis players who competed for Valley Regional. Kaid spent time practicing with his brothers and watching them play. After gaining some experience on the court, Kaid decided that he was going to focus on tennis.
“It was a sport I knew I could really excel by myself. It’s a mental game. I liked that,” says Kaid. “It’s a very individual sport. It was rewarding to have my actions have substantial rewards.”
Prior to high school, Kaid spent a good amount of time working on his tennis game and learning about the sport. He put in a lot of hours playing at the Old Saybrook Racquet Club. Whether he won or lost, Kaid became enamored with tennis and was always eager to get back on the court.
“The wins, the losses—I just wanted to get better,” Kaid says. “I had a drive to get better and just play the sport really.”
As a freshman, Kaid joined the Valley boys’ tennis team and earned a spot in the lineup as its No. 5 singles player. Kaid’s first year played a big role with his growth in the program. Kaid learned from the advice of the upperclassmen and relied on them for guidance. The lessons that Kaid learned have stuck with him to this day.
“There was a lot to learn from the older guys on the team. It was mostly a learning year. I got acclimated with the team and high school tennis,” says Kaid. “Playing my first Shoreline Tournament was a different experience than I was used to. I carried a lot of things from that year without me through my entire tennis career.”
By his junior season, the numbers on the Valley boys’ tennis team had grown larger. While he played well during the preseason that year, Kaid was ready to take on a new challenge. Kaid decided that he wanted to become a doubles player. After trying it out, the experiment worked. Kaid enjoyed having a trustworthy teammate next to him and liked how playing doubles showed him the team-oriented side of tennis.
“It’s better in every way. It’s more of a team game at that point,” Kaid says. “You’re working with your partner. You’re communicating. You’re yelling things out on the court. It gets a lot more advanced. It was nice having backup and someone I could trust. It was great having a teammate next to me on the court, rather than just the team watching me from the hill.”
When he made the switch, Kaid was slotted into the No. 1 doubles spot in the Warriors’ lineup. Kaid remained in that role through his senior season, partnering with junior Aidan Garrity. The pairing advanced to the championship match of the Shoreline Conference Doubles Tournament this year. As the No. 3 seed, they had to win three matches to reach the final. Kaid felt the excitement from the crowd during each match as the competition highlighted the strengths of both him and Garrity.
“I’ve never felt energy in sports like that. During that entire tournament, we were gathering crowds. No matter what happened, it was exciting,” says Kaid. “We played against really great players. It was highly competitive. It brought out the best in us.”
Valley finished the regular season with a record of 13-0, taking the Shoreline Conference title. Kaid wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the season, but Head Coach Callie Riggio felt confident that the squad could win its conference. Kaid was proud to see how this year’s Warriors were able to adapt and work together to become the best versions of themselves.
“It was exhilarating. Starting out, no one really knew how it was going to go. The coaches really thought we had a shot at the Shoreline title. We took it home,” Kaid says. “We all evolved as players and people from that season. The team was really tight-knit by the end of the season. A lot of people stepped up.”
Coach Riggio knows that Kaid’s growth as both a player and leader proved pivotal to the Warriors’ success this season. Riggio says that the senior did a great job of communicating with his teammates and was respected by everyone in the program.
“Kaid has had an excellent progression on the team over the past four years, especially this year. He had great communication, tenacity, and motivation,” says Riggio. “Kaid was always equipped to play singles or doubles if need be. Every player looked up to him not only as a respectable tennis player, but someone they could confide in.”
At the end of his senior season, Kaid was presented with the Unsung Hero Award on behalf of the Valley boys’ tennis team. Kaid made a decision to step up as a leader in his senior season. While he wasn’t the most confident player when he first joined the program, Kaid had a better understanding of the game and felt more comfortable on the court by the time he was a senior. Kaid says that Coach Riggio helped him understand how much the younger players looked up to him, inspiring Kaid to become a role model both on and off the court for his fellow Warriors.
“That’s the most accurate award they could have given me. I really didn’t think I was anything special. I knew it was time to step up. There were a few losses where I blamed it on me,” Kaid says. “My coach would tell me that the team looks up to me as a leader. ‘They want to follow you. If you go down, everyone goes down.’ It was a big push to be a better leader and teammate. The boys followed.”
Kaid will be attending the University of New Haven, where he will pursue a degree in environmental science. He plans on playing tennis at the club level at the school.
During his four years with the Warriors, Kaid experienced a plethora of positive memories while competing alongside a group of teammates who have had a big influence on his life. When he walked off the court for Valley as a senior, Kaid realized that he had become both the tennis player and the person that he wants to be.
“It feels good. It was a big part of my life. It was four years out of 18 already. I’ve gotten lifelong memories, lifelong lessons, and lifelong friends. A lot of the boys still want to play tennis. It’s fulfilling. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” says Kaid. “It’s nice knowing this year’s banner is going in the gym. We have the jackets commemorating it now. I could look at my time during the tennis season and know that that’s the best me.”