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Wyszkowski Already Impressive with Valley Tennis
Nic Wyszkowski earned nine wins at the No. 2 singles position as a freshman for the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team last spring. (Photo courtesy of Nic Wyszkowski )
Nic Wyszkowski had a strong start to his career with the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team last year. As a freshman, Nic held the No. 2 singles position and earned nine victories for the Warriors during the regular season. Then when the regular season was finished, Nic teamed up with fellow freshman Hayden Lombardi to compete in the doubles bracket at the Class S State Championship. Nic was slated to once again hold a key spot at the top of Valley’s singles ladder this year, but unfortunately, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the season before he had a chance to hold that position.
Nic had a solid year by any standard in 2019, but the fact that it was also his freshman season made his results all the more impressive. When considering his accomplishments, Nic believes that the pinnacle was participating in states, where he and Lombardi reached the third round of the doubles tournament. Nic and Lombardi rallied for a 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 10-7 win over a duo from Stonington in the first round, after which they claimed a 6-3, 6-2 victory against an East Catholic tandem in the second round of the Class S bracket.
“My biggest accomplishment was probably playing doubles at states with my teammate Hayden. That was pretty cool,” says Nic. “We had a great comeback in our first match, and we made it to the third round. As a freshman, I didn’t anticipate qualifying for states, let alone making it to the third round. That was pretty great.”
After spending an entire regular season as part of the singles lineup, Nic shifted to doubles matches in a high-pressure postseason situation. This could have easily caused a lot of stress, but Nic thought that he and Lombardi made for a great pair, thus alleviating some of those jitters.
“It was perfect to have another freshman there. We were in the same spot, being new to competitive tennis,” Nic says. “Being in that situation, I didn’t feel like I was dragging a big senior player down if I had a bad shot. We were on an even level. It felt like we were equal.”
Nic’s nine wins during the regular season did not come easy. Nic was often pitted against juniors and seniors on the other side of the court, while getting his first taste of the high school circuit.
“When I started playing tennis, I was pretty young, but I didn’t play seriously. During the fall of freshman year, I started taking it more seriously,” says Nic, who lives in Essex. “Being in that position and facing upperclassmen with more experience gave me more confidence in my game. It reassured me that this is the sport I’m supposed to play. It took some pressure off, because I didn’t think I would be winning these matches as a freshman. It was helpful for my game, and I enjoyed it.”
Nic had his sights set on moving up into the No. 1 singles position in his sophomore season. Every year, tennis teams have ladder matches to determine which athletes will slot into specific positions in the singles and doubles lineups. Nic didn’t take anything for granted, and he put in plenty of work to continue improving in order to earn the top spot.
“I hoped that I was going to get that spot. Last year, Freddie Kerr had the No. 1 position, and he graduated,” Nic says. “During the offseason, I spent a lot of time working to improve my game, whether it was going to the Essex courts and serving, or playing matches with friends. I also worked on my endurance, so I could be in longer rallies. I wanted to help my team more than I did during my freshman year.”
When the news first came that the spring season would at least be postponed due to COVID-19, Nic still found ways to shelter in place and stay on top of his game.
“I tried to be as optimistic as possible. I wanted to think there was some hope of a season. I just tried to keep myself in shape and practice during that time before the season got called off,” Nic says. “I have a spacious cellar, so I was able to practice my ground strokes and my volleys down there. I was working on my reflexes, too, because my basement isn’t as big as a regular court, and the ball would get back to me quicker.”
Nic views himself as more of a conservative player on the court. He likes to extend his rallies and tries to outlast his opponents.
“I’m definitely more of a baseline player. I like longer rallies,” says Nic. “I try to put myself in a position to win on lower-risk shots, rather than risking it all slamming a power forehand. I’d rather back up and play it safer.”
Even so, Nic is always looking for ways to expand his repertoire and offer different looks to the opposition. This past offseason, Nic made a concerted effort to diversify his approach by practicing at the Old Saybrook Racquet Club.
“I prepared myself to mix it up in the offseason. I trained in Old Saybrook, and I went up against No. 1’s at some of the bigger schools,” Nic says. “I worked on being more aggressive and approaching the net even more. I had the ability to mix it up with my opponents if I thought it was necessary.”
Nic and Valley boys’ tennis Head Coach Callie Riggio were in similar positions last year, as it was the first season for both of them in their respective roles. Riggio knew that she could count on Nic to play a great match, no matter who he was going up against.
“Nic is an excellent player when it comes to deciphering his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and tailoring his play to defeat them,” says Riggio. “He has a very focused mindset, and his great play often leads him to victories.”
Nic feels grateful for all the support he’s received at Valley and is looking forward to getting back on the court with the Warriors as soon as he can. Playing tennis has boosted Nic’s confidence, and he really wants the opportunity to show the results of his hard work.
“I was new to playing competitive matches, and it was nice to have an experienced coach with [girls’ tennis Head Coach] Sally Riggio and a newer coach with Coach Callie Riggio there. It really helped to have the seniors to look up to and people that I could look to and feel they were in the same boat, too. Once I realized I could compete against other good players, I was less nervous,” Nic says. “I think how we work in the offseason is going to make a big difference next year. I was able to keep improving by working in my basement. That could give us an advantage, even though we weren’t able to play matches this year.”