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Senior captain Freddie Kerr earned the Warriors’ Most Valuable Player Award after taking on the toughest competition in the Shoreline Conference while playing the No. 1 singles position. (Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky )
Freshman Kaid Matesky competed in the No. 5 singles spot for Valley this spring and is one of several young players who Head Coach Callie Riggio hopes will take the next step in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky )
Freshman Nicholas Wyskowski and the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team posted seven wins this year while integrating some up-and-coming athletes who have plenty of talent. Wyskowski provided nine wins at the No. 2 singles position for the Warriors. (Photo courtesy of Laura Matesky )
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The Valley Regional boys’ tennis team were a bit shy of making states this season, but had a solid year of building for the future with several young players getting valuable varsity-match experience. The Warriors notched seven wins in Head Coach Callie Riggio’s first year at the helm of the squad. Even though Valley will lose four seniors from this year’s squad, Coach Riggio and company are optimistic that the groundwork laid this year will lead to future success.
All things considered, Coach Riggio thought that her squad turned in a solid effort. The Shoreline Conference featured plenty of talented teams, and the Warriors were up to the task of competing with them.
“Especially with a lot of players being relatively new and underclassmen, I think the team did a great job competing and trying their best,” Riggio said. “Even though we had more losses than wins, the team did a great job against some of the harder teams in the Shoreline Conference. I think pretty much the majority of the boys’ teams were really strong and had some really strong seniors, as well.”
One of the biggest contributors to Valley’s optimistic attitude was the leadership of its senior captains Freddie Kerr and Jack Lima. Coach Riggio felt that their upbeat demeanor and supportive direction helped the team stay on track.
“When I became the coach, I knew that Freddie and Jack would be the captains. I thought that was a great decision by the team,” said Riggio. “They are great people, and they kept the team positive, in general. They did great job leading the freshmen along and getting them ready to be even better next year.”
Kerr held the No. 1 singles spot for the Warriors this year and earned the team’s Most Valuable Player Award. Kerr faced the best competition that each team had to offer, and according to Riggio, having Kerr ready to battle the best was incredibly valuable for Valley.
“Freddie really played strong and strategically in his matches. He was playing the best players against top teams,” said Coach Riggio. “He really knew where to put the ball. That was his biggest strength, moving his opponent around. He was able to identify his opponents strengths and weaknesses to get his points.”
In the No. 2 singles position was talented freshman Nicholas Wyskowski, who tallied nine wins. The freshman earned Valley’s Warrior Award for his ability to keep himself in matches, even when he was down in the score.
“Nic is a strategic player as well. When he warmed up against his opponents, he managed to identify their strengths and weaknesses like Freddie. He’s not figuring it out during the match but before it,” Riggio said. “He really fought for each of his points, even if he was down in a set. He had the mindset that he could come back and take over. He was very strong and played mostly upperclassman. Being a freshman, that was a challenge. A lot of his opponents had more strength behind their shots compared to him, but he was able to put the ball where he wanted to.”
In the No. 3 position was Lima, who also earned Valley’s Sportsmanship Award. Coach Riggio believed that Lima’s bright disposition when the team was feeling a bit down was invaluable.
“Jack played a strong game, and he was consistent in getting to most of his shots,” said Riggio. “I gave him the Sportsmanship Award because he knew how to handle his losses, turn them into a positive, and learn from his matches. He kept the team’s spirits high even when we would have a loss.”
In the No. 4 spot was freshman Hayden Lombardi, who had seven wins to his credit. The freshman showed an ability to stay even-keeled in his matches and throughout the season. Coach Riggio believed that Lombardi turned in an outstanding effort as a freshman.
“Hayden was consistent. He never gave up, similar to Nick. If he was losing he would persevere and win the match, or at least make it close,” Riggio said. “He was really strong, and overall he did a great job at the four as a freshman.”
Freshman Kaid Matesky rounded out the singles rotation for the Warriors. Matesky scored six wins on the season and tried to prove himself a quality player at every opportunity.
“Out of all the freshman, Kaid wanted to make a name for himself and stand out. He had some big competition even at No. 5,” said Riggio. “He took time to understand other player’s strategies so that he could follow along. He was trying to learn what his teammates at No. 1 or 2 were doing so that he could try to do it himself.”
As for doubles, the No. 1 tandem of senior Sean Patterson and freshman Jack Whittaker combined to make a solid pairing at the top of the rotation. Riggio thought Patterson’s experience made him a great mentor for Whittaker.
“Sean had a bit more experience of going against other teams in a high school setting, and I think Jack learned a lot of that. It was a perfect duo,” Riggio said. “Watching them during matches I think they really were able to use what they worked on during practices on the court.”
The No. 2 pair for the Warriors this season was sophomore Ben Gawlek and senior transfer student Ryu Thuniljinda. They made for an effective duo and scored six wins through their ability to communicate effectively, according to Coach Riggio.
“I think they did really well communicating. Ben really understood Ryu, and with the language barrier, that could be hard,” Riggio said. “If someone was down because a tough shot, they were really supportive of each other. Their spirits were always high, and they persevered. They also slid into No. 1 matches together, and won a good majority of those too.”
Junior JT Dickson earned Valley’s Most Improved Award and will be the team’s senior captain next season.
In the end, Coach Riggio feels lucky to be back at the school where she saw so much success as a player. Plus, she gets to coach alongside her mother Sally Riggio, who is head coach of the girls’ tennis team. Now with her first year under her belt, Riggio can’t wait to see what the future holds for Valley tennis.
“I really love coaching, and I especially love coaching for the Valley team having gone there for my high school years,” Riggio said. “I enjoyed coaching these players, and I loved coaching alongside my mom. It was fun for me and my mom, and also for the players. We had a lot of fun together. It was just a great experience, and I’m really excited to see future seasons with the Valley team.”
From the Sidelines
The Valley Regional boys’ tennis team’s 2019 roster featured senior captains Freddie Kerr and Jack Lima; senior Chris Morales, Sean Patterson, and Ryu Thuniljinda; junior JT Dickson; sophomore Benjamin Gawlek; and freshmen Hayden Lombardi, Kaid Matesky, Jack Whittaker, and Nicholas Wyskowski.
Callie Riggio completed her first season as head coach of the Valley boys’ tennis squad.
The Warriors grabbed two wins apiece against Haddam-Killingworth (6-1 and 5-2), North Branford (two wins via forfeit), and Coginchaug (6-0 and 5-2), and one win against East Hampton (5-2) this year.
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