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04/25/2023 08:05 AM

Valley Boys’ Tennis Still Winning While Rebuilding

Junior Tomas Dahl is a co-captain and the No. 1 singles player for the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team, which has run itself to a 4-2 record so far this campaign. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

After a tremendous trek through the regular season and Shoreline Conference to the league’s summit a year ago, the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team has had to reshuffle its deck a bit, but the Warriors still certainly have it in the cards to be a proud reigning conference champion.

Last spring, Head Coach Callie Riggio and the Warriors completed regular-season play as Shoreline Conference champions and earned the No. 1 seed in the Class S State Tournament. Following Shorelines, Valley participated in the state tournament and took a 6-1 loss to Suffield in a first-round matchup to finish the year with an overall mark of 13-1 after a perfect regular season.

Hoping to expand on last year’s success, Valley houses a roster full of hard workers and motivated players determined to lead the program to prominence. The Warriors have parlayed their way to a 4-2 start thus far in the spring. After having defeated Coginchaug (5-2), Portland (6-1), and East Hampton (7-0) early on, Valley hosted Cromwell on April 18 and took a 5-2 loss before scoring a 7-0 sweep at Old Saybrook on April 21.

Riggio explained that, as is the case with many teams in high school athletics, they have had to replace senior departures from the prior year, but the boys are ready to build a formidable family while enjoying the ride and honing their skills.

“This is a rebuilding year for us, considering we lost six senior varsity players,” said Riggio. “We have worked to strengthen our chemistry as a team, since we have six new players as well. The major goal for this season is to definitely try our best, enhance our skills, and continue to have fun.”

The boys have two captains at the top for the squad. Junior Tomas Dahl is at the top of the solo slate for the Warriors, occupying the No. 1 singles position. He is joined by the team’s lone senior in Aidan Garrity, who is right alongside Dahl at the second solo assignment. No matter the individual, both young men collectively exhibit high class, character, and respect towards the sport and their teammates.

“Tomas is a very respectable player. He has incredible sportsmanship and continues to guide other players that are newer to the sport,” said Riggio. “Aidan is very committed to sharing singles strategies with his fellow teammates, as well as encouraging each member to do their best. Both captains have shown remarkable leadership, commitment, and motivation to the team thus far.”

The sophomore class also has a young upstart in Shep Whitney. Whitney has swiftly worked his way up the ladder to garner a home at No. 4 singles for Valley Regional. Riggio remarked that he is holding a steady racket and remains sturdy in the grind-it-out, marathon matches.

“Shep Whitney has shown incredible grit. He is currently a sophomore. He will definitely be a player to watch out for,” said Riggio. “He continually shows dedication to this sport not only in practice, but in his matches as well. He’s very consistent and stays strong in tougher matches.”

One key component of the court is the mental match, not only amongst individual players but also the entire entity of a team. The Warriors have certainly taken this adage to heart by not letting what appeared to be a lopsided loss in score only break their morale.

“Thus far, we have competed against some strong opponents like Morgan,” said Riggio. “Although we lost this match [7-0], the boys did not give up. As a coach, it makes me happy to see everyone supporting each other and processing the match as a good loss considering how they played.”

In the win over Coginchaug, Valley’s wins came from Dahl (6-0, 6-0), Garrity (6-1, 6-0), and Whitney (6-0, 6-3). For doubles, Ed Johnson and Ryan Poulin grabbed a win (6-3, 6-1). John Alberto and Jack Berardinelli rounded out the victories, winning by forfeit. Against Cromwell, junior Charlie Whelan scored a decision in straight sets (6-0, 6-1) at No. 3 singles. Whitney also prevailed 7-6 (7-0), 2-6, 10-7.

In the Old Saybrook triumph, wins came from Dahl (6-0), Garrity (6-0, 6-1), Whelan (6-0, 6-0), and Whitney (6-0, 6-0) in singles action. For doubles, victories came by way of Johnson and Poulin, junior Willem Fitton and sophomore Nic Cartagena, plus Jonathan Alberto and Jack Berardinelli (all via forfeit).

Regardless of how the Warriors’ record shakes out once the dust settles on the season, Riggio is already boastful of his bunch because of the boys’ dedication to their craft on the court, as they are constantly and consistently improving on a daily basis.

“I’m excited to have our new players gain competitive experience and continue to grow to flourish their high school tennis careers at Valley,” said Riggio. “No matter where we end up ranking as a team, I will always be proud of the boys for their devotion and perseverance.”

The 2023 Valley Regional boys’ tennis team roster is comprised of senior Garrity; juniors of Alberto, Dahl, Fitton, Lucas Silva, Lucas Welch, and Whelan; sophomores of Jared Brower, Cartagena, Johnson, and Whitney; plus freshmen Berardinelli and Poulin.

Riggio is in his fifth season as Valley’s head coach, and he is assisted by Sally Riggio (also for the fifth year), who is the head coach of the girls’ tennis squad.

2023 Valley Regional Boys’ Tennis

Regular Season Results and Schedule

April 3: Valley Regional 5, Coginchaug 2

April 5: Valley Regional 6, Portland 1

April 6: Morgan 7, Valley Regional 0

April 14: Valley Regional 7, East Hampton 0

April 18: Cromwell 6, Valley Regional 1

April 21: Valley Regional 7, Old Saybrook 0

Monday, April 24: vs. Old Lyme at 3:45 p.m.

Wednesday, April 26: vs. Westbrook at 3:45 p.m.

Monday, May 1: vs. Coginchaug at 3:45 p.m.

Wednesday, May 3: at Old Lyme at 3:45 p.m.

Monday, May 8: vs. Portland at 3:45 p.m.

Wednesday, May 10: at Morgan at 3:45 p.m.

Friday, May 12: at Haddam-Killingworth at 3:45 p.m.

Friday, May 26: Class S State Tournament Opening Round

Saturday, May 27: Class S State Tournament Round of 16 (if necessary)

Tuesday, May 30: Class S State Tournament quarterfinal (if necessary)

Wednesday, May 31: Class S State Tournament semifinal (if necessary)

Thursday, June 1: Class S State Tournament final at Wesleyan University (if necessary)