Valley Boys’ Tennis Garnered Respect in Shoreline with Young Bunch
For the Valley Regional boys’ tennis team, it played strongly enough to enter the postseason party while simultaneously showing it will be there for years to come by constructing a great corps of underclassmen that grew both mentally and physically through seeing the spotlight of varsity action.
With Head Coach Callie Riggio, the Warriors fought to a 6-8 regular-season mark–good enough to qualify for the Class S State Tournament. There, as the No. 22 seed in the draw, Valley took a 7-0 qualifying round loss to 11th-ranked Rocky Hill on the road on May 26 to finish 6-9 overall.
While the Warriors wound up below .500 for the 2023 campaign, they were far from sub-par when it came to the effort they produced on the courts in giving some Shoreline Conference stalwarts all they could handle in not being any sort of pushover for opponents on their schedules.
“During our season, the team strived to fight for every match consistently and maintained competitive play against our opponents,” said Riggio. “In practice, we continued to focus on match play, effective strategies, and strengthened their skill sets. The team did an excellent job of meeting these goals and expectations. We had multiple opponents that had very strong teams, which became challenging at times, but the team interpreted those matches as a learning tool and continued to grow.”
Speaking moreover towards his team’s tangible and intangible triumphs, Riggio remarked he saw a strong supportive net strengthen throughout the squad as the season progressed in bolstering each team member’s morale when it was crucially necessary after miscues.
“Overall, I feel as though a major moment throughout the season was noticing the players becoming more connected and continually supporting each other, which is always a team goal,” said Riggio. “It was also major to see the team picking up each other after a loss and making sure no one felt the weight individually; it was always winning or losing as a team. Throughout the season, the team continually supported each other and individually expressed motivational statements before every match to lift everyone’s spirits. In addition to the hard work they did, there was always laughter and memorable moments amongst the team like doing campus runs and games.”
The Warriors also had plenty of sound and stellar solo records. At No. 1 singles, junior Tomas Dahl had a record of seven wins against six losses. Senior Aidan Garrity finished .500 at 7-7 backing Dahl at No. 2 singles. Rounding out singles’ action, No. 3 singles competitor junior Charlie Whelan was additionally even steven at 6-6, plus sophomore Shep Whitney was 10-4 for the fourth spot.
In doubles, as a team, sophomore Eddie Johnson and freshman Ryan Poulin had seven victories and as many defeats as the top tandem. Sophomore Nic Cartagena and junior Willem Fitton were 4-7 at No. 2 doubles. And lastly, freshman Jack Berardinelli and junior Jonathan Alberto came through with a 5-6 mark with respect to No. 3 doubles.
For team award distinctions and recognition, Berardinelli and Alberto shared the Most Improved Player Award, since, said Riggio, “They have both grown exponentially as doubles partners and skilled tennis players.”
Whelan won the Best Sportsmanship honor, “for always being supportive, encouraging, and kind to his opponents,” per his coach. Whitney received the Warrior Award for continually showing incredible sportsmanship, positivity, determination, and leadership skills. Dahl captured the Most Valuable Player Award for, “always doing his best, fighting for every point, and leaving his heart out on the court,” praised Riggio.
Finally, Fitton won the Honorable Mention Award for, per Riggio, “Always showing unstoppable determination, being incredibly helpful when it came to mentoring his fellow doubles players, but also putting in the time and effort on and off the court, preseason and postseason.”
In the Shoreline Conference Tournament, Dahl made Second Team All-Shoreline for making it into the quarterfinals in the singles bracket. Johnson and Poulin earned Honorable Mentions as well for their performance through the doubles tournament.
“These were major accomplishments for these players considering their tough competition,” said Riggio. “But they were still determined to make the best of each match.”
Dahl and Garrity were the captains for the club this season, and they did much more than simply mentor and guide younger teammates towards perfecting a forehand or backhand strike. They went the extra mile to show their true colors as captains to the team by keeping underclassmen upbeat through inevitable bumps in the road.
“They always helped other teammates with their skills, strategies, and remained a mentor for newer players,” said Riggio. “They chimed in during our team huddles before every match to maintain a positive and determined mindset. Overall, they were fantastic captains, as well as incredible assets to the team with their leadership skills and playing abilities.”
In the early outlook for the 2024 edition of the team, the only graduating loss will be Garrity. Riggio concluded by noting that he anticipates a great core of young men returning to the fold next spring based on the boost of enthusiasm prevalent late in the season.
“Next year, I believe every player will step up with their new positions, and we will remain a strong team,” said Riggio. “With the way the season ended, it seemed like every player was eager to return, and multiple incoming freshmen expressed interest in joining next year as well.”
The 2023 Valley Regional boys’ tennis team roster was 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 finished his fifth season as Valley’s head coach, and he was 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
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
April 24: Old Lyme 6, Valley Regional 1
April 26: Westbrook 5, Valley Regional 2
May 1: Valley Regional 6, Coginchaug 1
May 3: Old Lyme 7, Valley Regional 0
May 4: Haddam-Killingworth 5, Valley Regional 2
May 8: Valley Regional 7, Portland 0
May 10: Morgan 6, Valley Regional 1
May 12: Haddam-Killingworth 6, Valley Regional 1