Boys tennis returned to the courts in 2021 and a handful of local athletes shined as five players were selected for the All-Herald Boys Tennis Team.
Southington had the best season among area teams with an appearance in the quarterfinal round of the Class LL state tournament. With that, Samuele Raniolo and Kajetan Naworol were the two Blue Knights who earned spots.
Newington's Matthew Utter, New Britain's Jacob Rulka and Berlin's Justin Pattavina rounded out the All-Herald team.
Only a freshman, Raniolo was crucial to Southington's success as the newcomer powered the Blue Knights to a 15-5 regular season record.
“Samuele was truly impressive with his performance (physically and mentally) this year,” Southington boys tennis coach Steve Jasulavic said. “As a freshman he earned our top singles position and had a very successful season. We are excited about his potential and are looking forward to what he can accomplish over the next three years.”
Naworol was equally important to the Blue Knights as the senior's leadership skills translated to match wins.
“Kajetan Naworol was the consummate team leader,” Jasulavic said. “He put 100 percent effort into everything he did whether it was a drill in practice or a match point. He was an excellent role model for his teammates as he left everything on the court every time he walked off of it. His contributions as a player and a person will be sorely missed as he heads off to college.”
While Newington didn't have the same level of postseason success, the Nor'easters still got a great senior season from Utter.
Newington's No. 1 qualified for the Open tournament as an individual after leading the Nor'easters to a 9-5 regular season record.
“He's probably one of the top six players I've had,” Newington boys tennis coach Don Lukowski said. “He went 15-1 in the regular season. He only had one loss at Avon, won at South Windsor in the playoffs. He made All-State which is pretty impressive for us. I've been at Newington over 20 years and he's right up there with the best that I've coached.”
As a sophomore, Rulka often went against opposing teams' best and the Hurricanes youngster held his ground with a respectable season.
“Jacob's a great kid,” New Britain boys tennis coach Joe Vaverchak said. “I expect him to move to the next level. I think he's going to get pushed to the No. 1 spot. I know he's taking some lessons this summer. I get most of my kids back next year so I'm excited.”
The Redcoats' Pattavina put together a solid junior season as their No. 1, pacing it to a 6-8 regular season record. Berlin beat East Haven, 6-1, in the qualifying round of the Class M tournament before falling to Avon, 7-0.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.