Michelle Sedlock bedrock of girls tennis program

Shelton girls' tennis team is taking the court for the 20th time since the program began in 2001. Team members for coach Michelle Sedlock (front row) are: Katrina Hatfield, co-captain Kassidy Wojtowicz, co-captain Jessica Jayakar and Jasmine Rosetti; (kneeling) Claire Foley, Carolyn Maher, Emily Caccillo, Samantha McCook and Nell Komorowski; (standing) Katie Bergers, Lily May, Rachel Morrow, Emily Ahern, Sophia Fede, Emily Carlin and Sophia Fabian. Izzy Acerveda is missing from photo. Caitlin Pineau, Mia Kmetz and Ciara Foley are team managers.

Shelton girls’ tennis team is taking the court for the 20th time since the program began in 2001. Team members for coach Michelle Sedlock (front row) are: Katrina Hatfield, co-captain Kassidy Wojtowicz, co-captain Jessica Jayakar and Jasmine Rosetti; (kneeling) Claire Foley, Carolyn Maher, Emily Caccillo, Samantha McCook and Nell Komorowski; (standing) Katie Bergers, Lily May, Rachel Morrow, Emily Ahern, Sophia Fede, Emily Carlin and Sophia Fabian. Izzy Acerveda is missing from photo. Caitlin Pineau, Mia Kmetz and Ciara Foley are team managers.

Shelton High Athletics / Contributed photo

Michelle Sedlock is homegrown Shelton, who as a high school student played basketball and softball. She went onto play basketball at Central Connecticut State University. A physical education major, Sedlock took a class in teaching tennis.

“I loved hitting a tennis ball around with my uncle when I was young, but Shelton didn’t offer the sport, so I went the traditional route athletically,” said Sedlock, who after graduation came back to teach at her alma mater. “I’ve always had a passion for the sport. When they added it to the high school program, I thought it was a great opportunity to coach. My first captain was Noelle Gleason.”

Twenty-one years later, Sedlock is still teaching athletes the serve, forehand, backhand, volley, half-volley, overhead smash, drop shot and lob. This season, Shelton has a brand-new six court facility to call home.

“We are appreciative that the city of Shelton and the Board of Education put the means and effort into making the courts beautiful,” Sedlock said. “It is a great feeling for our tennis teams to play again at our school. Teams love coming here because it is spacious.”

Sedlock reflected on how tennis was made available to Shelton students.

“Shelton wanted to add sports to its overall sports program with boys’ volleyball, tennis, field hockey and lacrosse,” she said. “At the same time, they added girls’ volleyball, track and cross country at Shelton Intermediate School.”

Inexperienced players entering the program has been a recurring concern.

Sedlock said: “I’m proud of what we do in the grand scheme of learning tennis. The girls make big strides from freshmen to junior year. They are learning over those seasons and that is when they advance and make all-league or go to state tournaments. I feel good about that.”

Playing in Division I in the Southern Connecticut Conference, and competing in Class LL at the state level, offers its own specific challenge for Shelton which over the years has stayed around the break-even mark.

“All the top-tier schools Amity, Guilford, Hand, North Haven have tennis clubs in their towns and kids start at a nice age,” Sedlock said. “At Shelton, we are more blue-collar. Even though we are Fairfield County by map, we don’t have the luxury of clubs and indoor courts.

“After players have joined me, and a girl realizes she likes tennis and has made the team, they ask ‘How can I get better?’ I send them to Trumbull, which has the closest club. That’s where they are picking things up that other girls were picking up when they were 9, 10 years old and played competitive tennis. When those girls get to high school, they are so advanced and join teams that are winning league and state tournaments.”

The COVID-19 restricted lost season impacts programs like Shelton that need those freshman and sophomores to have that extra year.

“When you are passionate for a sport and as a young person it is lost to you it is heartbreaking,” Sedlock said. “It means everything to a senior girl playing, so it was disappointing last year. My seniors are well versed and are able to be big sisters to the kids and bring them along.”

Kassidy Wojtowicz and Jessica Jayakar are co-captains.

Shelton defeated Lyman Hall 4-3 in its opener. Nell Komorowski and Jayaker, who both earned All-SCC honors as sophomores, won at first (6-1, 6-4) and second (6-4, 6-1) singles.

“Emily Ahern played No. 3 singles and gave a great effort (6-1, 6-3 loss),” Sedlock said. “Emily Caccillo earned her first career win at the No. 4 singles position, winning a hard fought 6-4, 6-4 match. Our No 3 doubles Jasmine Rosetti and Sophia Fabian won 6-0, 6-0. In No. 1 doubles, Katrina Hatfield and Rachel Morrow (6-0, 6-0) and No. 2 doubles with Samantha McCook and Sophia Fede (6-2, 6-1) gave it their all and lost.”

Singles players and double teams can change match to match depending on who is available and what team we are playing.

“Nell and Jessica are locked into their spot, but the others will flip flop said Sedlock, who has a batch of new players to teach.

“We are welcoming 10 new girls, which is a large number,” Sedlock said. “We have one freshman on the team and the other nine newcomers are sophomores and juniors. They are a fast learning group. Overall, it’s a great bunch. The five seniors appreciate every moment. They look forward coming to the court and giving it their all.”

Shelton has 16 varsity matches scheduled with a junior varsity slate as well.

“Those are for players that didn’t start varsity. They get to go out and play. Scores are reported and we use it for learning and motivation,” Sedlock said. “We are back, and I have my fingers crossed that we can stay as healthy as possible.”

Sedlock had praise for her three assistants.

“Cheryl Dzuibina has been with me for seven years now. She plays single and doubles club tennis and a life-long player,” Sedlock said. “Melissa Burke is her first year. She played at Ansonia when in high school and can relate with the girls. Ettore Rossetti is his first year. He is a teaching pro in Weston and Wilton and played at UConn. Ettore has a great bundle of knowledge.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354