Deeper Greyhounds ready to take on NVL

Naugatuck’s Spencer Maher swims the 100 freestyle during a meet with Sacred Heart at Naugatuck High School Feb. 14. -BILL SHETTLE/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys swim team has finished runner-up at the Naugatuck Valley League swim championships four years running.

The Greyhounds are looking to end their runner-up streak this year and topple five-time defending champion Holy Cross in the process.

“We have a solid group of seniors who have all contributed to the success of the team the past three seasons and they are eager to go out and give it their best,” Naugatuck head coach Dan Knepple said.

“We also have a good group of underclassmen who have stepped up and filled in some holes that were left due to graduation,” he added. “I think it has made us a deeper team and we will be ready to compete at the NVL meet.”

The championships start Friday with the diving competition at Kennedy High. The swim trials are Saturday and the finals are Tuesday at Kennedy.

Four of Naugatuck’s seven seniors have finished in the top ten in events at the championships over the past three seasons and will be looking to go out with a bang.

Spencer Maher finished second in the 200 IM and third in the 100 butterfly last year at NVLs. Bailey Ceryak placed fifth in the 100 backstroke. Alex Manasoiu finished tenth in the 100 backstroke and the 100 freestyle.

The 200 freestyle relay foursome of Maher, Ceryak, David Green and Joe Amato finished fourth last season.

Naugy also scored valuable points at last year’s NVLs with a second place in the 400 freestyle and a third place in the 200 medley relay. The Greyhounds return a solid core of those foursomes and added senior Nelson Lavoura and juniors Kevin Healey and Jeff Bonnardi to the mix.

What could give the Greyhounds an edge this season is their diving team that runs five deep.

Senior Ethan Phaneuf placed in the top five in the NVL the last two years and scored well over 200 points in two meets late in the regular season.

Juniors William Brown and Justin Stone also finished in the top ten at NVLs last season. Freshmen Jason Main and Blake Stone have also put up competitive numbers this season.

Juniors Ryan Vincent, who placed eighth in the 500 freestyle last season, and Jacob Hall, who finished tenth in the 200 IM, are a couple of more swimmers who can help push the Greyhounds to the top of the leaderboard.

Naugatuck diver Ethan Phaneuf holds himself in a pike position as he performs a dive during a meet with Sacred Heart at Naugatuck High School Feb. 14. -BILL SHETTLE/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Kneeple feels this year’s NVL race is a bit more open than the past several years.

“I think you will see a wider span of competition this year,” Kneeple said. “Holy Cross graduated that group that could finish one through four, and teams like Oxford, Seymour, Watertown and Woodland are going to all be pushing for the top spot.”

“I think our relays are going to make a big difference for us,” he added. “We have a solid diving group and we have some fast swimmers. We will have to wait and see how it all turns out but we will be ready to give it our very best.”

The Greyhounds head into NVLs with some momentum after winning their final three meets to end the regular season.

Naugatuck beat Sacred Heart, 93-85, Feb. 14. Maher led the way for Naugy over the Hearts. He set blistering paces of 48.89 in the 100 freestyle and 1:48.66 in the 200 freestyle to win the events and land on the Greyhounds’ top-ten list all time in the events.

Herb won the 200 IM (2:29.59) and Hall took first in the 50 freestyle (24.58). Manasoiu won the 100 backstroke (1:01.94) and Phaneuf won the diving event (212.33).

Maher finished with another top-ten time, this time in the 500 freestyle (4:55.08), in a 90-74 win over Watertown Feb. 18. McKeon won the 200 freestyle (2:08.38), Hall won the 100 butterfly (1:01.03) and Phaneuf took first in diving (219).

Naugatuck ended the regular season with an 81-79 win over Torrington Feb. 21. Gavin Mckeon (200 freestyle, 2:04.42; 500 freestyle, 5:39.48), Hall (200 IM, 2:16.04; 100 butterfly, 1:03.59) and Maher (50 freestyle, 23.49; 100 freestyle, 50.01) won individual events.