Skip South would ask the same questions of his top tennis player at Notre Dame-West Haven: “Who is the best player in the state? Who plays with the most heart?’” South asked them over and over.
“He would tell me that he didn’t know,” South, the head coach, said. “I would tell him, ‘You are’ or ‘You do.’”
Andrew Forchetti was already coming into his own as one of the area’s best tennis players. Once he gained that confidence, he became one of the state’s best.
And in his senior season, Forchetti was an easy choice as the Register’s Area MVP.
“I would try to just make him happy and be prove to everyone who didn’t think I could do it,” Forchetti said. “This year, I started to believe it. (Coach) got me fired up.”
Forchetti, an Orange resident, played No. 1 singles for most of his four seasons at Notre Dame. But by his own admission, he wasn’t in particularly good shape as an underclassmen.
Getting fit and having a growth spurt – going from 5-foot-2 to 5-9 between his sophomore and junior seasons – helped him become a mainstay in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
“My serve improved a lot and I built the stamina to stay in points longer,” Forcheetti said. “My mental game improved and I was a lot more mature. When bad calls (during matches went against him), I was able to deal with that a lot more and not lose focus as quickly like in prior years.”
Forchetti went 25-2 during his junior year. That included winning the Class L state singles championship, the program’s first title, and reaching the State Open final. He earned a spot on the Register’s All-Area team.
“Once he started really believing in himself, he started playing well,” South said. “He’d tell us every day how good he was, but he didn’t really believe it himself … Now I could tell that kid to do anything and he would do it.”
Forchetti’s two losses were to Shelton’s Alex Ruenhorst and Staples’ Evan Felcher. Forchetti would get the opportunity to avenge both losses this season – and the chance to accomplish some lofty goals.
“I wanted to win Class L again. I wanted an undefeated regular season. I wanted to set myself apart from everyone else,” Forchetti said. “I wanted to defeat the Darien kid (Bobby Neuner). He always crushed me over the winter.”
Forchetti swept Ruenhorst. “I wouldn’t be as good as I am if not for Ruenhorst, more than anyone else. Every match was huge between us. There was always pressure I felt to beat him.”
Forchetti completed an undefeated regular season like he hoped, then didn’t drop a set in six singles matches en route to repeating as Class L champ. That included beating Neuner in the final.
But Forchetti fell short against Felcher in the State Open semifinals, falling in straight sets.
“I had the perfect game plan (to win), then I let the things I can’t control get in my head,” Forchetti said. ”I have to learn how to deal with (tennis) officials and I let that get the best of me.”
But as upset as Forchetti was for how the season ended, within an hour after that match ended, he sent an email to the Register – in support of South being named the Area Coach of the Year, instead of being concerned about himself.
“I really think he deserved it. I love Coach. He did a lot for me. He helped change my game and my life.”
Forchetti was offered a partial scholarship last summer to play tennis at Division I Bryant. He took it. Bryant is a perennial NCAA tournament team that has a very competitive starting lineup – one the now ultra-confident Forchetti believes he will break into.
“He (coach Ron Gendron) said he liked me because I competed to the last point,” Forchetti said. “He told me at the beginning of my junior year I wasn’t good enough (to play at Bryant). I think I have a good chance to start. I didn’t think that a few weeks ago. Now I think I really have a good chance to crack the lineup.”
Said South: “He mixes up shots tremendously. He doesn’t rush anything. He doesn’t go for big winners. He has a lot of patience and that will help him a lot. He is a grinder. He likes to stay out there all day long.”