School year doesn’t figure into area sports MVP selections. A great performance is a great performance, no matter what age the athlete.
Nevertheless, older athletes often prevail, thanks to experience, growth and maturity – and, sometimes, even a nod to seniority.
Aaron Pezzullo proves our rule: a great performance is a great performance.
He was a freshman this year at Nonnewaug.
That ups his accomplishments to the “immense” category: 17-1 as the number one player for the undefeated Berkshire-League Champion Chiefs; Berkshire League Tournament champion; Quarter-finalist in the Class S State Tournament; a Nonnewaug male scholar-athlete.
Clearly, Pezzullo is a unique athlete. But tennis is also unique. Most sports offer year-round high-level opportunities. Tennis offers a distinct chance through the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to be ranked regionally and nationally at every age level.
Pezzullo, whose sister, Emma, won back-to-back BL girls championships as a Nonnewaug sophomore and junior, started playing when he was four.
He entered his first USTA tournament at seven. That was an under-10 (U10) tournament, establishing Pezzullo’s pattern for results far beyond his age.
At nine, he played in U12 tournaments. Now, at 15, he regularly competes in U16 and U18 tournaments.
In tennis terms, he was a very old freshman this year – and a very good one.
He was ranked eighth in New England in the U14 division. Now, he’s 38th in U16.
Pezzullo played soccer, basketball and baseball through sixth grade.
“With tennis, I really didn’t have time for soccer and basketball,” he says.
With an average of four tournament games a week, the furthest in Kalamazoo, Michigan, baseball lasted through eighth grade.
Lots of tennis players at Pezzullo’s level choose not to play in high school.
“I didn’t know (whether I would) in middle school, but once I met Mr. (Nick) Sheikh and all the kids, I had to do it,” Pezzullo said.
It was worth it.
“I think I got better during the season. I think it was helpful for all of us,” he says.
Housatonic sophomore Jonathan Miller gave Pezzullo his best league competition and only regular-season loss, 6-4, 6-2.
Pezzullo reversed it during the regular season (6-4, 6-2) and then again in the league tournament, beating Miller 7-5, 6-3 for the championship.
Championships are great, but, after years of representing himself in USTA tournaments, the team spirit at Nonnewaug was the cake under the icing.
“It’s the bond of people with the same goal,” he says.
And, after years of playing under the tutelage of a private coach, Coach Sheikh’s magic worked for Pezzullo as well as the rest of the team.
“Nick Sheikh just knows what he’s talking about,” says Pezzullo. “He understands because he was a player in high school and college.”
It’s too early for Pezzullo to think specifically about a college or career, but, with Emma heading off to play at Division-I Sacred Heart this fall, he has some thoughts.
“I like to write,” he says for a career direction.
“I’m going to keep trying to be the best I can and play at the highest DI level I can reach,” covers the tennis.