Sports Person of the Week
Berdon’s a Force on the Hornets’ Court
Senior captain Josh Berdon locked up his second-straight All-SCC bid after going 11-7 at No. 1 singles for the Branford boys’ tennis team during the regular season. (Photo courtesy of Josh Berdon)
Josh Berdon has proved a valuable commodity while playing No. 1 singles for the Branford boys’ tennis team the past two years, earning All-SCC accolades in each campaign. Josh has also served as a captain for the last two seasons and always makes sure that the Hornets are enjoying their time on the court.
Josh started participating in tennis clinics at the Guilford Racquet Club when he was in 6th grade. Josh’s uncle Peter was a great tennis player, and his parents, Nancy and Peter, decided to enroll him in some clinics.
Josh was also playing lacrosse back then and, with high school approaching, he had to make a decision on what sport he wanted to play for Branford. The more tennis he played, the more that Josh enjoyed the sport. On top of that, the Hornets’ head coach at the time was Matt Fraezna, who was also Josh’s coach at the Guilford Racquet Club. With his budding interest in the sport and the familiarity with his coach, Josh decided to play tennis at the high school level.
“I really enjoyed lacrosse, but as I got older, I came to really enjoy going out and playing tennis with friends,” says Josh. “At the time, Branford’s coach was my coach at Guilford Racquet. I knew he was a great coach, and that’s why I picked tennis.”
Josh jumped right into the starting lineup by playing No. 2 doubles for the Hornets in his freshman season. While he had experience in clinics, this marked the first time that Josh was competing on the courts. Once he got his first taste of varsity action, Josh used the experience as a motivator and was determined to put in the work to reach the level of his competitors.
“It was definitely a step up. I never did anything too competitive with tennis before that,” Josh says. “Some of the players in high school are extremely talented. It made me more motivated. I started really putting a lot of effort into it. I got a lot better over the years.”
While Josh lost his sophomore season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t stop him from playing tennis. Knowing who the Hornets would be losing due to graduation, Josh realized that he had a good shot of being Branford’s No. 1 singles player as a junior. Josh started competing in tournaments on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) circuit. Josh understood the responsibility that came with being the Hornets’ top singles player and wanted to do everything he could to make sure he was ready for the challenge.
“With the players that were leaving, I knew I was going to be No. 1 singles. I started doing a lot of USTA tournaments, trying to get myself ready,” says Josh. “Making that jump was really big. The skill difference is extreme. It was definitely a learning experience. Some of the kids I played were incredible.”
Josh’s hard work paid off when he was selected to the All-SCC Team following his junior season. He went on to earn that accolade again this year. Josh feels honored to have been named All-Conference and see his name among the SCC’s best.
“It’s really nice to see your name up there with some really great players,” Josh says. “It’s great to be recognized for all the time you put into the sport.”
Josh compiled a regular-season record of 11-7 while playing No. 1 singles for Branford in his senior campaign. Josh came a long way on the court during his four years with the Hornets. Josh always idolized the upperclassmen when he was a freshman and wanted to return the favor when it was his turn to lead the team.
“When I joined freshman year, that was my first time being on an actual tennis team, but all the guys were extremely nice,” says Josh. “All my captains were really great. They pushed me to do more over the summer. It really helped my growth. I’ve been trying to do that with the underclassmen the past two seasons and trying to get them to play more like my captains did for me.”
Josh got that opportunity when he was named one of Branford’s captains in his junior season. He continued in that role as a senior and led the Hornets with fellow senior captains Matt Gaudioso and William Mollow. Prior to the season, Josh helped organize a clinic for the team with Head Coach Paul Gagliardi. Josh’s goal was to ensure that his teammates were having just as good time participating in the sport as he was.
“The biggest job for me as captain is making sure the other players love playing tennis. I want them to want to play tennis and want to improve,” Josh says. “I think I’ve done that. We get out there all offseason and hit. We love playing. We love practicing.”
Coach Gagliardi has noticed Josh’s growth as a player and a leader throughout the past few seasons. Gagliardi says that the senior captain has gained the respect of everyone in the program, as well as the opposing coaches in the SCC.
“Josh has been our No. 1 player the past two years. He has earned the respect of other coaches in the conference as he has been voted to the All-SCC team twice,” says Gagliardi. “He is a leader on this team. Above all else, he demonstrates the highest level of sportsmanship on the court.”
In addition to tennis, Josh was also a member of the Branford wrestling team for the last four years. This winter, Josh served as a senior captain and helped the Hornets claim their first state title in program history with a first-place performance at the Class M State Championship. Josh won three matches in the 145-pound bracket on his way to finishing fourth in the division at the state meet.
After graduating, Josh will attend Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he will pursue a combined degree in computer science and business. He is planning to continue playing tennis at the club and/or USTA levels.
For the past three years, Josh has gone back to the Guilford Racquet Club as a teacher, helping young tennis players improve their craft. The idea of helping others get better and enjoy the sport is something that Josh takes seriously as a member of the Hornets and in general.
“You always want to improve yourself, and you always want to improve the people around you,” Josh says. “You want to help your teammates get better and help yourself become a better person and player.”