CHESHIRE — On Saturday morning, Cheshire played host to a state political matchup, only this one was held on the clay tennis courts at the Copper Valley Club.
In an exhibition, Governor Ned Lamont and Department of Social Services employee Maria Raposo-Bullers faced off against State Senator Len Fasano and State Representative Nicole Klarides-Ditria as part of the Fifth Annual Connecticut State Employees Campaign Tennis Tournament.
The event enables state employees to contribute to non-profit charities in the workplace.
“I love playing the game and love playing for a really good cause like this,” explained Lamont. “I love (that) the state employees step up. There is so much need out there and that is what this event is all about.”
As the highlight match of the two-day tournament, Fasano and Klarides-Ditria won by the same score (8-2) as last year when they faced off against Lamont and Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye.
Fasano and Klarides-Ditria came out fast to win the opening two games of the eight-game pro set and didn’t give up the lead.
“It was a lot of fun; I really enjoyed it,” said Fasano, a Republican who represents Wallingford, Durham, East Haven and North Haven in the 34th District. “The Governor is a good guy. He has a good sense of humor.”
Lamont and Raposo-Bullers won the third and eighth games of the match. Raposo-Bullers was nervous and excited about playing with the Governor for the first time.
“I didn’t want to let him down,” she said. “I thought it was a close match. We had a lot of deuce points. In the end, we just couldn’t pull it through, but I think we did OK.”
During the match, the players complemented each other after several long rallies. At the end, Fasano and Klarides-Ditria were given a trophy in an award ceremony.
“I think there were much better volleys this year than last year. It was good tennis,” said Fasano. “I like playing as you get older. You have to pick a sport that isn’t as bad on the legs. You can play it any time, short or long.”
While opponents on Saturday, Raposo-Bullers enjoys playing with Klarides-Ditria, a certified athletic trainer and state Republican who represents Seymour, Beacon Falls, and Derby in the 105th district.
“She is an amazing player; she is very strong,” said Raposo-Bullers
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, spectators wore masks at the tournament, but the state employees feel that playing tennis still allows people to use social distancing.
“We didn’t need to have a lot of contact out there,” reflected Raposo-Bullers. “Nobody gets that close on the court. I think tennis is a very safe sport.”
Over the weekend, the Connecticut State Employees Campaign Tennis Tournament will crown eight division winners in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Pickleball will be played on Sunday.
“I think it is great to have an event like this here,” said CVC President and Treasurer Jeff Mahar. “We try to have the courts stay open until November. We usually open up in April, but we got a late start this year because of COVID.”
While the event has been running for five years, this is the first time that it is being held at CVC. Yale University hosted play the first three years. Players competed last year at Conard High School in West Hartford.
Tournament Director John Rasimas spoke with CVC Tennis Chair Ken Maddalena about playing in Cheshire.
“We didn’t put 2020 on the T-shirts this year because we weren’t sure if we would be able to hold the tournament,” noted Rasimas. “It was touch and go for awhile, but it is great to see it come together. I’m thankful for my 25 volunteers in putting on this event.”
Raposo-Bullers has volunteered with the tournament all five years.
“I joined this cause when my twins were looking for community service hours,” recalled Raposo-Bullers. “I contacted John and asked if he needed volunteers. I was volunteering my kids (and) not myself, but somehow, five years later, I’ve been working with John for a good cause."
In playing tennis on Saturday, Lamont was happy to contribute to CSEC. This year’s tournament has raised close to $10,000.
“Every little bit helps,” stated Lamont. “If we can rally some spirits to help them donate, let’s do it. I’ll always lose one (a match) for the cause."
Saturday’s tennis capped a busy sports week for the politicos, as the fate of high school football was one of the dominant stories coming out of Hartford.
Fasano and Klarides-Ditria have both supported playing traditional 11-on-11 tackle football this fall, but the Connecticut Department of Public Health has recommended against it for health reasons and suggests that the sport be moved to the spring.
Fasano and Klarides-Ditria both spoke Wednesday at a rally set up at the State Capitol by high school players. Approximately 1,200 people attended the event.
“For high school (football), I think it is really important for the health and the spirit,” said Fasano. “You have to weigh that against the safety issue, with safe guards included. I wish they would play with the modifications put in by the CIAC.”
Lamont, who has stated that he prefers that football be played next spring, had the CIAC and DPH meet on Friday to discuss options. The CIAC suggested alternative strategies to lower the risk of playing football this fall. DPH Acting Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said her agency is unlikely to change its stance that football is a high-risk sport and should be played this year in the spring, but would review the CIAC material and give feedback.
The CIAC will make the final decision on 11-on-11 football.
“I think the CIAC put forth a number of features that take it from high risk to moderate risk,” said Fasano. “I hope that the public health will see it way. I don’t think they will, but I think they should.”