MIDDETOWN — Amity girls’ tennis coach Hal Freedman was relegated to peeking though fences surrounding the courts for the 2021 CIAC Girls Tennis Invitational Tournament at Wesleyan University.
For the first time since taking over the program in 1975, Freedman had girls carrying the school banner in singles and doubles finals in an Open meet on Thursday.
Top-seeded Kiley Pickens defeated Wilton’s No 3 seed Emma Caldwell 6-2, 6-3 to become Amity’s first singles champion at this level of competition.
The Spartans’ No. 1 tandem of Eesha Acharya and Sydney Pitter won the doubles title 6-2, 6-4 over No. 2 New Canaan’s Jordyn Lee and Annabel Brawn.
“It was a big boost having Kiley with us,” Freedman said of his sophomore transplant from North Carolina. “She is a great player and teammate. Sydney moved from No. 2 singles and joined Eesha at doubles. I had high hopes and I’m very proud of them.”
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) June 10, 2021
Pickens, who moved north three years ago, said: “This is exciting. It is a big deal getting here especially since I didn’t have a season last year. USTA is difficult, but when you come to an Invitational you can get in trouble. Emma is so talented. Over the season, I found myself reverting to my slice because a lot of girls have trouble with it. I got back to my two-hander here. This was a match I kind of expected. No one was giving up anything. There were ups and there were downs. It was a really good match.”
Pickens was the first to hold serve in the first set to go up 3-1. Long volleys marked each point before Pickens won 6-2. Caldwell put down three aces to set the tone in the second set. Tied at 3-3, Pickens settled in to close out the match.
— Bill Bloxsom (@blox354) June 10, 2021
Amity’s duo was forewarned — New Canaan wasn’t going to back down after it dropped the first set 6-2. Lee and Brawn fought off five match points in the second set.
On the decisive point, Acharya returned a New Canaan volley deep into the right corner. Pitter was waiting midcourt for the return and hammered it home.
Pitter said of the match winner, “I was waiting for Eesha to hit a great shot and set me up. That’s the ideal position. We like having me at the net and Eesha finding the right shot.”
Acharya said: “We just clicked. Our playing styles and our personalities complement each other.”
“We had a similar match when we played them in states,” Pitter said. “We were up 5-2 in the third set and lost. That stayed in the back of our heads. We were excited to see we would play New Canaan in the finals. They gave us a match we knew would be tough.
Freedman said: “Sydney is aggressive at the net. She has long arms. It is hard to get the ball past her. She is always, I mean always looking to score. Sydney doesn’t volley to keep the ball in play. She is volleying to win the point. Eesha is calm and disciplined. She doesn’t miss often.”
Pickens and Brawn are sophomores. The other finalists all have college plans. Pitter and Acharya are both headed to Michigan. Lee is going to Syracuse. Caldwell will continue to play tennis at Sewanee (The University of the South) in Tennessee.
Caldwell is proud of her senior season.
“Not having a junior year to compete motivated me to come back and have a successful senior season, said Caldwell, named the FCIAC Player of the Year. “Playing at Wilton has been wonderful. I get to play tennis with my sister (Annie, a junior). It is something we do together. We cheer each other on. It will be a lifetime sport for us. Honestly, I’m proud of how I played this season. I’ve accomplished so much that I wanted.”
Pickens warmed up with her brother Trice before the match. A senior playing at Northwestern University, he was an unbeaten state champion at Panther Creek High in North Carolina.
Lee and Brawn were first-team All-FCIAC.
Emma Caldwell won her first two matches at the State Open as a sophomore to earn All-State honors. That moved her into the Round of 16, where she lost to fourth-seeded Julia Migliorini of North Haven, 7-6, 6-3.