NEW HAVEN >>The setting was very familiar for the Staples High doubles team of Connor Mitnick and Baxter Stein Wednesday afternoon at Yale.
Less than a week after clinching the FCIAC boys’ tennis title for the Wreckers, Mitnick and Stein battled back from a set down to defeat Greenwich’s Shaw Speer and Louis McKenzie 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to claim the Class LL doubles title and propel Staples to the state crown.
This was the first time in the program history since 1982 Staples won both the LL and FCIAC title in the same season. It was also the first state doubles title since 2006 and team crown since 2011.
“If you told me at the beginning of the year that we would clinch two titles, I wouldn’t know what to say; it’s just completely unreal,” Stein said. “And I think that helped, just having no expectations, just playing our hearts out really helped carry through.”
This is just a dream come true,” Staples head coach Kris Hrisovulos said. “To come back to a school I used to play for and went to and coach these guys to an amazing run through the hardest conference and the state is amazing.”
It a near two-hour match, Stein and Mitnick showed why Staples finished the spring undefeated. After falling in the first set 4-6, that did not derail the pair. Stein and Mitnick stuck to their game plan and just took it a little slower. It also helped that the two seniors didn’t let the gravity of the situation affect them.
“Couple big points here and there turned the momentum in our favor,” Mitnick said. “We didn’t play nervous.”
It a high-tension filled match, the Wreckers provided the clutch plays when needed. That included breaking a 3-3 game in the second set to go onto win 6-3. It also included a highlight worthy laser shot from Mitnick down the left line to give Staples a 5-3 advantage in the decisive third set.
“I was just going for it,” Mitnick said with a smile. “I knew if we broke them there (it) would be a huge momentum.”
Hrisovulos said he was good watching the match till the third set, but had confidence in his team the whole time.
“As the match kept going, just the way they were playing I felt confident that the tennis level was there, just a couple big points and they came up with them,” he said. “The tennis was very good on both ends.”
Staples won the match on a double serve that was called out.
“We really stepped up our game at the end of the season to a whole new level,” Stein said.
Stein, who played at various positions this season for the Wreckers, finished the year undefeated.
Staples won the team and doubles titles after a week full of tennis that started on Saturday at Yale.
“You could not have scripted it any better,” Stein said of the ending.