After finishing runner-up for four straight years, the Staples boys’ tennis team can finally call itself FCIAC champions.
The Wreckers defeated Ridgefield 4-3 Thursday afternoon at Wilton to claim its first conference title since 2001.
“The monkey is finally off our back,” Staples head coach Kris Hrisovulos said.
The long-awaited victory however, didn’t come easy. Ridgefield (16-3) gave Staples (21-0) everything it had to set up an epic and dramatic Hollywood-style ending.
With both teams tied at three games apiece, all eyes rested on the No. 1 doubles court as Staples’ Connor Mitnick and Baxter Stein pulled out a thrilling 6-7, 6-4, 6-0 victory to propel Staples to the win.
“That’s why I coach, that’s why we play sports, that’s why we watch sports just for that moment,” Hrisovulos said. “It’s never easy, it hasn’t been easy in five years; I just can’t be more proud of these boys. We did it together.”
Locked at three games apiece, the deciding factor came down to the play of the No. 1 doubles. After dropping the first set 6-7 to Ridgefield’s Tal Nizan and Ryan Brucato, Mitnick and Stein went into another gear. The senior duo said it was partly nerves and jitters.
“The first set was tight,” Stein said. “Our coach really fired us up; he just gave us a strong, very strong talking to. I know that fired me up. We wanted it so much. We’ve been here so many times. We’ve been through it all.”
That last impression of coming oh, so close numerous times and falling short, was a big motivating factor for the entire Staples team.
Stein and Mitnick used a strong and aggressive attack the last two sets, yet remained calm. With a large crowd on hand cheering, Stein made sure to keep a smile on through the ups and downs and savor the moment.
“My dad always told me just to keep smiling, that will relax you,” Stein said. “I was just feeding off the energy of my team.”
Added Mitnick: “We just took it point by point. A lot of good things happened in the last two sets.”
After winning the second set, it went to a third, which Stein and Mitnick were ready for.
Add in the fact this was the first time this season Stein and Mitnick played together, and the win was even more special. Stein switched to No. 1 doubles after Jack Reardon was unable to play because of a virus.
Mitnick said playing with Stein was an easy transition as the two who are friends are familiar with each other’s playing styles and have played together in the past.
“I think this is our best win ever,” Mitnick said.
With wins at the No. 5 and No. 4 singles position, Staples took an early 2-0 advantage Thursday afternoon. But Ridgefield, who was going for its first FCIAC title ever, came roaring back as they won the No. 1 single from Bryson Mosley and then claimed victory at the No. 3 singles spot.
Staples’ Zack Levin won No. 2 singles to give the Wreckers a 3-2 advantage. Ridgefield tied the match at three with a huge victory at No. 2 doubles.
“They fought so hard,” Stein said of Ridgefield. “I was just so impressed.”
This was the first FCIAC title for Hrisovulos in his five years coaching at Staples.
“As great as teams as I’ve had in my five years, and being part of this program, I told them we’ve had great teams, but there’s always this moment where it could be a magical moment and it came,” Hrisovulos said. “It was our time.”