GREENWICH — Plenty was at stake when Greenwich Academy and Hopkins School tested their skills against each other on the tennis court in previous seasons and such was the case Wednesday, when the teams renewed their long-standing FAA rivalry.
On a collision course throughout the season, the undefeated Hilltoppers and one-loss Gators met in the final match of the regular season, with the FAA regular season championship up for grabs.
Winning three singles matches and two doubles matchups, it was the Gators that grabbed the title.
Second behind Hopkins in the FAA in 2018, Greenwich Academy earned top honors this spring, capturing the FAA title with an impressive 5-2 win over the visiting Hilltoppers.
“It is very exciting, I am proud of the team and it’s a great way to end my high school career,” GA senior Lauren Wakeman said.
“Winning the FAA title is the best way to end our senior year and the rest of the team will hold down the fort and continue what we built in the future,” added Greenwich Academy senior Annabel Thrasher.
GA’s victories came at the first three singles spots. Displaying her powerful serve and booming baseline game, senior Georgia Ryan recorded a 6-2, 6-1 win over Hopkins junior Olivia Wen.
“I knew I had to keep it high to her, because her forehand was really good,” Ryan said. “I tried to keep away from her forehand and keep it to her backhand. It’s really exciting to win the FAA title and it feels good to bring it home this year.”
Junior Emma Carney completed her match first for Greenwich Academy (11-1). Carney was a 6-0, 6-0 winner against sophomore Drew Williams at No. 2, as she showcased her ability to return and retrieve nearly every shot that was hit to her.
Also an outstanding squash player, Carney converted key break points throughout her match.
“I was definitely a little nervous since this was for FAAs,” Carney said. “In the beginning, consistency was key and toward the end of the set I started to get more into the groove. I tried to keep going strong and to finish it out.”
Freshman Maddie Smith started strong and kept the pressure on in her third singles matches against junior Courtney Banks of the Hilltoppers. She notched a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
“In all my matches, the big issue for me has been staying consistent, so I knew going into the match that I needed to make all my shots,” Smith said. “When I got up 3-0 I had to make sure I kept my momentum going. Usually I’ve been going into a third set, so I needed to stay calm and focused.”
Hopkins, which entered the match with an 11-0 record, received its singles victory from Juliana LoRicco. The Hilltoppers junior won a tough 7-6 (3), 5-7, 10-6 decision against GA’s Lily Martucci at the No. 4 singles position.
“I was down pretty much every changeover, but I tried to stay positive and I ended up winning in a tiebreaker the first set,” LoRicco said. “The second set I tried to stay positive and in the tiebreaker and got through it. Staying in the point and being confident in my shots and telling myself I could do it really helped me.”
In doubles action, GA, coached by Elizabeth Schrohe, got wins at the second and third spots. Kate Miele and Wakeman posted a 7-5, 6-0 at the No. 3 spot for Greenwich Academy over senior Caroline Viselli and junior Victoria Ye.
“We were down 2-5, it got to our heads a little bit and then we kind of just pretended we were practicing and we came back,” Miele said. “It was awesome, we had to fight for every point and remain confident in our ability.
“We kept trying to do what was working well and not taking anything for granted. It was our last match together we played together, so it was a good one to end on.”
Second doubles saw senior Andrea Jemiolo and sophomore Kathryn Gregory give the Gators a key 6-0, 6-0 victory. At No. 1 doubles, junior Vivian junior Wen and eighth-grader Lera Strickland edged Thrasher and senior Karina Toub of GA, 2-6, 7-5, 10-8.
“Karina and I had a really tough match, but at least we won the FAA and we played our best,” Thrasher said.
Added Toub: “It was kind of sad coming in second last year, so this year we were consistent throughout the season and it really showed in how we played.”
Hopkins coach Mike McManus liked what he saw from his squad and was highly impressed with Greenwich Academy.
“Greenwich Academy is always our toughest match of the season, whether it’s a win or loss,” McManus said. “They are like the triple threat. They are all athletically talented, they’re all very well coached and they are all very tough on the court.
One of the highlights of the match for Hopkins was the victory from its No. 1 doubles squad.
“They are a young team, an eighth-grade and a junior, but they played together last season,” McManus said. “They stick to the fundamentals and their energy leads them home in their matches.”
Greenwich Academy, Hopkins and the rest of the FAA teams will compete in the FAA Championships, which is scheduled to be held Monday and Tuesday at Greens Farms Academy. Each team will bring singles and doubles players in the tournament and they will compete in singles and doubles titles.
“It was a lot of fun last year,” Carney said. “It’s one big bracket and it’s nice to see all the players from different teams play each other.”