Ray Marschall was excited about taking over the helm of the Greenwich High School boys tennis team and rightly so.
Traditionally one of the premier teams in the state, the Cardinals return a wealth of talent from their 2018 squad, which placed second at the CIAC Class LL Tournament and finished as the runnerup in the FCIAC Tournament.
“Looking at the lineup this year and the new guys on the team, I’m in awe with what I see,” said Marschall, who replaced Richard Lane as head coach of the Cardinals. “This is a really, really, good team and I know many of these players have a deep hunger to do even better this year than last year.”
Greenwich won all but one of its matches during the regular season in 2018, then advanced to the championship match of the FCIAC Tournament, where it was edged by longtime rival Staples, 4-3. The Wreckers have won the FCIAC Tournament title the past five seasons, defeating the Cardinals four times in the process. Staples has also captured the Class LL team title three straight seasons, while Greenwich finished second in 2017 and 2018. The Cards and Wreckers shared the state championship in 2016.
“We know Staples has a great team, but beating Staples is definitely one of our main goals,” GHS senior co-captain Hayden Witmer said. “As coach said, win the last point of states and FCIACs and be champions at the end.”
Also serving as the Cards’ captain is senior Nick Liu, who teamed up with Witmer last season at first doubles. The duo advanced to the semifinal-round of the Class LL Tournament and won the majority of their matches during the season.
“They’ve got the maturity of knowing how to play together and yet they are always looking to make tweaks and improvements to their game,” Marschall. “We’re looking forward to them having a great final year together.”
The Cardinals’ senior doubles duo should provide a spark at the top of the doubles lineup.
“Nick has a massive serve and we are going to take advantage of that, it is a huge anchor for us,” Witmer said. “I hit pretty good volleys, so we complement each other that way on the court.”
THIS SEASON’S LINEUP
Junior Justin Speaker, who starred at first singles last season, should be primed to excel at the top position. Speaker made it to the quarterfinals of the State Open singles tourney last spring and was a semifinalist at the Class LL competition.
“Justin is an awesome player,” said Marschall, who has been coaching tennis in some capacity in town for 49 years. “He’s got incredible footwork, great strokes and a great attitude.”
Sophomore Caleb Fockens showed his impressive potential in singles as a freshman in 2018. He advanced to the Round of 16 of the Class LL Tournament and was a consistent performer at second singles throughout the season.
“Caleb is a tremendous athlete, who hits the ball crisply and his footwork and timing is impeccable — they all hit the ball so well,” Marschall said.
Junior Matthew Tamis and sophomore Matthew Luzzi, both of whom enjoyed winning seasons at third and fourth singles in 2018, respectively, return to the lineup.
On the doubles side, Liu and Witmer have the potential to dominate. Juniors James Cosby and James Pappas were solid doubles players a year ago for the Cardinals, who also return Stefan Brovig (junior), Boris Ardemasov (senior), Alicen Beba (senior), Josh Frumin (junior), Yoshihiro Takashi (senior) and Derek Wang (senior).
Graduating from last season’s squad were the second doubles team of Nick Dagnino and Alex Litt. The duo made it to the Class LL semifinals.
“I want these guys to have an enjoyable and outrageously successful season and go as far as they could possibly go in FCIACs and states,” Marschall said. “We want to win the final point in as many matches as we can.”
Said Liu: “The team is really looking good, because we lost only two seniors last year, so we are really hoping to win FCIACs and states. It’s always tough with Staples, but I think we are in a lot better position to contend with them this year.”