Staples entered the season with a new-look singles lineup from its championship 2018 boys tennis squad, yet the beat continues for coach Kris Hrisovulos’ team.
Beating their first four opponents, the five-time defending FCIAC champion has extended its winning streak to 59 consecutive matches, dating back to the 2016 season and as its foes will learn, are playing at their usual sky-high level.
“This is my deepest team in 10 years by far,” Hrisovulos said. “Our No. 1 and No. 2 singles players may not be the top eight players in the state, but in terms of overall depth, this is the deepest team that we’ve had in a while. The quality of depth is very impressive. There are going to be one or two kids rotating in and out of the lineup every match, which is a good problem to have.”
Such depth should no doubt aid the Wreckers in their quest to claim their sixth straight FCIAC title and win the CIAC Class LL title for the fourth consecutive season.
“We don’t really have a set lineup, it’s on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis,” Hrisovulos said. “That’s the beauty of having depth. I can mix and match a lot of kids, which is good. We want our players to be competitive within our team, so they don’t get stale.”
Evan Felcher, Kian Bruno and Ben Stein, who starred at the 1-3 spots, respectively last season have graduated. Felcher, who is playing for Oregon, defeated Trumbull’s Andrew Ilie for the State Open singles title a year ago, after being edged by Ilie in three sets in the finals at the Class LL Championships.
Senior Eric Stein has taken over the No. 1 singles spot this season.
“Eric has trained a lot in the offseason and has gotten strong,” Hrisovulos said. “I think he’ll be one of the top six guys in the FCIAC. It’s a very new role for him, since he played mostly fourth singles last year.”
Four of the 14 players are freshmen.
“I haven’t taken four freshman since 2014 and all four are worthy of starting,” Hrisovulos said.
Jack Tooker, a senior, Robby Daus (freshman), Ty Brunetti (freshman), Sam Lampert (junior) and Bradley Sheppard (sophomore) will each see action in singles play.
Eric Stein and Lampert teamed up at second doubles in last season’s FCIAC final against Greenwich and won the deciding match in three sets, to secure the Wreckers’ 4-3 championship win.
“The players who are returning bring a lot of experience, but they are picking up newer roles,” Hrisovulos said. “A lot of them played doubles last year, so they are all versatile.”
Senior Jake Greenwald, junior Adam Greenlee and senior Jason Katz pace the squad’s doubles play. Greenwald returns after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament the second week of last season.
“That was a big blow to the team and we are thankful that he recovered and is back,” Hrisovulos said. “He was won the State Open as part of a doubles team as a sophomore, so he brings a lot of doubles experience.”
Hrisovulos expects the FCIAC to be as competitive as ever.
“Greenwich will be Greenwich, they have a great program,” he said. “New Canaan will be right in the chase, along with Darien and Wilton. There will be a lot of competitive matches and we are all looking forward to it — we’ve been on a winning streak.”
As for the long winning streak, the players embrace it.
“Our goals are to win two trophies (FCIAC, state titles) and the streak is all the gravy,” Hrisovulos said. “It is a new chapter in the book for our players. What we did in the prior year is all well and good, but the story is going to be different, so they get to create their own chapter. That is the challenge.”
REISERT REACHES MILESTONE AT LUDLOWE
When the Fairfield Ludlowe girls squad posted a 7-0 victory against Stamford on April 4, it marked coach John Reisert’s 350th career win. Reisert, who is in his 21st season as a high school girls tennis coach, took over the helm at Fairfield High School in 1999 and guided the team to four Class L titles in a row (2001-2004 seasons). In the fall of 2003, Fairfield Ludlowe opened and Reisert became the coach of the girls team in the spring of 2004.
Since then, the Falcons have captured three FCIAC championships (2013, 2014, 2015) and two state titles (Class S winners in 2006, Class L champions, 2014).
“I have been blessed with having great teams,” Reisert said. “I remember the first state title we won at Fairfield Ludlowe High School in 2006. We were the first team sport to win a state title for Fairfield Ludlowe High School.”
Ludlowe’s coach has enjoyed building a program at the school, which is always right in the mix among the premier teams in the FCIAC and state.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here,” he said. “I played and coached collegiately for a little bit and I’ve been involved in tennis my whole life. To be the coach for a brand new team and having the opportunity to put my mark on the sport I love has been great. The players have been outstanding, they are motivated and they help keep me feeling young.”
As for this spring’s team, heading into Wednesday’s home match against Ridgefield, the Falcons were 3-1, with their loss coming against FCIAC rival Greenwich.
Senior co-captains Xenia Efimov and Katie Coolidge lead the Falcons’ singles lineup at the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively. Efimov and Coolidge are both 3-1 through four matches.
“They are both great tennis players and they are providing great leadership,” Reisert said. “They have aspirations of competing in the FCIAC and state tournaments and they have a chance to qualify for the State Open.”
Seniors Grace Cogan and Heather Moran bring experience in doubles competition.
“Our team’s goals are to qualify for FCIACs and states,” Reisert said. “As a team we are pretty young, but they have the potential to grow and improve together.”
Sarah Bullers, Amity: Senior began season in top form at No. 1 singles spot, posting straight-set wins against Guilford and Sacred Heart Academy.
Daniella Castellanos/Caroline Homes, Darien: Sophomore doubles team registered a comeback 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory at the No. 3 spot against Greenwich, giving their team a 4-3 win.
Gianni Esposito, Guilford: Junior registered victories at second singles and first singles, respectively, for Guilford in their wins against Hand and Amity.
Josh Israel, Daniel Hand: Sophomorehas gotten off to a strong start at top singles position for Tigers, tallying straight-set wins against Xavier and Guilford.
Gabi Mendonca/Livia Oprea, Bethel: Mendonca, a senior, and Oprea, a sophomore posted a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win at the No. 1 spot to help key Bethel’s 4-3 victory against New Fairfield.
Awaab Osman/Ron Wood, West Haven: Senior tandem pulled out a three-set win in 4-3 triumph against Shelton.
Ryan Patrick, Darien: Patrick: Sophomore, was a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 winner in his No. 1 singles match against Greenwich. The Blue Wave went on to beat the Cardinals, 4-3.
Ben Powis/Ryan Glanville, Brunswick: Senior was victorious in his match at No. 1 singles against Hopkins, 6-0, 6-1. He then joined forces with teammate Ryan Glanville, a junior, at first doubles and the duo won, 8-2. Glanville notched a 6-4, 6-1 win at second singles for the Bruins, which beat Hopkins, 7-0.
Nicole Savage, Trinity Catholic: Freshman gave Crusaders only win against St. Joseph, edging Gabby Gato, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, in a match involving a pair of standout No. 1 singles players in the FCIAC.
Nathalie Williams, Greenwich: Filling in at first singles in the Cardinals’ season-opener against Brien McMahon, Williams won her debut 6-0, 6-0. She has since won all three of her matches at second singles.
MATCHES TO WATCH
Boys match: Staples at Greenwich, Monday 4:30 p.m.:Rematch of last season’s FCIAC final, which was won by Staples, 4-3. The Wreckers have captured the FCIAC title the past five seasons, beating the Cardinals three times.
Girls match: Wilton at Darien, Tuesday, 10 a.m.: Heading into Wednesday’s match against McMahon, Darien was 4-0, with its closest match coming against Greenwich (a 4-3 win). Wilton, which is playing St. Joseph on Thursday is 4-1, their loss coming against Staples. Darien won last season’s meeting, 6-1.
Girls match: Greenwich at Staples, Monday, 11 a.m.: Defending FCIAC and Class L champion Wreckers were 4-0 going into Wednesday’s matchup against Trumbull, while Greenwich was 4-1 — their loss coming to Darien.
Boys match: Guilford at Cheshire, Monday, 3:45 p.m.: Cheshire has won its first four matchesby 7-0 scores, while Guilford is 3-1, their lone loss coming against defending Class L champion Hand.