NEW HAVEN — When the opportunity exists to be known as the best singles player or best doubles tandem in the state, one expects to see talent and heart and grit and character on the tennis court.
The Staples High School and Stamford High School girls doubles finalists did not disappoint the crowd that ventured to the Connecticut Tennis Center Stadium Court Wednesday for the State Open Championship final.
In a third set for the ages, Staples seniors Kristin Butler and Hannah Bjorkman fought off Stamford sophomores Devon and Taylor Yaghmaie, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (10-8 tiebreaker) to take home gold in doubles.
— John Nash (@NikonNash) June 6, 2018
“We just told each other ‘Keep fighting. Keep grinding.’ ” Bjorkman said. “We’re seniors. So we knew this was our last chance to grab success.”
There was exceptional tennis on display in the singles final as Stonington High junior Gabriella Dellacono downed Staples’ senior Alyssa DiMaio, 6-1, 6-1.
VALIANT EFFORT BY STAMFORD’S YAGHMAIE TWINS
Devon and Taylor Yaghmaie won the State Open doubles titles as freshmen in 2017. As No. 2 seeds, the twins beat Staples’ Butler and Megan Brown, 6-0, 7-6 for the title.
They returned to Wednesday’s final as the No. 1 seeds and having lost just six games on their journey to repeat as champs.
Staples’ Bjorkman and Butler raced to a 5-1 edge in the first set despite the presence of a vast contingent of Stamford High students.
The Yaghmaie sisters closed to 5-4 with two service breaks. But Staples’ seniors broke back to take the early edge, 6-4.
In the second set, Stamford rolled to a 6-0 triumph to even the match.
The deciding third set saw Stamford lead 3-1 and 5-3. However, Staples forged ties of 5-5 and 6-6 to force a tiebreaker.
Not surprising because the duos had fought through three sets in their regular season matchup as well.
Wednesday’s tiebreaker saw Staples lead 4-2 and 6-3 before Stamford fought to ties of 6-6 and 7-7.
At 8-8, Staples finally scored the successive points to end the drama at 10-8.
“Playing on stadium court was so cool,” Bjorkman said. “We embrace the environment and left it all on the court. Stamford is such an amazing team we had to bring our best to succeed.”
Their post-match pain was obvious. But the Yaghmaie sisters have two more years to battle for State Open doubles gold.
“We played well. We just couldn’t finish,” Taylor Yaghmaie said. “We must have had 10 match point chances along the way. Our goal was to get back here to the final. We wish we had a different outcome.”
“Devon and Taylor are so competitive. They don’t take anything lightly,” Stamford girls tennis coach Matt Gladstone said. “Give credit to Staples. The match was a pleasure to watch. It was unbelievable tennis.”
GOLD FOR DELLACONO
Wednesday’s State Open singles gold medal was a just reward for Stonington’s Dellacono.
She closed out the season at 27-0 and she is 75-4 thus far in 2018. Dellacono lost in the 2017 State Open singles final to Glastonbury’s Alex DeNucci, now playing tennis at Villanova University.
“I wanted the title so badly last year. I worked so hard this year to get this chance,” Dellacono said. “Getting my first serves in was the key. It was cool to play in the stadium where the pro tennis players play. The family and friends who came to support me helped so much.”
It was a memorable State Open for No. 6 seed Alyssa DiMaio of Staples. She ousted the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to reach the final.
“I loved my first time playing in a big stadium like this. It was scary and cool and a special opportunity,” DiMaio said. “Since Staples won the FCIACs and Class LL state team titles, this was a good way to close out the season. Gaby (Dellacono) was just on fire today.”
GIRLS TENNIS STATE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
At Connecticut Tennis Center, Stadium Court, New Haven
GIRLS DOUBLES FINAL: Kristin Butler/Hannah Bjorkman (Staples) def. Devon Yaghmaie/Taylor Yaghmaie (Stamford), 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (10-8).
GIRLS SINGLES FINAL: Gabriella Dellacono (Stonington) def. Alyssa DiMaio (Staples), 6-1, 6-1.