In keeping pace with its torrid start to the season, the Greenwich High boys tennis team delivered what senior Blake Niehaus termed "a big statement" on Monday.
In a match between the last remaining unbeatens in the FCIAC, the Cardinals got the best of rival Staples, topping the Wreckers 5-2 on the road.
Greenwich was victorious in four of the five singles matches, including at No. 1, where Niehaus defeated Staples' Jake Hirschberg 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
The Cardinals, the conference champions in 10 of the last 11 years, improved to 12-0 on the season. The Wreckers, a runner-up in eight of those years, fell to 13-1.
"We know that to be the best in the FCIAC, we're going to have to beat Staples," Niehaus said. "It's just really great that we beat them today."
Greenwich began its string of success on Monday by taking No. 3 singles, as Tatsuya Tasaki bested Zack Levin 6-2, 6-3. Tasaki, a senior, said he stayed consistent with an aggressive approach.
"My main topic for this match was to just get everything in. That's one of my biggest problems I had last year," Tasaki said. "I had the power but I missed a lot, so that brought me down. I tried to break that habit."
Staples' lone singles win came at the No. 4 spot, where Luke Foreman beat Ari Cepelewicz 6-2, 6-1 to put the Wreckers ahead 1-0. The Cardinals, however, won the next five matches, routinely notching points at crucial times.
"I really thought we competed well, I thought we played well. We came up a little short in some scenarios where we've been very good at this year, in game points," Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos said. "We can't lose our spirits for this. You put ourselves in this situation again, I'll take it.
"We had plenty of set points across the board. We had our teeth right in the match."
At No. 5 singles, Greenwich's Chris Salisbury edged Baxter Stein 6-3, 7-5 to put the Cardinals up 2-1 overall. Zach Niklaus followed with a victory at the No. 2 spot by topping Staples' Josh Moskovitz 7-5, 6-4.
Greenwich coach EJ Haskell was pleased to see her team succeed against one of its strongest opponents.
"Our team always knows that they've got to come with their best game. And even sometimes at your best game, they (Staples) could win," Haskell said. "But today it was us. I was very proud of my players. My players played really well."
Although most of the matches went in Greenwich's favor, Hrisovulos was remindful that Staples still has time to improve its play and answer back.
"We couldn't even get one scenario to kind of click our way and drive the momentum," Hrisovulous said. "But I like where we are. The good thing is there's tomorrow. This wasn't a championship match or an end-of-the-season match. It's going to motivate us a little bit more. I want another shot at them."
Monday's match marked the start of a challenging back-to-back for Greenwich, with a home match against 11-1 Ridgefield set for Tuesday. Haskell explained that the Cardinals must continue to play at an elite level moving forward.
"We knew that today was the day that the season would get really tough, and it did," she said. "Tomorrow we have Ridgefield, it will be another tough match. Then we have to do this again in FCIAC's. ... We have to show up with our A-game. We showed up with it today, we'll have to show up with it at FCIAC's and we'll have to show up with it at states."
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Greenwich 5, Staples 2 (at Staples) Singles: Blake Niehaus (G) def. Jake Hirschberg 6-3, 7-6 (7-5); Zach Niklaus (G) def. Josh Moskovitz 7-5, 6-4; Tatsuya Tasaki (G) def. Zack Levin 6-2, 6-3; Luke Foreman (S) def. Ari Cepelewicz 6-2, 6-1; Chris Salisbury (G) def. Baxter Stein 6-3, 7-5. Doubles: Louis McKenzie/Shaw Speer (G) def. Connor Mitnick/Jack Reardon 6-4, 7-6 (11-9); Jared Eisenberg/Jason Chaskin (S) def. Marcos Eslava/Mark Chien 6-4, 6-2. Records: Greenwich 12-0; Staples 13-1.