Watching Ari Cepelewicz compete the previous three seasons for the Greenwich High School boys tennis team, it was evident that one day the No. 1 singles position would belong to him.
The time has arrived for Cepelewicz and he's making the most of his opportunity.
Since graduation claimed the Cardinals top three singles competitors from last season's state and FCIAC championship team, several players have stepped up and assumed challenging roles. Cepelewicz is one of the Cardinals' that's fulfilled his so far.
The senior lefty was in top form Monday, winning his No. 1 singles match in straight sets for Greenwich, which posted a convincing 7-0 victory over visiting Darien. Cepelewicz defeated Darien's Tim Derby, 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1.
"I was at fourth singles last year, but we lost our top three guys to college, so it's exciting to be in the top spot this year," said Cepelewicz, who will play at Swarthmore College next year. "A lot of guys on our team can fill in and play No. 1."
"There's a lot more people watching the No. 1 match, which makes it more intense," said Cepelewicz whose older sisters Jordana and Danielle played on Greenwich's girls tennis team. "I like playing the top singles players. I feel that all of our singles players can play the top positions on the team."
Some of the toughest matches the Cardinals play occurs when they compete against each other during practice each day.
"We have a lot of good competition in practice, which makes us that much better as players," Cepelewicz said.
With several starting players visiting colleges or vacationing during spring break, the Cards juggled their lineup against the Blue Wave. Yet GHS still rolled to its fourth straight 7-0 win to start the season.
"We have a very deep team with a lot of talent all the way through," said GHS first-year coach Richard Lane, who takes over the helm from EJ Haskell. "Some of our kids are away, but we had players step up and fill their places admirably. Everyone on our team thinks all the way through their respective matches."
"Because this was the first time we paired up together, I was a little nervous going into our match due to our lack of experience," McKenzie said. "But we were able to bring everything we have to the match and we had a lot of chemistry."
Said Newman: "We hit the ball solid and were able to get the points we needed to win the match. For me as a freshman, it's fantastic to be able to play a lot for the team."
"Going into the match we wanted to hit high-percentage shots, keep balls deep and come to the net as soon as possible," Minichetti said. "Whoever gets to net first can angle those volleys away and we did that. The second set, we lacked a little focus, but we helped each other out and came out on top."
"Coach is seeing what works by putting players in different places and he's finding out that everything is working," Graham added. "We're showing that we're a really deep team."
Junior Dickon Hollister (No. 2) and junior Marcos Eslava (No. 3) each won in straight sets, while senior Axel Hebrand (No. 4) pulled out a three-setter for the Cards. Hollister won 7-6 (4), 6-3 against Sammy Alptekin, Eslava was victorious, 6-1, 6-1 over Brad D'Alelio and Hebrand edged Harrison Walter, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. Greenwich, which has won the FCIAC title the past three years and LL championship the last two seasons, also received a 6-0, 6-2 win from sophomore Jacob Cohen (No. 5).
"For being outmanned against a tough team, I'm happy with how we competed," Darien coach Rob Nuener said. "Sammy battled the whole way through his match, as did Harrison, and Brad showed his aggressiveness. The FCIAC is tough with some excellent Class LL schools like Greenwich and Staples, but we're going to continue to improve."
GREENWICH 7, DARIEN 0
Singles: Ari Cepelewicz (G) def. Tim Derby 6-2, 6-0; Dickon Hollister (G) def. Sammy Alptekin 7-6 (4), 6-3; Marcos Eslava (G) def. Brad D'Alelio 6-1, 6-1; Axel Hebrand (G) def. Harrison Walter 6-3, 1-6, 6-3; Jacob Cohen (G) def. Russell Mahaney 6-0, 6-2. Doubles: Louis McKenzie/Trent Newman (G) def. Tyler Hatfield/James Teschner 6-0, 6-4; Robert Graham/Max Minichetti (G) def. Cooper Murray/Charlie Brooks 6-3, 7-6 (2).
Records: Greenwich 3-0; Darien 1-2.