With experienced players such as Jenn DeLuca and Sam Stone competing at first and second singles, Greenwich High girls tennis coach Betsy Underhill knew what results to expect from her top singles players entering the season. Doubles competition however, was a question mark.
Due to the graduation of certain players, the Cardinals had to revamp their doubles teams this spring -- not an easy task for any squad. Yet as the season has progressed, the Cardinals' doubles teams have taken shape.
Monday was a prime example, as Greenwich won two of the three doubles matches en route to registering a 4-3 victory over visiting Staples in a crucial FCIAC match.
With their ninth straight win, the Cardinals raised their record to 11-1 and moved into first place in the FCIAC. Staples, which won its last seven matches entering the day, is 11-2.
"This is an awesome win, especially because of the fact that Staples beat New Canaan, a team we lost to," DeLuca said. "Our team is really coming together. Everyone is figuring it out and I feel we're moving in the right direction for FCIAC's and states."
Doubles play proved to be pivotal, since the Cardinals and Wreckers split the four singles matches. Julia Akerman and Julia Hyland, who are in their first season as a doubles team, recorded a 6-2, 6-1 win over Staples' Alex Collins and Avery Wallace at No. 1.
"The beginning of the season it was rough because it was our first year together, but I think we're getting better as the season goes by," Akerman said. "We're getting used to how each other plays."
The Wreckers' duo was formidable, but the Cardinals' tandem prevailed in a match featuring several long rallies.
"We knew we had to keep our composure throughout the match," Hyland said. "We were able to keep the rallies going and remain focused."
Greenwich's second doubles triumph came from the newly formed team of Liza Johnson and Mary Cecio at the No. 3 spot. The duo topped Alexis Teixeira and Frankie Lynch of Staples, 6-4, 6-2. Trailing 4-3 in the first set, the Cardinals' tandem converted a key break point, then held to go up 5-4.
"We lost the first two games, but we started to focus more and came back, point by point," Johnson said. "They were a good team and we knew it, so we were a little bit nervous at first. But we calmed down."
"Once we got back into it, we gained a little momentum and powered through the second set," Cecio added.
"Our No. 2 doubles team is undefeated, we have a lot of confidence in them," Staples first-year coach Paco Fabian said. "They were outstanding as they have been all season."
In singles play, DeLuca continued her standout season. The senior, who will play at Providence College next season, displayed her strong serve and groundstrokes in defeating junior Melissa Beretta, 6-0, 6-0.
"I started out with the mentality of hitting one more ball than her," DeLuca said. "The past matches I lost this year I was going for too much. She's definitely one of the tougher players out there, so I knew I couldn't take anything lightly. Once I got up 3-0, I started being more aggressive."
Stone, a senior, was a 6-0, 6-1 winner against sophomore Gabi Titlebaum. The Cardinals' No. 2 player is a perfect 12-0 on the season.
"The score does not reflect the match at all," Stone said. "This was by far my hardest match of the season, she was so consistent and had solid shots."
For Staples, unbeaten Kelsey Shockey was victorious at third singles, beating Anna Daccache, 6-3, 6-4, while Julia Bartimer, who has also yet to lose a match, took a 6-1, 6-1 decision from Hannah Kratky.
"Greenwich has some fantastic players and a great coach. We're trying to bring what the Greenwich girls program has to our team," Fabian said.
Greenwich 4, Staples 3 (at Greenwich) Singles: Jenn DeLuca (G) def. Melissa Beretta 6-0, 6-0; Sam Stone (G) def. Gabi Titlebaum 6-0, 6-1; Kelsey Shockey (S) def. Anna Daccache 6-3, 6-4; Julia Bartimer (S) def. Hannah Kratky 6-1, 6-1; Doubles: Julia Hyland/Julia Akerman (G) def. Alex Collins/Avery Wallace 6-2, 6-1; Rachel Lieberman/Callie Bartimer (S) def. Lizzie Griffin/Mathilde Van Tulder 6-4, 7-5; Liza Johnson/Mary Cecio (G) def. Alexis Teixeira/Frankie Lynch 6-4, 6-2. Records: Staples 11-2; Greenwich 11-1.