For the third straight season Thursday, perennial powers Greenwich and Staples traded serves, rallies and the hopes of further cementing their program's legacy in FCIAC boys tennis.
Once again, the Cardinals emerged in the end.
Shaw Speer and Louis McKenzie's thrilling three-set victory at No. 1 doubles clinched Greenwich's 4-0 win over Staples Thursday at Shippan Racquet Club in Stamford, giving the Cardinals their third straight FCIAC title and 11th in the last 12 years.
"We really played well," Greenwich coach EJ Haskell said. "I've got a lot of depth, strength all the way down. And that's just really tough."
"They were holding serve pretty well, we were holding serve right back," Speer said. "We always feel confident in our serves. If we kept going like that, we were hoping we could find a break somewhere."
An early run at singles left Greenwich confident and, in turn, placed the pressure squarely on Staples down 3-0.
Blake Niehaus' 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles over Josh Moskovitz put the Cardinals on the verge of their 15th FCIAC title.
"We were playing up three points, which really put a lot of pressure on (Staples). They couldn't drop another court," Haskell said. "That's tough. I'm glad it was them in that position and not us."
The Cardinals were relieved to have put the match away on their first opportunity.
"It's a different feeling once you finally finish a game," said McKenzie, who is now 10-1 on the season playing with Speer. "It definitely feels very good afterward."
Chris Salisbury picked up the Cardinals' first win of the match, cruising past Jason Chaskin 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5 singles. Tatsuya Tasaki followed with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Staples' Zack Levin at third singles.
Staples (17-2) has now lost the conference final four straight years and in nine of the last 11.
"Greenwich came up with some great shots to win the four points they did right off the bat," Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos said. "I don't think we did anything to give them anything. We gave them everything. We played with all heart."
The Wreckers, whose last FCIAC title came in 2001 (shared with Fairfield), lost 4-0 to the Cardinals in the 2011 conference final and 4-1 last season. This time the Wreckers believed they would prevail.
"We played some great shots, but they countered. The ball just didn't bounce our way in some situations," Hrisovulos said. "It's unfortunate. I'm at a loss for words because we really truly believed that when we got off the bus today that we were going to win this championship.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we really felt that confident."
Once Greenwich (19-0) clinched today's win, the remaining three matches -- two of which were in the third set -- were suspended. Zack Niklaus, who was named FCIAC co-MVP afterward, was up 3-2 in the third set against Staples' No. 1, Jake Hirschberg.
Haskell lauded her singles unit, particularly the players at the top three spots, for the advantage they give Greenwich.
"We don't really go very far down between one, two and three. They just are all so solid," she said. "They're three of the best players around. That gives us a real advantage. Not too many teams can match up against us."
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Greenwich 4, Staples 0 (at Shippan Racquet Club, Stamford) Singles -- Zack Niklaus (G) v. Jake Hirschberg match called third set; Blake Niehaus (G) def. Josh Moskovitz 6-1, 6-2; Tatsuya Tasaki (G) def. Zack Levin 6-4, 6-3; Ari Cepelewicz (G) v. Luke Foreman match called third set; Chris Salisbury (G) def. Jason Chaskin 6-1, 6-1. Doubles: Shaw Speer/Louis McKenzie (G) def. Jack Reardon/Connor Mitnick 6-2, 3-6, 6-4; Mark Chein/Axel Hebrand (G) v. Jared Eisenber/Baxter Stein match called second set. Records: Staples 17-2; Greenwich 19-0.