Ludlowe's victory over Staples Monday afternoon in an FCIAC girls tennis match in Fairfield wasn't secured until the last three matches that each were extended to three sets all broke in favor of the Falcons. The Falcons beat the Wreckers 5-2 by winning the third set at No. 3 singles, No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles as the afternoon gave way to the evening.
The match had been tied at 2-2 for more than hour after Ludlowe's straight-set wins in the first two singles matches and the Wreckers' two-set victories in Nos. 1 and 2 doubles.
"It could have gone 5-2 either way," said Ludlowe coach John Reisert.
The Falcons, who were CIAC Class L runners-up a year ago, remained undefeated this spring by improving to 4-0 overall and in the FCIAC. The Wreckers, who lost to Ludlowe in the FCIAC semifinals in 2013, dropped to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
"We're trying to get to Ludlowe's level right now," said Staples second-year coach Paco Fabian, whose club also lost to the Falcons in the regular season last year. "Overall, they're a great team. They have a great coach (Reisert) who is really respected throughout the state."
The trio of third sets that didn't go the Wreckers' way weren't exactly nail-biters, though the competition leading up to the decisive sets was indeed tight.
Ludlowe's Daria Efimov, a 12th-grader, won the last set at No. 3 singles by 6-1, after losing the first set 6-3 to sophomore Julia Bartimer, then rallying to win the second set 6-4. That gave Ludlowe a 3-2 lead. Junior Kyra Adajian took the decisive set over junior Alex Collins 6-4, which came after Collins opened with a 6-3 victory before Adajian squared it in the second set with 6-2 win. That clinched the team win for the Falcons.
Ludlowe juniors Lexi Brown and Julia Cheung earned a 6-2 win in the final set at No. 3 doubles, after opening with a 7-6 win over Wreckers' seniors Sarah Rountree and Rachel Lieberman. Rountree/Lieberman took the second set 6-4.
Fabian was most impressed with Collins, who was injured in the third set trailing by 2-0. Collins was down for several minutes before deciding to resume. "That's all we can ask for in an effort like that," Fabian said of the resilience and perseverance of Collins. "We don't care if they win or lose."
Reisert analyzed the late pivotal victories.
"The first set was not a good set for us," Reisert said of Efimov's opening 6-3 loss to Bartimer. "But I knew her strokes were coming around. We had confidence she could turn it around." Efimov, who improved to 4-0 on the season, elevated her game when she needed to, Reisert said, by relying on her skill set and experience.
The No. 4 singles battle between Kyra Adajian and Collins featured two players with similar styles, Reisert said. "Kyra was able to take away her (Collins's) aggressiveness in the last two sets. They had multiple points when the rallies were in excess of 20 balls. With Kyra playing No. 4 singles last year, her experience enabled her to retain composure and patience and she was able to win the match whether it was a lot of shots or a well-placed shot," Reisert said. She is 4-0 this spring.
Reisert thought the turning point at No. 3 doubles came late in the first set tiebreaker win by Brown and Cheung, though the Falcons lost the second set. "They were able to finish off points," he said. "They were able to be a touch more aggressive." Brown and Cheung have won all four matches this season.
Ludlowe junior Lindsey Evans improved to 2-0 this spring by winning at No. 1 singles, the third time in three meetings she had defeated Melissa Beretta (2-3), the Staples senior. Cami Adajian raised her record to 4-0 at No. 2 singles for the Falcons. The victory at No. 2 doubles by senior Kelsey Shockey and freshman Vanessa Mauricio left the Ludlowe pair of Chelsea Keane, a senior, and junior Lauren Hilliker at 3-1 for the season.
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Ludlowe 5, Staples 2 (at Fairfield Ludlowe). Singles: Lindsey Evans (FL) def. Melissa Beretta 6-1, 6-2; Cami Adajian (FL) def. Gabi Titlebaum 6-0, 6-0; Daria Efimov (FL) def. Julia Bartimer 3-6, 6-4, 6-1; Kyra Adajian (FL) def. Alex Collins 3-6, 6-2, 6-4; Doubles: Kelsey Shockey/Vanessa Mauricio (S) def. Chelsea Keane/Lauren Hilliker 6-1, 6-1; Avery Wallace/Tess Rubin (S) def. Sarah Jennings/Anna Wyckoff 6-0, 6-4; Lexi Brown/Julie Cheung (FL) def. Sarah Rountree/Rachel Lieberman 7-6, 4-6, 6-2. Records: Staples 3-2, Fairfield Ludlowe 4-0.