Hirschberg wins singles title, Wreckers take 3rd
There's no margin for error in the CIAC boys tennis tournament. That's what the Staples boys tennis team found out the hard way. Staples finished third in the Class LL tournament with 18 points because it suffered an upset loss in the first round of singles play and another player failed to hold onto a sizable lead in the second round, thus it fell short to Class LL champion Greenwich (25) and runnerup Fairfield Prep (23).
"It's a tough format in that it's not team-related," Wreckers Coach Kris Hrisovulos said. "One loss by an individual can determine the team's fate. It hurt but we can learn from it and turn things around."
Senior captain Jordan Ratner said, "It was definitely disappointing for us but the draw wasn't the best we could have had. We still didn't come through in the clutch."
No one can blame junior Danny Hirschberg for Staples' third-place finish. The top-seeded Hirschberg fulfilled his side of the bargain by winning the Class LL singles title.
"I was able to stay strong the whole way and the coach was a big part in it," Hirschberg said.
Hirschberg bageled Jason Rothenberg of Amity and Garrett Lynn of Glastonbury, 6-0, 6-0 to start the tournament and followed with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Greenwich's Zach Nicklaus in the third round. That put him in the quarterfinals where he beat eighth-seeded Jason Ottomano of Fairfield Prep, 6-0, 6-1 and he followed with a 6-2, 6-2 win over fourth-seeded Tyler Kratky of Greenwich in the semifinals.
After winning his first five matches at Hall High School in West Hartford from June 4-8, he then turned back second-seeded Tom O'Brien of Fairfield Prep, 6-2, 6-0 in the finals last Thursday at Yale University.
"I stuck with my game plan early of keeping him behind the baseline and Kris helped me with that," Hirschberg said.
Last year, Hirschberg lost 6-3, 6-0 in the finals to then-Greenwich senior Rob Wong.
"Playing last year definitely helped me with nerves and I was more used to the situation," Hirschberg said.
One bad break for Staples was 14th-seeded junior Jesse Heussner, who normally plays at second singles behind Hirschberg, losing in the first round. If Heussner won the round and next couple of rounds, he could have produced a few points for the Wreckers.
Moreover, he would have taken a point away from Fairfield Prep and his loss may have made a difference between second and third place as Prep's Wesley Craft upset Heussner, 6-1, 2-6, 10-7. In the first round, they settle the third set with a tiebreaker instead of a full set.
"I guess I wasn't focused in the first set and the third set was settled with a tiebreaker and he won it," Heussner stated.
Freshman Jake Hirschberg opened the tournament with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Amity's Jason Hippona and was on the verge of winning his second match after winning the first set and taking a 5-3 lead in the second set against 13th-seeded Adam Brown of Simsbury. In the end, Brown closed out the match by winning 10 straight games in a 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory over the younger Hirschberg.
"I ran out of gas," Jake Hirschberg admitted. "He kept me out there for awhile and I couldn't keep it going."
Faring better than Heussner and the younger Hirschberg was 16th-seeded freshman Cam Marco, who won two matches. Marco bageled Brien McMahon's Kevin Menchero and came back from a first-set loss to top 18th-seeded Zach Passman of Ridgefield, winning a second-set tiebreaker no less, in a 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 verdict.
It all ended for him in the third round when he lost 6-2, 6-1 to O'Brien. One upshot for Marco is that he lost to a senior and has three years left.
"I was able to relax before the match and get into a zone," Marco said. "It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. To be taken out by the tournament runnerup justifies my losing because he's a good player."
Staples had two doubles team at Class LL with both of them earning two points each. Senior captain Kevin McDonald and Ratner were the 11th-seed and had a first-round bye. They followed the bye with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Ridgefield's Scott Hirokawa/Michael DePrima but their run ended in the third round against seventh-seeded Brian Choquette and Ryan Niland. Losing a tiebreaker in the third round didn't help McDonald and Ratner as Choquette and Niland escaped with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 victory over McDonald and Ratner.
Senior captains Sam Hickok and Alex Ratner opened their tournament with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Manchester's MacKenzie Sanborn and Zachary Kinghorn and followed with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) triumph over Cheshire's Brendan Pier and Danny Grove. In the end, Hickok and Ratner lost to second-seeded John Petrini and Flash Hoyos of Westhill, 6-4, 6-2. Petrini and Hoyos ended up winning the doubles title.
"Everybody played well and put in their best effort and that's all you can ask for," McDonald said.
Despite finishing third, the Wreckers were happy with their season, in which they were undefeated in the regular season and reached the FCIAC finals where they lost 4-2 to New Canaan.
"I'm still happy with the team because we had a great season," Hrisovulos said.
Alex Ratner said, "We had two great new kids [Marco and Jake Hirschberg] helping us out this year and we had a great season."