Hirshberg leads Wrecker rackets in title quest

Having the best singles player in the state, coupled with its tradition give the Staples boys tennis team reason to set lofty goals.

Senior co-captain Danny Hirschberg is the defending Class LL and State Open singles champion and returns to his spot at first singles. Moreover, Staples has had many championship teams over the years and was 16-0 in the regular season, 18-1 overall after losing 4-2 to New Canaan in the FCIAC championship. Following FCIACs, the Wreckers placed third at Class LL.

Staples lost five seniors to graduation, Kevin McDonald, Sam Hickok, Jordan Ratner, Alex Ratner and Matt Greenberg and sophomore Cam Marco, who moved out of state. Marco was a major contributor as a freshman at third singles while the five seniors played mostly at doubles.

"I think we are pretty strong," Wreckers Coach Kris Hrisovulos said. "We have six new players on the team, four freshmen, but the one thing you [have to] like is the leadership from our captains on our team."

Hirschberg said, "The team looks great. Being at Staples, especially on the tennis team, winning is expected and Kris definitely holds us to a high standard."

Senior Jesse Heusner is the other co-captain and although he's slated to play at fourth singles, he's capable of moving up to second singles where sophomore Jake Hirschberg is playing. Junior Graham Hyman is at the younger Hirschberg's and Heusner's talent level and is at third singles.

"One thing that's good is that I have a lot of options," said Hrisovulos. "Two through four and five through 12 are interchangeable. What makes the fact that their being interchangeable is great is that they are competitive and want to be in the lineup. They can beat each other up on any given day. Jake is playing the best of the three but I won't be surprised if all three see time at No. 2 at some point this year."

Freshman Luke Foreman is slated to play at fifth singles. For the time being, junior Evan Davis and freshman Baxter Stein start at first doubles and seniors Justin Kleiner and Josh Kaseff are at second doubles but that could change. Senior Jehangir Hafiz and freshmen Jack Reardon and Connor Mitnick will also contribute.

"We're definitely going to contend but one thing we learned from last year is that doubles will play a big role. It might take time but as long as we solidify things by May or June, we'll be fine because that's when it's going to count."

Losing to New Canaan in the FCIAC finals was especially painful for the Wreckers because they defeated the Rams 5-2 in the regular season. Staples knows in order to win its first FCIAC title since 2001 and first outright title since 2000, it needs to beat Greenwich and New Canaan and in order to win its first state title (which was in Class L) since 2008, it must overtake the Greenwich Cardinals.

Last year, the Wreckers beat Greenwich 4-3 in the regular season but the Cardinals won the Class LL title, which has a different format than regular-season match play and girls tennis.

"We got tight in the finals against New Canaan last year," Heusner said. "If everyone plays to our potential, we can beat Greenwich. We have to work out our kinks at doubles."

Staples aims for the top.

"The goal is to get back to the FCIAC final and learn from last year," said Hrisovulos. Our goal is to compete for both titles. We're capable of it but it won't be easy."

Danny Hirschberg said, "Winning FCIACs and States is definitely our goal. We have to be strong from first singles to second doubles. We'll definitely do well this year."

The inter-team competition will prepare the Wreckers for the championship matches.

"We'll beat up on each other, which will make us mentally tough and it will favor us down the road," said Hrisovulos.