New coach strives to lead Lady Wrecker rackets to titles
With almost its entire lineup back from last year, the Staples girls tennis team is setting the bar high.
Although they are big losses, the biggest change the Lady Wreckers experienced is the changing of the guard at coaches with Amanda Giudice replacing Casey Marinuzzi (formerly DeVita), who stepped down because she's giving birth this month. Last year's team had an overall record of 19-4 and reached the FCIAC and Class L semifinals where it lost to Greenwich in both but hopes this year will be better.
"I'm really excited for the season," said Giudice. "We have a strong team and we had a shot of doing well at FCIACs and States and possibly winning it all. We hope to take it to the next level. We have a lot of strong girls. They are in tip top shape and they are ready to win."
Junior Katie Reiner already defeated a future Bucknell University player this year and returns at first singles. Staples is buoyed by the addition of freshman Melissa Beretta, who is playing second singles.
Lady Wrecker senior tri-captain Molly Rudinger picked up her play last year as the season progressed and continues her strong form at third singles and fellow senior tri-captain Farrel Levenson, who is a consistent player, is back at fourth singles.
"I think this is one of our strongest teams since I've been here and we hope to be successful," said Rudinger.
Moving from second singles to first doubles for the time being and possibly for the season is junior Leigh Rubin. Rubin is paired with senior tri-captain Hannah Bjornson, who was Laux' partner at first doubles last year and the tandem won consistently.
"I think we're going to have a great season," Bjornson said. "We have a strong team and everyone has improved. We have a real strong lineup in general and our talent is great. Melissa is doing well."
Staples is also buoyed to have its primary combinations at second and third doubles back with senior Alex Walsh and junior Nicole Marcante at second doubles and junior lefty Margot Stamm and classmate Kate Collins at third doubles.
Senior Kate McNee, who was Klein's partner last year, had playing time last year and has worked vigorously on her game in the offseason. McNee is expected to contribute when given the chance and sophomore Lea Bradley moves up from the JV and will also play in her share of matches.
"We're looking forward to a very good season," Levenson said. "We have a strong team and we're extremely excited. We're a close team, work well together and know each other well since most of us returned from last year."
The Lady Wreckers need to figure out a way to beat Greenwich and New Canaan. Three of their losses came at the hands of Greenwich and their other loss was to FCIAC champion New Canaan. New Canaan has been a nemesis for many years and the last time Staples beat the Lady Rams was in the 2003 Class M semifinals. After beating New Canaan, the Lady Wreckers won the Class M title, their only state championship. If Staples gets over these two humps, it will probably win at least one, if not, two titles.
"Our goal is definitely to win FCIACs and States," Bjornson said. "We have a real strong lineup in general and our talent is great. If we stay positive, we feel we can beat New Canaan and Greenwich. We need to stay positive and believe in ourselves."
Rudinger said, "Obviously, we hope to go as far as possible and we feel we can win FCIACs and States. We have to build on our mental strengths. The skills are there and we need to apply them as a team."
One thing Staples can't afford to do is get complacent and take anyone for granted. The FCIAC is the toughest league in the state and in addition to their two nemesis, the Lady Wreckers need to be careful against highly talented Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde and Darien.
"Obviously, we have high hopes for our team and we'll see where our season takes us," Levenson said.
Giudice said, "We have to play our game, keep our heads in the game and stay positive throughout. We have to stay with every shot and follow through and if we do, we should succeed. I'm looking forward to a great season."