Rams upset Wreckers
Most of the time, tennis matches don't come down to the dramatic. But in the boys FCIAC final last Thursday at Wilton High School, Staples and New Canaan played a title tilt for the ages.
Don't believe it? Just ask Rams head coach Dan Borgman, who won his first conference championship in 15 years and claimed the tightly contested final was one of the most intense, high-anxiety matches he'd ever coached.
"It was the most tense match I've been in, I'll say 15 years," Borgman said after he took off his sunglasses for the first time all afternoon.
Wreckers head coach Kris Hrisovulos concurred.
"As a player and a coach, it's probably one of the most epic high school matches I've been around," he said. "I was a part of three state champions, three FCIACs in my day, in the late `90s and we had some battles, but this was epic."
Staples, the top seed that had not lost a match all season, could not defeat New Canaan for a second time this season. The Wreckers, who defeated New Canaan 5-2 on May 11, fell 4-2 after Jake Hirschberg lost 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-3 to Nick Laub in the No. 4 singles battle, one that was watched by more than 70 vested spectators, family members and teammates in attendance.
Laub and Hirschberg played simultaneously to the No. 2 doubles match of Staples' Sam Hickok and Alex Ratner vs. Will Burger and Connor Hedley. In fact, before Laub and Hirschberg began their third set, the match halted -- with New Canaan ahead 3-2 -- in case the doubles match secured a victory for New Canaan. Burger/Hedley won the first set, 6-4, but after Staples took a tiebreaker 7-6 (7-4), Laub and Hirschberg went back to their game to determine the fate.
Hrisovulos wanted to make sure, above all, to remind his players that in a gut-check situation, there was no excuse for not giving it their all.
"When it came down to the last two matches, I went to our doubles team and our singles player and said, `When you walk over the court, they better have earned it,'" Hrisovulos said.
With Hirschberg's loss, No. 2 doubles didn't even finish their match, as celebration for New Canaan (19-3) began once Laub claimed victory, and Staples was forced to deal with defeat for the first time in 2010.
Staples (18-1) got wins from junior -- and FCIAC singles MVP Danny Hirschberg -- at No. 1 (over Ben Lee), and Graham Hyman playing at No. 5. The two defeated Ben Lee and Steve Evans in straight sets, respectively.
"It's never routine against Ben, but my mindset was just, I was going to be out there a long time and focus on every point as much as I can," Danny Hirschberg said.
He and Lee have played each other nearly a dozen times in the past six years, and Hirschberg has had Lee's number most of the time. The Staples No. 1 explained why.
"His game is really big on top spin, and my game is really flat," Danny Hirschberg said. "So it's tough for him to lift the ball really high off my low balls, so he has a hard time staying really consistent when he plays against me."
He also reflected on the conference season and what this team was able to accomplish in a year that was so strong at the top.
"The reason we've been so successful is all of our players have been playing over the years in [other] tournaments," Danny Hirschberg said.
At No. 2 singles, Jesse Heussner fell 6-1, 6-2 to Chase Urban, while No. 3 saw New Canaan's Kevin Budrawich knock off Cam Marco, 6-1, 6-1. And in No. 1 doubles, Kevin McDonal and Jordan Ratner couldn't hold on to their early lead and fell 6-4, 6-3 to Peter Huff and Patrick Newton, whom they defeated in the May 11 match.
"It's still a great year for us. But a tough loss for our seniors," Hrisovulos said. "New Canaan is a great team that has come a long way."
Staples now prepares for the state tournament, which begins in earnest this week.