Staples girls tennis reaches FCIAC final
WESTPORT — Since dropping its only match of the season earlier this month, an improving Staples girls tennis team had one goal in mind.
Reach the FCIAC final and have another chance at claiming a championship after finishing runners-up in both the FCIAC and Class L last season.
Staples met a stern challenge in No. 3 New Canaan in the FCIAC semifinals Friday, but used its unmatched depth to prevail 4-3 by winning the final match at No. 3 doubles.
The second-seeded Wreckers will get one more crack at undefeated Darien (19-0), which beat Staples in the Class L final last June and again in the regular season 4-3 May 2.
“These girls have waited all year to take another shot at Darien,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “We get another shot at them. Our goal was to peak at the end of the year; we just want to win championships.”
The final takes place on Tuesday at Wilton High School.
The Wreckers and Rams split the first six matches in straight sets, which set the stage for the battle between the No. 3 doubles teams. The lone two seniors for Staples — Olivia Daytz and Mackenzie Wood — overcame a slow start in the first set to top the Rams’ freshman group of Grace Ruksznis and Chloe Sigg 6-3, 6-1.
“I’m very happy for them, it was nice to have two seniors out there that had a little experience,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “I think senior leadership came through in the end, they played really well.”
Despite the edge in experience, Daytz and Wood admitted the crowd gathering around the court that would decide the match was a little uneasy. Any nerves didn’t show as the duo raced out to a big lead in the second set.
“Definitely a lot more pressure but it was thrilling during the match,” said Wood. “Every point made it that much more rewarding. In (the space of) one game, we had a whole crowd come down. It was nerve-racking but definitely fun.”
“We were a little scared in the beginning but we found our groove,” Daytz added. “We’ve been working hard to get to this place; we’ve been looking forward to the postseason. It was rewarding to win that.”
The Wreckers’ doubles team swept all three matches to continue the theme of their season. Depth has paved the way to the final this year.
The Rams picked up wins at three singles spots to stay alive. Caroline Gordon beat Tess Rubin 6-0, 6-4, Caroline Mayock topped Vanessa Mauricio 6-3, 6-4 and Camryn Schlim beat Lindy Sinclair 6-3, 6-3. New Canaan fell 5-2 to Staples during the regular season with Mayock providing the difference in the score Friday.
“I’m very proud of this team,” New Canaan coach Susan Lovejoy said. “For five minutes I really thought we’d be able to pull that off. We lost a player this morning and last night; this was a great experience and I’m thrilled for them.”
The lone Staples’ singles win at No. 3 where Olivia Foster beat Ashley Walker 6-1, 6-2.
New Canaan ended its strong FCIAC season at 15-3 and will be a competitive Class L field once that tournament begins May 30. The Wreckers and Rams might meet again in that tournament.
“We showed a lot of heart,” Fabian said. “The girls played very hard and New Canaan is a very good team. They’re a top five team in the state; any time you beat someone that good you’re really happy.”
Staples 4, New Canaan 3 (at Staples High School); Singles: Caroline Gordon (NC) def. Tess Rubin 6-0, 6-4; Caroline Mayock (NC) def. Vanessa Mauricio 6-3, 6-4; Olivia Foster (S) def. Ashley Walker 6-1, 6-2; Camryn Schlim (NC) def. Lindy Sinclair 6-3, 6-3. Doubles: Megan Brown/Kristin Butler (S) def. Abby Crowley/Schuyler 6-3, 6-2; Hannah Bjorkman/Gabriela Vega (S) def. Caroll Rudman/Elizabeth Rudman 6-3, 6-3; Olivia Daytz/Mackenzie Wood (S) def. Grace Ruksznis/Chloe Sigg 6-3, 6-1. Records: New Canaan 15-3; Staples 18-1.