Defending champs challenge: replace Hirschberg
Making up for the loss of Danny Hirschberg to graduation is the biggest challenge the Staples boys tennis faces this year.
Hirschberg won the Class LL and State Open singles title in leading the team to a state title and two straight undefeated regular seasons. He's currently playing at Brown University and his last high school loss was sophomore year in the Class LL singles championship match.
Although Staples faces a challenge in replacing Hirschberg, it feels it can do so.
"Danny is irreplaceable, but as I say to the guys, it's about the whole team," Wreckers coach Kris Hrisovulos said. "I think we'll be stronger at the bottom of our lineup than we have been in the past. I have the deepest team in my three seasons as head coach. The depth will be the replacement for Danny."
Staples will also be replacing Jesse Heusner, Josh Kaseff and Justin Kleiner. Heusner moved around between second through fourth singles, and Kaseff, who is on the Dickinson College roster, played at second doubles.
Although the Wreckers will miss one Hirschberg, they still have another one. Junior Jake Hirschberg and senior captain Graham Hyman were the Class LL runnerup in doubles last year, and will alternate between first and second singles this year. During the regular season, Hyman and Jake Hirschberg moved around between second through fourth singles with Heusner.
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"It will definitely be different being higher up in the lineup," Hyman said. "There is definitely pressure, but coach wouldn't put me in a position to fail."
Based on Hrisolvulos' knowledge of the FCIACs, he believes Hyman and Jake Hirschberg will not go undefeated, but they will win most of their matches.
Following the younger Hirschberg and Hyman, the rest of the lineup is mostly interchangeable.
Sophomore returnees Luke Foreman, Baxter Stein and Connor Mitnick are in the mix for third, fourth and fifth singles with freshmen Zach Levin and Josh Moskovitz. Foreman played at fifth singles, while Stein and Mitnick were doubles players last year.
Members of the aforementioned quartet that don't see playing time in singles matches could be inserted into the doubles lineup. They join senior captain Steve Thomson, classmate Evan Davis and sophomore Jack Reardon, all returning players from last year.
"We have a lot of good doubles players, and we should be fine at doubles," Thomson said. "There will be a lot of competition from our team battling for playing time."
"I have the talent, it's a matter of finding the right fit," Hrisolvulos said. "It will be a different year. I won't be relying on a point at the top of the lineup, but I will be at the bottom of the lineup."
One prize which has escaped Staples is the FCIAC title. Despite achieving perfection in the regular season, the Wreckers suffered a shocking loss to New Canaan in the 2010 FCIAC finals, and fell to a very strong Greenwich team in last year's FCIAC championship.
"We fell short the last two years, but I believe this year, we will win FCIACs and states," Hyman said. "Our doubles players will play a key role. We have a young team, and the young kids need to step up in pressure situations, and the upper classmen need to guide them."
Thomson said, "We have a lot of depth, and a lot of kids can win on any given day. The young kids will play a big role. A lot of them play in USTA tournaments, but they need to know how to do it within a team concept."
Winning at Class LL without Hirschberg will be a challenge. Last year, he scored seven points in catapulting Staples past second-place Greenwich, 24-23.
"We may see each guy win two or more points," Hrisolvulos said. "We may not have the individual singles champion, but we'll have more guys in the quarterfinals. It's the deepest team, but the youngest team I have."
Hyman said, "Obviously, it will be tough without Danny. He was a lock at No. 1. We have one of the most talented teams in my four years."