Staples boys tennis reaches fifth straight FCIAC final

Staples senior Luke Foreman returns a shot against Greenwich's Ari Cepelewicz in the FCIAC semifinals on Tuesday. Foreman lost 6-4, 6-1.
Staples senior Luke Foreman returns a shot against Greenwich's Ari Cepelewicz in the FCIAC semifinals on Tuesday. Foreman lost 6-4, 6-1.Keith Stein/Contributed

For the second time in eight days Staples was able to conquer the hill that has been the Greenwich Cardinals by the score of 4-3; this time however was to send the Wreckers to the FCIAC boys tennis finals.

Staples will appear in the conference title game for the fourth consecutive year and are hungry for victory after losing the previous three.

"I've been to the finals three times and lost three times," Wreckers senior Baxter Stein said. "I don't think there's anybody on the court who wants it more than we do."

Stein and doubles partner Jason Chaskin won their match 6-4, 6-4 to cap off the victory. Because the duo's match was the last of the day and the score was knotted at three, the crowd's attention was undivided and their cheers audible.

"I was just trying to smile," Stein said of dealing with the pressure. "Just to take it all in because I know we're not going to get a moment like this again."

Teammate Chaskin wasn't worried about the outcome; like his partner he knew that no one wanted the victory more than they did.

"So many emotions right now, I'm so happy," said Chaskin, who ripped his shirt off in jubilation at the conclusion of the match. "The past three years we lost to Greenwich and I knew this year, on these courts, we weren't going to lose; I wasn't going to let it happen."

The defending FCIAC and state champion Cardinals didn't go down quietly Tuesday, making every point count. Immediately down 2-0 in the match Greenwich took one singles and one doubles to even the score.

"The difference between 2-0 and 2-2 is huge," Shaw Speer said of the quick turnaround. "Instead of being down 3-0 we knew we definitely had a chance -- it became best out of three."

Ari Cepelewicz and Marcos Eslava tallied singles wins for Greenwich while Speer and partner Louis McKenzie found early success in their doubles match.

"Staples is a great team," Speer said. "Those guys hadn't lost a doubles match all year so it felt pretty good to break through and grab the win; we needed it."

Greenwich was the fourth seed coming into the match after a 14-2 season record put it in a three-way tie with Ridgefield and Westhill; after a coin flip was won by Ridgefield, Greenwich found itself having to go through Westport in its quest for a title.

"It was a little weird playing them in the semi's and not the finals," Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos noted.

Staples remained perfect on the season and is excited about getting through the perennial powerhouse Cardinals but knows it has one more step to take in order to meet its season goal of a conference title.

"It felt great beating Greenwich," Chaskin said. "It felt like the finals -- but it's not the finals; we have one more to go and then we can celebrate."

Staples will have that chance Thursday against Ridgefield, which defeated Westhill 4-1 in Tuesday's other semifinal.

Staples 4, Greenwich 3 (at Staples High School): Singles: Ari Cepelewicz (G) def. Luke Foreman 6-4, 6-1; Zack Levin (S) def. Chris Salisbury 6-1, 6-3; Will Andrews (S) def. Dickerman Hollister 7-5, 1-6, 6-2; Marcos Eslava (G) def. Jack Reardon 1-6, 6-2, 6-3; Max Zimmerman (S) def. Trent Newman 6-2, 6-1. Doubles: Shaw Speer/Louis McKenzie (G) def. Josh Moskovitz/Connor Mitnick 6-4, 7-6; Baxter Stein/Jason Chaskin (S) def. Max Minichitti/Tyler Dagnino 6-4, 6-4.