Staples knocks Greenwich out in FCIAC boys tennis semifinals
WESTPORT — Besides being excited about playing in the FCIAC Boys Tennis Tournament semifinals, top-seeded Staples entered Tuesday’s showdown against rival Greenwich with extra motivation.
The Wreckers saw their astounding 63-match winning streak come to an end when they played the Cardinals on April 24, but they had won eight straight matches since that loss heading into their all-important meeting against Greenwich.
Their ninth consecutive victory advanced them to a venue they’re quite familiar with.
Winning three singles matches and one doubles contest, Staples defeated fourth-seeded Greenwich, 4-0, to advance to Wednesday’s FCIAC Tournament final held at Wilton.
The five-time defending FCIAC champion Wreckers play Darien in the 4 p.m. title match at Wilton High School. Staples (18-1) beat Greenwich (15-4) in the 2018 FCIAC Tournament finals and competed against the Cardinals in the championship match in three of the last four seasons. Tuesday’s much-anticipated match was supposed to be played on Friday, then Monday, but it was postponed due to the weather.
“This was a big, overall team victory for us,” Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos said. “It’s extra sweet, because this match was delayed. Greenwich is a big rival and we have a lot of respect for them. We learned a lot from the season, especially when we took a defeat from them.”
Staples’ first victory Tuesday came from freshman Robbie Daus at second singles. Daus posted a tough 6-4, 6-4 victory against Greenwich sophomore Caleb Fockens.
“In the first set, we both struggled a bit,” Daus said. “It was really the decisive points at deuce and ad-in that decided who would pull through.”
Daus used his consistent serve to win several significant points in each set.
“I think my serve was a big factor, because I got a few key aces at difficult times in the first set,” Daus said. “We’ve been anticipating this match for weeks now, so the entire team was excited and ready to play.”
At third singles another freshman in the Wreckers’ young lineup, Tighe Brunetti was victorious. Brunetti registered a 6-4, 6-2 triumph against Cardinals junior Matthew Luzzi. In the second set, Luzzi tweaked his ankle and went down. But he rose and fought his way through the rest of the match.
“In the first set, I went up 5-0, then he started playing much better and I didn’t handle it great,” Brunetti said. “It was 5-4 and my coch told me to keep pressuring him, so I kept putting the pressure on him. I was able to bring the momentum from the first set into the second set.”
Like his fellow freshmen on the squad, Brunetti has enjoyed his inaugural varsity season.
“It hasn’t been easy, I’ve had to grind to get some wins, but I’ve played well,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun playing high school tennis.”
Freshman Brandon Felcher clinched the match for Staples, winning his match at No. 4 singles against GHS junior Matthew Tamis, 6-3, 6-3.
“Winning this match feels really good, we lost to them the last time, so we wanted to prove we were able to do the job,” Felcher said. “I had a couple of match points that I lost, but he is a tough opponent, so credit to him, he never gave up.”
In doubles competition, senior Jake Greenwald and sophomore Bradley Sheppard were 7-5, 6-4 winners against Cardinals seniors Boris Ardemasov/Derek Wang.
“We wanted to show them what we had and that we’re not done and we’re going to keep on fighting,” Greenwald said. “Other teams in the FCIAC think that we lost too much from last year — we lost our No. 1, 2 and 3 singles. But we want to send a message that we’re not done and we did that today.”
Said Sheppard: “Late in the first set we started being more aggressive and had a lot of energy and that’s what made us win the first set.”
One of the matches that wasn’t completed was the No. 1 singles matchup between Cardinals junior Justin Speaker and Staples senior Eric Stein. Stein won the first set 7-6 and was ahead 3-1 in the second set.
“It was a really hard fought battle and we were both making shots and at the end of the day he just won a few more big points than I did,” Speaker said.
Greenwich now looks ahead to the upcoming Class LL Tournament.
“Our goal obviously, is to win states,” Speaker said. “Losing here today is disappointing for the team, but I definitely want to continue the successful run we’ve had at states the past few years.”
The No. 1 doubles match between Greenwich’s Nic Liu/Hayden Witmer and Staples’ Jack Tooker/Sam Lampert was also not completed. Staples won the opening set, 7-6 and was down in the second, 5-4. Third doubles just got underway, with James Cosby/Stefan Brovig going up against Staples’ Adam Greenlee/Jason Katz.
“Our guys played well and their guys played a couple of games better,” GHS coach Ray Marschall said. “They have a great program with some great players. We were hoping we’d have a repeat from the middle of the season, but it just didn’t happen.”
“Our team can really accomplish anything as long as we come in with a lot of energy,” Sheppard said. “It’s the energy that is the most important thing for us.”