With a new coach and a roster mostly featuring first-year varsity players, the Greenwich High School girls tennis team is indeed, a new-look squad this spring.
Julie Shropshire begins her first season as coach of the Cardinals, after guiding the program’s junior varsity boys tennis team the past several years. Betsy Underhill was at the helm for two highly successful decades, before stepping down as coach following the 2019 season. Neal Feinberg coached the team in 2020, but didn’t get to guide the Cardinals in a match, since the season was cancelled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shropshire was hired as the Cardinals’ coach in February.
“It’s a little tough for me, because I really admired Betsy and I like what she did with the team,” said Shropshire, who played tennis at Stony Brook University and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. “One of the main reasons why I took over is because I wanted to make sure the legacy stayed on and that I can continue to run the team the way she did and make it a positive place for the girls. It’s exciting, but at the same time it’s challenging, because we only have two returning players.”
One of those two returning players from when the Cardinals had a season – in 2019 – is her daughter, Abby Shropshire, a senior co-captain. An experienced doubles player, Abby Shropshire is playing at the No. 1 doubles spot with partner Julia Tamis, a sophomore.
In previous seasons, Shropshire and Hannah Viney formed a successful doubles team. Viney, Melanie Leguizamon, Kendall Schrohe, Yui Inagawa, Amy Bickham and Rachel Karetsky were among the 2020 Greenwich seniors who saw their season get cancelled.
“I love doubles, I’ve played doubles since I was a freshman here,” Abby said. “My partner my freshman and sophomore year graduated, but my partner this year Julia, I’m so excited to play with her. I think we have a lot of talent in singles and doubles and I’m excited for the season with all the new players.”
Being back on the court is a thrill and a relief for the team.
“It feels amazing,” Abby Shropshire said. “I was counting down the days to when we had our season and when it got cancelled, everyone was upset. It is comforting, I’m really grateful that we have it for my last year.”
Greenwich’s singles lineup includes two freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. Courteney Sheets, a junior co-captain, is slated to play No. 3 singles.
“I played doubles last season, so it is pretty exciting to play singles,” Sheets said. “Hopefully, I’ll have some good wins.”
The new-look Greenwich squad opens its 2021 campaign Saturday with a home match against Brien McMahon.
“We have a pretty strong lineup, there’s a lot of depth and a lot of great players,” Sheets said. “I am confident about our singles and doubles lineup. We are all getting along so well and I feel really good about our team.”
At first singles is sophomore Ivanna Diez de Bonilla, who is eager to officially make her varsity debut.
“I have wanted to join this team since I knew there was one in middle school,” Diez de Bonilla said. “Even though I was very excited to try out my freshman year, now I actually get to play first singles, so I’m a little nervous. But I know that we have a strong team and they will all be cheering me on.”
Diez de Bonilla competes in USTA tournaments and has played the sport since she was six years old.
“I have been practicing multiple times a week and all this work I put into tennis will hopefully pay off,” she said.
Kyra Dybas, a sophomore, will start the season at No. 2 singles and Malena Schraa, a freshman, is at the fourth singles spot.
“I feel like our singles lineup is really strong,” Julie Shropshire said. “They’re solid and we have an alternate singles player as well, (Kylie Finkelstein, a junior) who is consistent as well. This is a whole new team from 2019.”
Senior Kira Popa and freshman Emily Weinstein are the Cards’ No. 2 doubles team, while sophomores Mei McGuinnes and Valentina Rivano play third doubles. Sophomores Sydney Floch and Madeline Minichetti also play doubles.
“Now two weeks into it practices, we have been able to find partnerships and we have our singles situated, so I’m really excited,” Julie Shropshire said. “A lot of these girls are going to be here for the next couple of years.”
Greenwich last won the FCIAC title in 2012 and after winning the CIAC Class L championship in 2009, lost in the state finals in 2010, 2012 and 2016. Staples won the FCIAC title in 2018 and 2019 and Darien captured the conference crown in 2016 and 2017.
“It’s already a strong team, but in the next year or two, I think we can give Staples and Darien a run for their money,” coach Shropshire said.
Abby Shropshire likes the teamwork she and Tamis have displayed at first doubles.
“Our games perfectly aligned, so I’m excited to see where the season takes us,” said Abby, also a squash player. “We have been improving in different areas and we’ve been growing as a team and individually.”
Abby, who is heading to the University of Texas at Austin, hopes to play collegiate tennis.
“I want to work on my doubles game and try to become more adaptable and learn to play against a bunch of different people,” she said.
Sheets and Shropshire played on Greenwich’s 2019 squad that was edged by New Canaan in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals, 4-3 and Wilton in the first round of the Class L tourney, 4-3.
“We just want to play our best, win as many matches as we can and get further in the FCIAC and state championships than we did our last season,” Sheets said. “It’s kind of cool that I get to take on a different role this time as a co-captain. Abby has been great as a co-captain.”
Added Abby Shropshire: “As a captain, I’m hoping to pass on traditions from years in the past that a lot of these girls haven’t experienced.”