Playing its first match since May 17, the Greenwich boys tennis team certainly showed it was primed to compete in its opening-round match of the CIAC Class LL Tournament on Saturday.
Winning each of their matches in straight sets, the eighth-seeded Cardinals were off the courts pretty quickly against ninth-seeded Newtown, as they recorded an impressive 7-0 victory at a different venue they’re accustomed to playing at.
Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford became the Cardinals’ home court Saturday, since inclement weather resulted in the match being held indoors, instead of at Greenwich High School. Greenwich made itself right at home at Chelsea Piers, with each of its players showing how well they have prepared for the tournament, since they lost to Wilton in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals on May 17.
“It’s nice to get an indoor match in and see all the guys in an indoor environment,” said Greenwich senior captain Matthew Luzzi, the Cards’ No. 1 singles player. “All the guys are feeling good, I’m seeing a lot of great points from our guys.”
With the first-round triumph, Greenwich advanced to the Class LL quarterfinals, where they will play either top-seeded Staples (17-1) or No. 17 Trumbull. The Wreckers and Eagles played their first round match Saturday at Staples in a matchup beginning at 5 p.m. Greenwich (12-6) lost to Staples, 5-2, during the regular season, but the Cardinals have shown a lot of improvement since.
“I think we are going to have a lot of good matches and whether we win or lose, we’ve had a great, competitive season and it’s nice to be here with all the guys and competing again,” Luzzi said of the Cardinals’ upcoming matchup in the state tournament.
Luzzi completed his match first against Newtown for the Cardinals, posting a 6-0, 6-0 win over Sam Cannizzo at the No. 1 spot. Off the court soon after for the Cardinals against the Nighthawks were the No. 1 doubles team of seniors Colin Speaker and Christian Fikre.
Speaker and Fikre were 6-0, 6-0 winners over Newtown’s Orion Bracksiek and Ben Ochs at the No. 1 spot. The Cardinals tandem exhibited powerful forehand and backhand winners, while effectively putting volleys away at the net.
“We’ve had a week, week-and-a-half since FCIACs, so we’ve been preparing all week and I think we came out to play today, as evidenced by our performance,” Speaker said.
Added Fikre: “We had a while to prepare for this match compared to others and practice makes perfect.”
Speaker believes the team is peaking at the right time, after overcoming some adversity during the regular season.
“It’s been a really tough season, the competition has been great,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, but we’ve done a great job so far of trying to push through it. We have progressed throughout the season and I think we’re ready for our next match.”
“We’ve had 15 new players to the team this year, so I think the connections among the team are evident in the progress we have made,” Fikre added. “We know what to expect from Staples at this point. We are going to focus on specifics, like my serve and Colin’s poaches. Going into our next match, we know what we need to do.”
Coached by Ray Marschall, Greenwich received a quick win from its No. 2 doubles team of sophomores Cai Jain and Nick O’Brien. Jain and O’Brien were perfect in their match against Alex Kyprianou and Andrew Sposato, winning in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0.
At second singles, Cardinals sophomore Dylan Atkinson kept his undefeated record intact. Dictating the points throughout with his strong serve and groundstrokes, Atkinson beat Christopher Lindsay, 6-1, 6-0. He has enjoyed his role in his first varsity season.
“I love this team, it’s nice being on a team with friends, who are also great supporters,” Atkinson said. “Everyone is super loud and energetic during our matches.”
Should the Cardinals play Staples, Atkinson knows he’ll be ready for the challenge.
“Last time I had a really close match with their No. 2, it was about a two-and-half hour match,” he said. “I’m super excited for a tough match and hopefully the crowd will bring some extra energy and fuel me.”
Junior Yuta Kawamura of Greenwich won his match against Josh Parsons, 6-0, 6-3.
“I have worked on my serve for more than a week and have added more power on my shots,” Kawamura said. “I’ve also been working on my backhand cross shot to add another weapon and that really worked this match.”
Freshman Matthew Hunt turned in another impressive performance at fourth singles. He topped Newtown senior Jacob Shuman, 6-0, 6-1.
“I thought I was playing well, I played a solid opponent,” Hunt said. “We had some good rallies, but in the end, I was more consistent with my shots and that’s why I won.”
Hunt is also looking forward to a possible rematch against Staples in the quarterfinals.
“Staples is always tough, last time it didn’t go well for me against Staples, but I think I’ve gotten better since the beginning of the season and I know what I have to do,” Hunt said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a better result this time. As a team we have gotten better throughout the year, both teams. We are going to face a very different Staples team and they are going to see a very different Greenwich team. It should be a fun match regardless.”
Greenwich senior Sebastian Yamasoto and junior Lucas Piccininno were also perfect at third doubles, notching a 6-0, 6-0 win. The Cardinals’ quarterfinal-round match is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.