Greenwich’s journey in the CIAC Class LL Boys Tennis Tournament came to an end against a team that is vying for its fifth consecutive state team title – longtime rival Staples.
Displaying consistency in each of its matches, top-seeded Staples earned a berth in the Class LL Tournament semifinals, sweeping eighth-seeded Greenwich, 7-0, in Tuesday’s quarterfinal-round in Westport.
The Wreckers will host Ridgefield in today’s 3 p.m. Class LL semifinals. Greenwich finished its season with a record of 11-7, though some of its players may qualify to compete in the CIAC State Open – an individual invitational tournament, featuring both singles and doubles competition, at Wesleyan University.
“We were very locked in after a gut-check FCIAC final for us,” said Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos, whose team lost to Darien in the FCIAC final. “It was a big learning curve. We have a very inexperienced team in big situations and I think we learned a lot from our FCIAC final match. Today playing a great program like Greenwich, a rival and being at home, they really wanted to set a tone of learning from that experience and we played a great match.”
At first singles, Staples junior Tighe Brunetti registered a 6-2, 6-2 win against Greenwich senior Matthew Luzzi.
“I just didn’t bring my best today,” Luzzi said. “He was playing really well and forcing me to move around a lot and I couldn’t really keep up. He played a great match.”
Brunetti was able to regain the momentum in the match each time Luzzi took a game.
“I was able to bring some momentum in the first couple of games, then the momentum kind of dissipated, Luzzi said. “Staples definitely brought their best today. They were playing awesome. Kudos to them, they played amazing.”
Luzzi enjoyed his tennis experience at Greenwich, especially his senior season serving as one of the team’s captains.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I really appreciate the guys on the team. We played very competitively, we took practices seriously and we had a good team at team events, so I think it was a pretty good season.”
In the No. 2 singles match, junior Robbie Daus notched a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Cardinals sophomore Dylan Atkinson. Daus lost to Atkinson during the regular season, but was in top form in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
“Robbie is an amazing competitor and Dylan is a great ball-striker,” Hrisovulos said. “Robbie from the regular season, knew what the game plan was and getting another chance and being on his home court, he really wanted this opportunity.”
Said Atkinson: “He played lights out, he probably served 90 percent, I served pretty well and a pretty high percentage, but I couldn’t do much after it, because he didn’t miss. He was putting the ball deep and hit everything well.”
Highly active on the USTA junior circuit, Atkinson enjoys the team aspect high school tennis offers.
“I learned the team sport is a whole different world,” Atkinson said. “You learn that you have to rally the whole team, not just yourself. You have to pump them up and focus on your team as well.”
Junior Brandon Felcher of Staples was a straight-set winner against Cardinals junior Yuta Kawamura, winning his match at the No. 3 spot, 6-1, 6-1. Lucas Haynes, a senior, was a 6-2, 6-2 winner against GHS freshman Matthew Hunt at No. 4.
“Obviously the score says it wasn’t great, but I think it was more competitive than that,” Hunt said. “I was playing a lefty and it’s hard for me to play a lefty, because I’m not used to it and he’s used to playing righties. In the second set, I tried to become more aggressive, but it was very hard, because my natural approach is forehand down the line, but it goes right to his forehand, so it was tough.”
The season saw Hunt steadily improve as a member of the Cards’ singles lineup.
“It was really good, I’m only a freshman and I got to play singles four,” he said. “I had great teammates and I’m excited for next year.”
In doubles competition, senior Bradley Sheppard and junior Luke Brodsky were victorious for Staples against Greenwich seniors Colin Speaker and Christian Fikre, 6-2, 6-2.
“It was a really tough one, they were so consistent, they gave us nothing, no free points,” Speaker said. “When you’re down big, you need a free point or two and we got nothing today. They are really consistent and strong players.”
The Cardinals’ No. 1 doubles tandem have partnered up since their freshman season and will especially remember their senior campaign.
“Meeting the younger players, who are the future of this team has been awesome,” Fikre said. “Seeing how we have all progressed this season has been great. We are hopefully, going to the Open, and looking forward to that and we are looking forward to seeing how the team progresses.”
Hrisovulos has seen his No. 1 doubles team excel all season.
“Luke and Bradley have been a great team all season, they complement each other very well and are both great athletes,” Hrisovulos said. “They play off each other really well and they were locked in.”
At second doubles, seniors Alex Miller and Jake Motyl defeated Cardinals sophomores Cai Jain and Nick O’Brien, 6-1, 6-4. In the No. 3 doubles match, senior Josh Suggs and junior Matthew Chiang posted a 6-5, 6-1 victory against Greenwich senior Sebastian Yamasato and junior Luke Piccininno, 7-5, 6-1.
“I am incredibly proud of the guys,” Greenwich coach Ray Marschall said. “Just thinking back to the beginning of the season, when we were trying to figure out how to play, who was a doubles team – we’ve improved so much. “Luzzi was the only guy with any experience on varsity. So the progression I saw in terms of consistency of play, hitting deep shots, coming to net and the camaraderie was very impressive. These guys are now a team.”