With teams like Staples, New Canaan, Fairfield Ludlowe and Darien in the FCIAC, it is the most competitive girls tennis conference in the state. And of course, included in that mix of standout squads in the FCIAC is Greenwich, which is seeking to further its success this spring.
Following a winning regular season, Greenwich lost to New Canaan in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals, then defeated Ridgefield and Glastonbury in the first two rounds of the CIAC Class LL Tournament, before being edged by Fairfield Ludlowe in the quarterfinal-round, 4-3.
With an impressive nucleus of experienced players returning from last season’s team, the Cardinals begin the season with plenty of optimism.
“I’m feeling really good about the team,” Greenwich senior co-captain Courteney Sheets said. “We have more players on the roster and we have a lot of depth, we have a lot of good players, so I’m feeling very confident about our season and I think we’ll go further than last year.”
Sheets is a four-year starter on the varsity team and also served as one of the captains last year. She played fourth singles in 2021 and this season she has made the move to doubles. The Cardinals’ first two matches of the season has seen Sheets play at the No. 1 doubles spot with junior Julia Tamis.
“I like it more so than I thought I would, because I’m usually a singles player, but I’m having more fun at doubles,” Sheets said. “It’s giving me more opportunities to come up to the net and improve my volleys, which is really fun. I’m getting better at poaching and lobbing.”
The Cardinals opened their 2022 campaign with a 7-0 road victory against Brien McMahon on Monday. They were defeated at home by Fairfield Ludlowe, 5-2, Tuesday, in a tight match. Greenwich played the Ludlowe without starters Malena Schraa and Emily Weinstein who were out sick.
While Sheets is playing doubles this spring, senior co-captain Kylie Finkelstein will move around the lineup, playing both singles and doubles. She played at the No. 3 singles spot against Ludlowe and competed at third doubles in the Cards’ match against McMahon.
“Yesterday, I played third doubles against Brien McMahon and today I played third singles as a replacement, so I kind of just try to be more versatile,” Finkelstein said. “Doubles and singles are very different games. Playing doubles the first match was fun and it was good to be able to work on different techniques and get better.”
In Greenwich’s season-opener against Brien McMahon, junior Ivanna Diez de Bonilla was victorious for the Cardinals at No. 1 singles, defeating Cecilia Anderson, 6-1, 6-0. Diez de Bonilla is coming off a stellar sophomore season in which she won the majority of her matches at the top singles spot.
Sophomore Kyra Dybas won her match at No. 2 singles for GHS against McMahon, topping Brielle McManaman, 6-1, 6-1. Dybas also successfully played second singles a year ago.
“I’m really grateful to be playing again,” Dybas said. “So far the season has been fun and I’m looking forward to be playing more with this team.”
“Second singles this year, I’m mainly focusing on myself and preventing my own errors, because that was a big issue last season,” Dybas continued.
Malena Schraa, also a sophomore, is another key returning singles player, adding to the Cardinals’ experience and depth. Schraa had a sensational freshman season at No. 3 singles and started the season Monday by posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory against McMahon’s Caroline McClung.
Lilly Foley, a sophomore, begins her first season at the No. 4 doubles spot for the Cards. Foley swept to a 6-0, 6-0 win in the season-opener against Brien McMahon.
Sheets and Tamis teamed up for a 6-0, 6-0 victory at first doubles in the season-opening match, while freshman Yume Inagawa and sophomore Emily Weinstein took a 6-1, 6-0 decision at second doubles. Finkelstein teamed up with freshman Emme Pecorin at third doubles in the season-opener and they posted a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Against Ludlowe, Diez de Bonilla was edged by Mae Kellersman at No. 1 singles, 7-5, 3-6, 5-7. Dybas registered a 6-1, 6-1 win against Ludlowe’s Siya Bajaj.
“The serve was a bit of an issue today, but I was able to pull through and mentally stay in the game,” Dybas said of her match against Ludlowe. “They’re a very good team, we had trouble with them last year.”
Third singles saw Ludlowe’s Julia Leykikh get past Finkelstein, 7-5, 6-0.
“I started out pretty strong and lost the first set 7-5,” Finkelstein said. “This is the highest position I’ve ever been put in, but I tried my best and I fought for every ball.”
That’s the type of mentality Finkelstein wants to see from the team on a consistent basis.
“We are looking to make it as far as we can and also to have everyone be serious about it, but have fun and fight for every ball,” she said.
Foley lost to Ludlowe’s Phoebe Shostak at fourth singles, 6-2, 6-4 and Tamis/Sheets were defeated at first doubles against the Falcons, 6-3, 6-0.
“Julia and I started out really strong, we won the first three games and then we started struggling,” Sheets noted. “We definitely have some things to work on for next time.”
Juniors Mei McGuinness and Valentina Rivano played strong at second doubles versus Ludlowe and were edged, 6-4, 6-4. Greenwich’s doubles victory came from Pecorin and Inagawa, as they registered a 6-2, 7-6 (2) win.
Greenwich is back in action again against longtime rival Staples tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at GHS.
“Staples is really good, so everyone will have to play their best if we’re going to do okay,” Dybas said. “We are looking for a lot of improvement from last year.”
“This year, we want to make it as far as we can, have everyone improve, build good team chemistry and help some of the girls to keep improving,” Sheets said.