The first test for the Greenwich High School girls tennis team in the state tournament was Friday when unfamiliar foe Cheshire came to town.
And the Cardinals impressively passed their test to advance to their next challenge.
Fourteenth-seeded Greenwich registered a convincing 6-1 victory over No. 19 Cheshire in the qualifying round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament, sweeping all three doubles matches and winning three of the four singles matchups.
“It was really exciting for us to play a team outside of the FCIAC after a long season,” Greenwich coach Julie Shropshire said. “I thought each girl did really well, they did what we worked on during practices.”
Tuesday is the Cardinals’ next challenge – a formidable one, indeed. Defeating Cheshire in the qualifying round, earned Greenwich a berth in the first round of the Class LL Tournament, where it will visit third-seeded Staples on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
Greenwich dropped a 5-1 decision to Staples on April 20 and was defeated by the Wreckers, 6-1, in the quarterfinal-round of the FCIAC Tournament.
“I know everyone is going to be a little bit nervous, because we lost to them the past two games,” GHS senior co-captain Courteney Sheets said of playing Staples. “But I think it’s doable. We’re have a lot of talent and skill on this team. Everyone has to go into the match with a positive attitude.”
Sheets and partner Julia Tamis, a junior, gave the Cardinals a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles Friday. The duo topped Cheshire’s Lila Watkinson and Riley Baldoni with fine play throughout the match.
“We were a little bit nervous at first, we were making errors, but we started focusing more and just started making smarter shots and it benefited us,” Sheets said.
The Cards’ No. 1 duo made key adjustments as the first set progressed.
“With our nerves at the beginning, it took us a while to adjust and we realized coming up to net and using our strong net game really helped with most of our shots,” Tamis said. “So if the alley was open, we would definitely take advantage of that.”
Indeed, Sheets, a singles player her first several seasons on the squad, has learned plenty this spring while playing doubles.
“It’s important to communicate well with your doubles partner, to cheer each other on,” she said.
“We definitely build off each other’s energy, when we’re playing with high energy, it helps us strategize more and be more aggressive,” Tamis noted.
Sophomore Malena Schraa was off the court first for the Cards in Friday’s state tournament match against the Rams. Dictating the majority of the points, Schraa recorded a 6-1, 6-1 win over Asya Tarabar.
“I was excited to play a different team we haven’t played before,” Schraa said. “Today, I thought I played my best and it ended up working for me.”
Schraa was able to stay in control of the match throughout.
“I was just trying new things, which I told Julia I wanted to do,” she said. “I was going more to net, which singles players tend not to do too much. So I was just trying new things and it actually worked a lot better for me than I thought it would.”
Cheshire’s victory came at No. 1 singles, where Alex Orlins got past GHS junior Ivanna Diez de Bonilla, 6-1, 6-1.
“Today’s match, I was up against a tough opponent, so I didn’t have much time to think about what I could do differently or what I should change,” Diez de Bonilla said. “I guess I have to practice drop shots or stuff that I could use in future matches if we get further in states.”
Greenwich’s No. 1 singles player is pleased with what she’s seen from the team as they begin competition in the Class LL Tournament.
“I’m pretty confident going into states, because we’ve been working really hard and slowly, we’ve been getting better,” Diez de Bonilla said. “We’ve been using our practices more efficiently.”
At second singles, the Cardinals received another sparkling performance from Kyra Dybas. A sophomore, Dybas was a 6-0, 6-1 winner against Cheshire’s Anja Joseph. The Cardinals were supported by members of the Greenwich boys tennis team, which attended the match.
“It was good to have the boys team here, it was good to have them cheering us on,” Dybas said. “I had a good match, mainly because of my serve. I tried to kick it and I was mostly just focused on moving my feet. Julie has talked a lot about being more opportunistic when I have the shot and being more aggressive and I’m doing that.”
Sophomore Lilly Foley also had her serve working in her match at fourth singles for Greenwich. Foley beat Eva Curran, 6-3, 6-1.
“My serve as really cooperating today, I was really happy with how I was serving,” Foley said. “I was getting it deep in the corners and I was getting a really good angle on a lot of my returns.”
Foley also effectively hit her groundstrokes and kept her opponent on the run.
“I was hitting sharp angles with my returns and groundstrokes and that really helped,” she said. “My opponent lobbed me a lot, so I was forced to hit a lot of overheads, which are normally either good or bad for me, it’s a 50/50 chance. Further into the match I started getting them in.”
Greenwich’s Round of 16 Class LL Tournament match against host Staples on Tuesday marks the third time it will face the Wreckers.
“Last time we played them I did win my match, but they have a lot of good players and they have a good lineup, so it’s going to be tough,” Foley said.
The Cardinals also received convincing straight set wins from their No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Emily Weinstein and freshman Yume Inagawa and their No. 3 doubles squad of senior co-captain Kylie Finkelstein and freshman Emme Pecorin.
Weinstein and Inagawa topped Cheshire’s Julia Hummel/Rachel Goldstein, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2, while Finkelstein and Pecorin were victorious at No. 3, 6-3, 6-2.
The Greenwich-Staples winner in the Tuesday’s Round of 16, plays the Maloney-East Hartford winner in Wednesday’s CIAC Class LL quarterfinals.
“Staples is a very strong, tough team,” Shropshire said. “We have to play our best. I’m really excited for Tuesday.”