Entering Friday’s semifinal-round match of the CIAC Class LL Tournament against visiting Westhill, the Greenwich High School boys tennis team had only two losses to its ledger, both of which came against the Vikings.
But with the stakes as high as they could be in round three between the two formidable FCIAC foes, the Cardinals avenged those losses in big way.
Second-seeded Greenwich advanced to the championship match of the CIAC Class LL Tournament with an exciting 4-3 victory over sixth-seeded Westhill in the state semifinals. The Cardinals (18-2) will play fifth-seeded FCIAC rival Staples (18-3) in today’s 2:30 p.m. Class LL final at Wesleyan University.
“As one of the parents said after the match, ‘the third time was the charm,'” Greenwich coach Ray Marschall said of the Cardinals defeating Westhill after losing their previous two matches against the Vikings. “It was an incredible match.”
Friday’s Class LL Tournament semifinal matchup was tied at 3-3 with all eyes on the No. 4 singles match between Greenwich’s David Karetsky and Westhill’s Vishal Nayak. Karetsky lost the first set 6-2, yet rebounded to take the second set, 6-3. In the third set, Karetsky was a 7-5 winner and the Cardinals moved on to this afternoon’s state final against the Wreckers.
“Karetsky getting mobbed by his teammates after things were tied up at three matches apiece was the highlight,” Marschall said. “It was a great match and the kids were beside themselves after we won.”
Marschall was impressed with the adjustment’s Karetsky made after he dropped the first set to Nayak at the fourth singles spot with everyone in attendance squarely focused on the match.
“He played well, I started to figure things out and played much more aggressive in the second set,” Marschall said of Karetsky said. “He put the caution to the win and really came alive. Karetsky played an inspired and thinking man’s game by turning things around after a first set loss and then hung tough in the third set.”
The Cardinals received a huge boost from their doubles teams, as they won all three matches. At No. 1 doubles, juniors Cai Jain and Nick O’Brien were victorious for GHS, edging Arjun Batra/Justin Bilenker, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. The win at first doubles tied the match up at 3-3 for the Cards.
“Nick and Cai lost to them pretty badly the first time we played them and last week they lost in two tiebreakers, so are trending up,” Marschall said of his No. 1 doubles duo.
In the No. 2 doubles match, Greenwich’s outstanding freshman tandem of Ishan Ambastha and Rohan Mittal won in straight sets against Westhill, 7-5, 6-3.
“Our second doubles team are learning how to stop the slide and turn things around when it starts to happen,” Marschall said. “They played a great match and tied it up for us at 2-2. They played solidly and figured out what needed to be done.”
Third doubles saw the Cards’ young team of sophomore Tristan Sowter and freshman Manuel Galli Specos earn another key win, topping Westhill’s Vadanya Palawaj/Rohan Sahu, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
The first singles matchup between Westhill’s Rohan Suryawanshi and Greenwich’s Dylan Atkinson was decided in a three sets. Suryawanshi lost the opening set, 6-4, but won the next two 7-5, to take the hard-fought match.
“Dylan Atkinson suffered a toe injury in the second set and played valiantly in that set and the final one,” Marschall said.
Westhill received a victory from Ryan Karam at No. 2 singles. He posted a 6-1, 6-1 win against Cardinals senior Yuta Kawamura at the second spot. At third singles, the Vikings’ Arjun Anand was a 6-2, 7-5 winner against Greenwich sophomore Harrison Wolfe.
“Harrison came back from the first set and played a very, very, good second set,” Marschall said.
This afternoon’s state final against between Greenwich and Staples marks the second meeting between the rivals. The Cardinals edged the Wreckers in Westport back on April 20, 4-3.
Greenwich last won the Class LL state title in 2016, when it shared the championship with Staples. Their last outright win at the state tournament came in 2013.
Staples has won the Class LL championship five straight years and are seeking another title.