The Greenwich-Staples boys tennis rivalry is one that dates back to the early 1990s, when the teams played each other for the first time with the FCIAC championship at stake. Since then, the Cardinals and Wreckers have met 12 times in the championship match of the FCIAC Tournament and have placed either first or second in the CIAC Class LL state tournament on 10 occasions.
During their storied rivalry, each squad has enjoyed their championship moments, while, of course, earning bragging rights and Thursday, Greenwich made a strong opening statement when it tested its skills against visiting Staples.
Flourishing in both singles and doubles play, Greenwich swept FCIAC rival Staples, 7-0, extending its winning streak to three matches to start the season.
The 2022 season saw the Cardinals defeat Staples in the regular season, but the Wreckers topped Greenwich in the championship match of the CIAC Class LL Tournament, 4-1, claiming their sixth straight state championship.
“Last year, it was super devastating in the finals, we lost 4-1 to this team, Staples, in the state championship,” said Greenwich senior captain Dylan Atkinson, who plays at the No. 1 singles spot. Last year, Westhill had our number, Staples had our number at the end of the year, so hopefully, this will be our year. We’re all playing super well, but we can’t get too ahead of ourselves like we did last year.”
The Cardinals, coached by Ray Marschall, lost to Westhill in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals a season ago, then the Vikings were victorious against Staples in the conference final. Greenwich avenged its regular-season loss and FCIAC Tournament setback versus Westhill, by topping the Vikings in the 2022 Class LL Tournament semifinals.
Highly skilled in both singles and doubles competition, with plenty of depth on its roster, Greenwich is aiming to experience a championship season. The Cards last won the FCIAC title in 2013, when it beat Staples in the finals and the last time they won the Class LL championship was 2016, as they shared the team title with Staples.
“I feel we already have as much chemistry now as we did maybe five or six weeks into the season last year, so it’s awesome,” Atkinson noted. “We’ve mixed the lineup up the first two matches and we’ve looked really good, we haven’t dropped a set all year before today. “The team is really solid and coming together as a group, because there are so many returning guys with so much experience.”
Greenwich, which began its 2023 campaign with 7-0 victories against Brien McMahon and Fairfield Ludlowe, received a straight-set win from Atkinson at first singles against Staples. Displaying his strong serve and on-target groundstrokes, Atkinson posted a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Lucas Ceballos-Cala at No. 1 singles.
“Everything was going how I wanted to play,” Atkinson said. “I served big and tried to stay solid on the return. Thankfully, I was reading his serve well and right from there I was able to get the points started.”
At No. 2 singles, freshman Volodymyr Dombrovskyi earned a 6-0, 6-1 win for GHS against Jared Even. Dombrovskyi arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine shortly before the school year began this past September and has already played tennis for nine years.
“It feels awesome, I love the team and the energy,” Dombrovskyi said. “We have a very good singles lineup.”
Dombrovskyi succeeded in dictating the points in his No. 2 singles matchup.
“I was doing good on approaches and going forward to the net,” he said. “I feel like my serve was good throughout the match.”
Senior David Karetsky registered an impressive 6-3, 6-1 victory at third singles for the Cardinals against Shreyas Gorre.
“It’s awesome, earlier this spring, we had a couple of warm-up matches in preparation for this match and I think we executed our game plan perfectly,” Karetsky said of the Cardinals’ overall performance against the Wreckers.
Indeed, both Greenwich and Staples always have their matches against each other marked on their respective schedules each season.
“It feels great to win this match, we took the ‘L’ against them last year in the finals at states, so it’s great to come back and beat them,” Karetsky said. “We have young guys and a lot of depth. Hypothetically, 2, 3, 4, you can interchange anybody.”
At fourth singles, sophomore Manuel Galli Specos was a 6-0, 6-0 winner against Staples’ Alex Cozzolino.
“It was a great win and a really solid match for our team,” Galli Specos said. “In my match, I just stayed solid. I won a lot of points at the net and I had a really good first serve, so that was the key.”
Galli Specos appreciates the depth and competitive fire the Cardinals possess.
“Not only singles, but in doubles we are really deep, compared to other teams,” he noted. “Practices are always competitive, because everyone is so good, which makes it fun.”
The most competitive match of the day came at first doubles, where Greenwich seniors Cai Jain and Nick O’Brien, an experienced duo, came back to defeat Alex Guadarrama/Hayden Frey 2-6, 7-5, 10-6.
Second doubles saw junior Harrison Wolfe and sophomore Rohan Mittal of the Cardinals top Mattie Guadarrama/Patrick Tesoriero 6-2, 6-3.
At No. 3 doubles, GHS junior Bruce Lunder and sophomore Alexander Salib beat Holden Dalzell/Henry Matar 6-3, 6-3.
Staples’ record stands at 2-2 overall and 2-1 in FCIAC play, following the loss. The Wreckers are playing without the services of sophomores Noah Wolff and Brett Lampert, both of whom suffered injuries shortly prior to the season.
Wolff was slated to compete at the No. 1 singles spot, while Lampert would have been near the top of the singles or doubles lineup. Staples coach Kris Hrisovulos is hopeful to have both players back sometime in May.
Hrisovulos has guided the Wreckers to eight Class LL state championships and five FCIAC Championships during his 12 seasons as the team’s coach. Greenwich and Staples have met 13 times in the FCIAC Tournament final since 1992, with the Cardinals holding a 10-3 advantage. The Wreckers, however, have won the last three times the teams faced each other in the FCIAC championship match (2015, 2016, 2018).
“Overall, it was not our day,” Hrisovulos said. “Greenwich is tough, top to bottom, kudos to them for bringing that energy. We fought hard, it is a regular season match early on. We’ve been down this road before, where we’ve lost to them in the regular season and bounced back.”
Greenwich travels to Norwalk on Monday, then hosts Fairfield Warde on Tuesday, before making a trip to Trumbull on Thursday.
Atkinson, who is thriving at the No. 1 singles spot, will continue his tennis career in Virginia at the University of Richmond.
“I’m super pumped, it was super stressful last year reaching out to all these coaches,” Atkinson said of the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. “But now that it’s all done, I’m super excited and pumped and motivated to next year.”
“This is sort of my sneak peak to team tennis next year,” Atkinson continued. “I’ve been with the team two years, it’s two great years.”
The Cardinals are aiming to end Atkinson’s third season with the team in championship fashion.
“Win it all, win a state championship – that’s our goal,” Karetsky said.
Categories: Greenwich High, Spring sports
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