During an up and down season, the Darien boys tennis team seemed to finally have righted the ship last week by winning three consecutive matches that brought its record to .500 for the first time in a month. All that stood between the Blue Wave and its fourth straight victory was a road test against a Westhill bunch that had put together a seven-match winning streak of its own. Thus, one streak would end before Monday's match was through, and despite a valiant effort by Darien, the Vikings were too much to handle in a 5-2 win.
While Westhill head coach Patrick Vician did walk off the court pleased with his squad's result, he was also highly impressed by the opposition.
"I have to give Darien a lot of credit because they're a far better team than their record indicates," Vician said. "This was easily one of the most difficult matches we've had all season and that is a credit to their players and coach. As far as we're concerned I'm very happy with how our No. 1 doubles team stepped up today and got the deciding win for us to take some pressure off our singles players."
Early on, the Vikings (8-2) set the tone in singles competition with No. 1 Danny Soifer edging Sammy Alptekin 6-4, 6-3, while Westhill's No. 3 Prashant Toteja bested Brad D' Alelio 6-0, 6-0. The Blue Wave (5-6) had a strong showing in No. 2 singles play, as freshman Tim Derby defeated Miles Singer 6-1, 6-0, but that was the lone singles win for the visitors. Westhill's No. 4 Alex Romaine knocked off James Teschner 6-2, 6-1 and Richie Green narrowly defeated Darien's Harrison Walter 6-0, 3-6, (10-8) in a tightly contested fifth singles match.
"All season long one of the most difficult things we've had to deal with has been finding a consistent lineup," Teschner said. "And even though we didn't get the win today, I think we found that lineup that we can compete with for the rest of the season. I think that consistency will definitely help us moving forward."
Another bright spot for the Blue Wave came in the form of their No. 2 doubles duo of Ross Hamilton and Charlie Brooks, who impressed with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Matt Yang and Juan Elizathe. But a team victory was officially put out of Darien's reach when Viking freshmen Crosby Fox and Rishabh Tandon defeated the Wave's No. 1 doubles team of Tyler Hatfield and Russell Mahaney 6-3, 6-4.
According to Darien head coach Rob Neuner, despite the loss, his team is still very much in position to make a playoff push in the final two weeks. Furthermore, while there are sure to be some high-pressure matches down the stretch, he doesn't want his players to change their approach one bit.
"You can't let the moment change how you play," Neuner said. "Even if it's a match that makes or breaks our playoff chances, I want the doubles teams to play aggressive and the singles players to play conservative in extending rallies. The best thing you can do regardless of the circumstances is stick to the gameplan and just control what's in front of you."
The Blue Wave's push for an FCIAC playoff spot will begin Tuesday in a home match against Danbury at 4 p.m. Over the following two weeks, Darien will face the likes of New Canaan, Fairfield Ludlowe, and Brien McMahon in matches with huge postseason ramifications.
"Those are some huge matches we have coming up," D'Alelio said. "They will definitely be deciding matches for us and as captains it's our responsibility to have this team focused when that time comes."
Westhill 5, Darien 2
Records: W-- 8-2 D --5-6
Singles: No. 1 W Danny Soifer def. Sammy Alptekin 6-4, 6-3; No. 2 D Tim Derby def. Miles Singer 6-1, 6-0; No. 3 W Prashant Toteja def. Brad D'Alelio 6-0, 6-0; No. 4 W Alex Romaine def. James Teschner 6-2, 6-1; No. 5 W Richie Green def. Harrison Walter 6-0, 3-6, (10-8).
Doubles: No. 1 W Crosby Fox and Rishabh Tandon def. Tyler Hatfield and Russell Mahaney 6-3, 6-4; No. 2 D Ross Hamilton and Charlie Brooks def. W Matt Yang and Juan Elizathe.