DARIEN -- The Darien girls tennis team enjoyed a dominant regular season with its lone loss coming against Greenwich. The Blue Wave also had big title aspirations entering the FCIAC tournament but were shocked once again in the semifinals by those very same Cardinals. With their only two losses coming at the hands of GHS, the Darien girls had all the motivation they needed Tuesday when they hosted the No. 11 seeded Cardinals in the Class L Open State quarterfinals. The third time was the charm for the home team as the No. 3 seeded Blue Wave bested Greenwich 5-1 to advance to the state semifinals.
According to Darien (18-2) coach Davin Gebauer this win was all about regaining their confidence and remembering what worked for them all season long.
"We have a great deal of respect for Greenwich as they've been an excellent program for quite some time but having them hand us our only two losses this season was hard to take," Gebauer said. "We talked a lot about building our confidence up coming into this match and our captains did a great job keeping everyone focused. Even though we had lost to them twice we had to remember that we're a pretty good team when playing our best and I think we showed that today."
The Blue Wave showed just how good they can be as No. 1 singles player Kateri Martin knocked off Greenwich's Anna Daccache 6-2, 6-0 while No. 2 Mia Dursht edged Maddie Arnold 7-5, 6-4. The home team made it three straight singles victories as No. 3 Pia Teschner impressed with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Maggie Glynn before GHS (16-6) finally got on the scoreboard with Hannah Kratky beating Darien's Madison Bolotin in No. 4 singles 6-1, 6-0. The No. 1 Blue Wave doubles tandem of Erika Gill and Libby Feingold picked right up where their singles teammates left off notching a 6-1, 6-0 win over Julia Akerman and Lizzie Griffin.
"We always believed we were the better team despite those two losses," Feingold said. "We had the ability all along but today we played with confidence and used those two previous matches as added motivation."
The Darien No. 2 doubles duo of Catherine Hatfield and Anna Barsanti capped off a stellar team performance with a hard earned 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Lena Schipper and Riley Sheets before the No. 3 doubles match between Allegra Molkenthin and Susie Alptekin of Darien and Isabelle Janssen and Maitlyn Murphy was called at split sets due to inclement weather. Now the Blue Wave move on to face yet another league foe in the semifinals as they will host No. 7 Staples Wednesday at 3 p.m. and the fact that three out of the final four teams remaining are from the FCIAC only highlights the tough road Darien has traveled this season.
"It just shows how strong the teams we faced all season are but in many ways I think it's a blessing to play in this league because it prepares you well for postseason competition," Feingold said. "We're familiar with Staples and Ludlowe if we were to meet in the finals. There are no surprises from here on out."
While Darien is one step closer to the Class L championship the Cardinals season has come to a close and although it didn't end with the hardware which GHS is accustomed to hoisting over the years it was a very successful campaign according to head coach Betsy Underhill.
"It was a great season for us because we entered the year looking to rebuild with little expectations placed on us and delivered a super competitive season," Underhill said. "This is easily one of the most compatible teams with excellent chemistry up and down the roster. These girls really enjoyed playing together and the sad faces you see today are not a reflection of losing a match but in reference to this being their final time together this season."
And although they stand to lose a hand full of seniors Underhill firmly believes they are a team on the rise.
"This team will only get better and better as they move forward," Underhill said. "The dynamics of a team will always change with departing seniors but it's going to be very exciting to see these younger players take that next step and improve."
For Darien next year is the furthest thing from their mind and a title is all they are focused on.
"We're confident in our chances to win this tournament," Gill said. "We have the talent, have the confidence, and we all want it so badly."
Class L Quarterfinal
Darien 5, Greenwich 1
Singles: No. 1 D Kateri Martin def. Anna Daccache 6-2, 6-0; No. 2 D Mia Dursht def. Maddie Arnold 7-5, 6-4; No. 3 D Pia Teschner def. Maggie Glynn 6-3, 6-2; No. 4 G Hannah Kratky def. Madison Bolotin 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles: No. 1 D Erika Gill and Libby Feingold def. Julia Akerman and Lizzie Griffin 6-1, 6-0; No. 2 D Catherine Hatfield and Anna Barsanti def. Lena Schipper and Riley Sheets 6-4, 7-6 (7-3); No. 3 D Allegra Molkenthin and Susie Alptekin vs. Isabelle Janssen and Maitlyn Murphy 6-2 (D), 7-5 (G) called due to weather.
Records: D 18-2; G 16-6