The championship matches in the all-FCIAC girls tennis State Open on Wednesday, June 11, were as close as could be for straight-sets victories with two greatly different themes.
The theme of the singles final was familiarity, for outside the arena, the players are best friends and doubles partners in out-of-school tournaments. And common thread of the doubles final was lack of familiarity because the Wilton and Staples teams did not meet in the regular-season.
Darien freshman Kateri Martin, seeded fifth, defeated pal Lindsey Evans, a Ludlowe junior, 7-5, 7-5, despite trailing in each set. Martin beat Evans 6-4, 6-3 on May 19 in Fairfield when the Blue Wave handed the Falcons their only loss of the season to earn the No. 1 seed, for the FCIAC Championships. Last Friday, in the Class L final, Evans gained a 6-4, 6-4 victory that helped Ludlowe to a 4-3 win and the state title over Darien.
Three courts over, Wilton's Kaitlyn Zheng, a junior, and Taylor Ingerman, a sophomore, beat the Staples pair of senior Kelsey Shockey and freshman Vanessa Mauricio 6-3, 7-6(8-6) by winning the last two points of the tiebreaker. The Warriors' team was seeded fourth and the Wreckers' duo was the No. 7 seed. Both pairs won grueling three-set victories in the semifinals on Tuesday at Yale.
Both Martin and Evans agreed with the notion that they knew the day would end happily regardless of who won. Yet on the court, the friendship was an afterthought.
"I don't like her anymore," Evans said, mere minutes after posing for photographers capturing them giving each other double high-fives while smiling.
Ludlowe's John Reisert said in 16 years of coaching he's never seen state singles finalists who were doubles partners and close friends.
"It's really unusual to see," he said. "When the match began, both players treated it as a match. They both focused on the match and let the tennis decide it and not the friendship."
Evans said her regular-season loss to Martin came in part from her treating Martin as a friend. That was overcome in the Class L final.
"I think she played a lot better today (than last Friday)," said Evans, who completed the season with a 25-2 record.
"I was making more balls today than Friday," said Martin, who finished 2014 at 26-2, "Definitely, I was more mentally there than Friday."
Martin said the turning points for her victory came from her rallies when she trailed 5-4 in the first set and 3-0 in the second.
Evans had broken Martin's serve for a 5-3 lead but Martin closed out the first set with wins in the last four games. Evans opened the second set with a 3-0 lead but Martin rallied for three straight to tie it at 3-3. Evans won the next two games, then Martin fought back again to claim the trophy by winning four games in a row.
Staples led the first set of the doubles match 2-1 before Zheng/Ingerman broke serve and won five of the last six games. Shockey/Mauricio clung to a 5-4 lead in the second set before the Warriors won two in a row for a 6-5 advantage. Staples got it to 6-6, forcing the back-and-forth tiebreaker.