Greenwich girls tennis team downs Darien in opener
For the Greenwich High girls tennis team -- the model of winning consistency -- this season represents a big change.
Not one doubles pairing from the 2012 FCIAC championship team is returning. The new lineup had its share of growing pains in the first match of the season against Darien, but GHS was dominant in singles play and walked away with a 4-3 victory over the Blue Wave.
Greenwich coach Betsy Underhill says early part of the season will be a learning process, but the roster has the potential to garner the same success as their predecessors.
"We've been an exceptional team in the past and there is always pressure to live up to that history," Underhill said. "In addition to that we also have the challenge of having these new combinations learning to play together. But the talent is there to be successful and while we'll certainly be tested both physically and mentally throughout the season, we will also grow from those moments of adversity."
The Cardinals received great performances from their senior co-captains: No. 1 Jenn DeLuca and No. 2 Sam Stone, who both won in straight sets. No. 3 Anna Daccache and No. 4 Hannah Kratky also impressed with straight-set wins.
"It was great being back on the court today even with the weather being less than ideal," Stone said. "Being a senior and a captain on this team, I'm so excited for this season and what this team is capable of."
The new doubles pairings did not fare as well as their singles counterparts but showed great potential as the No. 1 duo of senior co-captain Julia Hyland and junior Julia Akerman pushed Darien's Sarah Alptekin and Catherine Hatfield to three sets before falling 7-6, 0-6, 6-2. The No. 2 Greenwich team of Mathilde Van Tulder and Lizzie Griffin as well as the No. 3 tandem of Mary Cecio and Liza Johnson both lost in straight sets.
"The first match together as a team is always a little difficult in terms of feeling the pressure of a match and getting accustomed to playing together," Hyland said. "It's a work in progress, but with time I believe these new doubles combinations will prove to be a strength for this team."
The Greenwich girls will look to go two for two on the season when they travel to Westhill today for a 4 p.m. match with the Vikings.
AT THE HELM: Underhill is entering her 17th season as head coach. Last season the Cardinals went 21-1, winning the FCIAC championship but falling to rival New Canaan in the state finals by a 4-3 count.
WHO'S GONE?: Greenwich graduated talent in the form of Claudia Kesala, Audrey Villemure, and Danielle Cepelewicz.
WHO'S BACK?: The Cardinals return plenty of talent in DeLuca, Stone, Hyland, and Akerman.
WATCH OUT FOR: How Greenwich deals with being Greenwich. The Cardinals have been the most dominant girls tennis team in Connecticut since Underhill's arrival, which means every team they play will be looking for a season-defining upset.
"We have very high expectations and it is the responsibility of us as captains to keep the team together and focused," DeLuca said.
STRENGTHS: Despite their first match production Underhill is confident the new doubles combinations will prove to be an asset for GHS. "Oftentimes new pairings can breathe new life into a team," she said.
WEAKNESSES: In the same breath those new combinations will also present unusual challenges. "There will be some pressure on those teams early on and how they respond early in the season could be a hurdle we'll need to overcome," Underhill said.
SHOWDOWNS: Key matches include at Fairfield Warde (April 23, 4 p.m.), Staples (May 6, 4 p.m.), and the highlight match of the season when Greenwich travels to New Canaan on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. match.
Greenwich 4, Darien 3
Singles: No.1 G Jenn DeLuca def. Jenna Murray 6-1, 6-0; No.2 G Sam Stone def. Pia Teschner 6-4, 6-2; No.3 G Anna Daccache def. Haley Close 6-0, 7-5; No.4 G Hannah Kratky def. Katie Lashendock 6-1, 6-3.
Doubles: No.1 D Sarah Alptekin and Catherine Hatfield def. Julia Hyland and Julia Akerman 7-6, 0-6, 6-2; No.2 D Libby Feingold and Anna Barsanti def. Mathilde Van Tulder and Lizzie Griffin 6-2, 6-1; No.3 D Allegra Molkenthin and Sandhya Avula def. Mary Cecio and Liza Johnson 7-6, 6-4. Records: G 1-0; D 0-1