AP NEWS

TENNIS NOTEBOOK Tournament action heats up across the state

May 16, 2019

It’s tournament time for boys and girls tennis teams in the FCIAC and NVL, while the postseason will soon begin in the state’s other conferences.

The FCIAC girls tournament commenced on Tuesday and three of the four quarterfinal round matches were completed before it began raining heavily.

Defending conference champion Staples, the undefeated No. 1 seed, kept its perfect record intact, registering a 7-0 victory eighth-seeded Fairfield Warde. Winning each match in straight sets, the Wreckers improved their record to 18-0 and will host New Canaan, a 4-3 winner over Grenwich, in Thursday’s 4 p.m. FCIAC semifinals.

In other FCIAC girls quarterfinal round action, second-seeded Darien received a stern test from seventh-seeded Westhill. Receiving a win at fourth singles from Abby Stravato and sweeping the three doubles matches, the Blue Wave (16-1) edged Westhill, 4-3, to advance to the semifinals.

Westhill was victorious at first to third singles, as Tamar Bellete (No. 1), Martina Kaba (No. 2) and Sanjana Nayak (No. 3) were each victorious. Darien hosts third-seeded Wilton (16-2) in Thursday’s semifinals. Wilton moved on by defeating sixth-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe, 6-1. Izzy Koziol continued her outstanding season at first singles for the Warriors, winning her matchup, 6-0, 6-0. Rhea Raghavan was a winner in three sets at third singles for Wilton. The FCIAC girls final is scheduled to take place at Wilton High School Monday at 4 p.m.

As Darien’s close match against Westhill and the Cardinals and Rams tight matchup illustrates, there’s more parity on the FCIAC girls tennis scene this season.

“This year’s parity is going to make the tournament very tough to win,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said.“I think anything can happen in the semis, the matches will be very close and could go either way. Both semifinal matches should be close and we will have to play our best to keep moving on. I hope we can keep the momentum going that we built up during the regular season.”

Last season saw Staples edge Darien for both the FCIAC and Class L titles.

“This is the deepest the FCIAC has been in years and I could many of the FCIAC teams going real far in the state tournaments,” Fabian said. “It will all depend on what side of the draw everyone is on.”

On the FCIAC boys scene, competition in the conference tournament began on Wednesday afternoon. Staples, the five-time defending FCIAC champion and No. 1 seed, went up against eighth-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe, while second-seeded New Canaan hosted No. 7 Westhill. Sixth-seeded Wilton visited third-seeded Darien and No. 4 Greenwich played host to fifth-seeded Ridgefield.

The boys FCIAC semifinals are scheduled to be held Friday at 4 p.m. at the higher seeds. The championship match is slated to take place at Wilton High School on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

On to the SCC, where the its boys conference tournament begins on Monday at the higher seeded schools. Most teams have one or two matches remaining in their respective regular seasons and seeding for the tournament hasn’t been set, but Daniel Hand has a firm grasp on the No. 1 seed.

Entering Wednesday’s match against visiting Branford, Hand was 18-0 and riding a 52-match winning streak dating back to the 2016 season. They are attempting to repeat as SCC champions.

“I’m excited for our team,” Hand coach Dawn Fagerquist said. “They have remained focused and ground and they are all playing well.”

Sophomore Josh Israel leads the Tigers’ deep, talented singles lineup.

“He is undefeated so far and has picked up where he left off last year,” Fagerquist said. “The determination and desire he shows is impressive.”

Senior Noah Gulla has produced a successful season at second singles, as have freshman Sebastian Lowy and sophomore David Levchenko at the third and fourth spots, respectively.

“Those No. 2, 3, 4 singles matches are always tough matches,” Fagerquist said. “A lot of times our tough matches come down to three and four singles. The SCC tournament should be very competitive. Guilford, Fairfield Prep and Xavier are all very good teams and it’s always a challenge to play and beat a team a third time.”

The SCC semifinals are scheduled to be held Tuesday at Yale University and the finals are slated for Wednesday at Yale.

On the SCC girls scene, Daniel Hand has clinched the No. 1 seed. The Tigers, led by No. 1 singles player Sam Riordan, finished their regular season a perfect 17-0. The SCC girls tournament’s quarterfinals will also take place at the higher seed, with the semifinals and finals being held at Yale Tuesday and Wednesday.

The SWC Tournament will have a new look on both the girls and boys side. Unlike season’s past, when it was a team vs. team tournament, like the other conferences, the SWC tourney has switched to an individual singles event and doubles tournament. Each team will bring its singles players and doubles teams to the event, where the singles players from all teams will face each other (depending on their seeding) and the doubles squads will test their skills against each other.

Like the boys state tournament, teams will earn points based on how their players do in the singles and doubles bracket. The SWC boys tourney begins Thursday at Wolfe Park in Monroe, with the second and final day of the competition taking place Monday at the same site. The girls’ tournament will be competed at Joel Barlow High School Thursday and Monday.

In the NVL, the boys and girls finals are scheduled for Friday at Woodland High School. The semifinals will be played Thursday at Naugatuck. Naugatuck’s boys and girls squads each entered the NVL tourney as the No. 1 seed.

FINE PERFORMANCES

Josh Israel, Daniel Hand: Israel was a 6-1, 6-4 winner in his match at first singles against Fairfield Prep. The unbeaten Israel also swept to a 6-0, 6-0 victory against West Haven.

Evan Lee, Brunswick: Lee won the singles title at the FAA Championships on Tuesday. Seeded sixth, he defeated the first, second and fourth seeds on his way to winning the title.

Julia Migliorini, North Haven: Migliorini posted a 6-0, 6-2 win for North Haven at the No. 1 singles spot, where she has once again, dominated this spring.

Lucia Pino, Jonathan Law: Pino notched straight-set wins at first singles in her recent matches vs. her West Haven and Hamden. Law was victorious in both matches.

Georgia Ryan, Greenwich Academy: Ryan was the runner-up in the singles tournament at the FAA Championships. GA’s No. 1 singles player finished 2-1 in the tournament, her loss coming against Rye Country Day in the final.

Nick Simonsen, Greens Farms Academy: Simonsen came back to register a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 10-5 win against his Millbrook foe in GFA’s 6-1 win recently.

Abby Stravato, Darien: Stravato’s three-set win at fourth singles helped the Blue Wave edge Westhill, 4-3, in the FCIAC quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Bianca Vega/Liv Vegilante, Lyman Hall: The duo won their match at third doubles for Hall, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, keying the team’s 4-3 victory over Shelton.

Vivian Wen, Lera Strickland, Hopkins: Wen and Strickland captured the doubles title at the FAA Championships held on Tuesday. They went 3-0 in the tournament, including an 8-4 victory against Greenwich Academy in the finals.

Nathalie Williams, Greenwich: Williams, who has played second singles this season for the Cardinals, filled in at the No. 1 spot against Warde and came through for the team with a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

dfierro@greenwichtime.com