Girls tennis season comes up aces for FCIAC teams

New Canaan won the state Class LL championship, Darien was the FCIAC champion, and Darien sophomore Lauren Zhang had another superb season and was selected the FCIAC Player of the Year for the second straight year to highlight the conference’s many accomplishments at the end of the girls’ tennis season.

New Canaan’s Rams won the 2023 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class LL Girls Tennis Tournament with a 4-2 victory over Greenwich in the final after they advanced there with a 4-3 semifinal victory over Darien.

The FCIAC had six of the eight teams in the Class LL quarterfinals and all four teams in the semifinals. Greenwich advanced to the championship match with a 7-0 semifinal victory over Wilton. Fairfield Ludlowe and Ridgefield were the two other conference teams which advanced to the quarterfinals.

New Canaan’s 4-3 victory over Darien in the state Class LL semifinals was a rematch of the FCIAC final which Darien won, 4-3.

Darien had a 3-2 deficit after the first five matches were completed in the FCIAC final before rallying back with victories in the No. 4 singles match and No. 3 doubles match to three-peat as the conference’s team champion.

The champion Blue Wave utilized wins from Zhang at No. 1 singles, No. 2 singles player Sarah Donnelly, No. 4 singles player Annabelle Hirscht, and the No. 3 doubles team of Scarlett O’Mally and Jessica Schmidt in that FCIAC final.

Aaciyaa Sonthonnax of New Canaan won the No. 3 singles match while the Rams got their other two wins from their No. 1 doubles team of Serena Platt and Layla Zuwiyaa and the No. 2 doubles team of Claire Pellegrino and Camryn Lee.

Sonthonnax, the Platt-Zuwiyya and Pellegrino-Lee doubles teams, and No. 2 singles player Liza Sieghart were all victorious to lead New Canaan’s perennial-powerful program to a 22nd overall state championship with that 4-2 victory in the state Class LL final on June 1 at Wesleyan University. Greenwich got its wins from Malena Schraa at No. 4 singles and from the No. 3 doubles team of Emme Pecorin and Maddy Wilber.

This was New Canaan’s first state championship in Class LL as the state class tournaments expanded from three to four classes in 2021. New Canaan won the first four state Class L tourneys from 1979-82 and had won 21 state championships in either the M or L classes, including 10 straight from 2004-13.

The CIAC’s formats for both girls and boys’ tennis are set up so that teams play against each other for team titles in each of the four state class tournaments, and soon after there is State Open which is an invitational tournament for individual singles players and doubles teams.

Staples seniors Kareenna Birns and Audrey Kercher teamed up to win the girls doubles championship with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fairfield Ludlowe’s top-seeded team of Ellie Price and Magdalena Murphy on June 9.

Both doubles teams won four matches from June 5-7 to advance to the June 9 final. The Birns-Kercher team, seeded No. 3, advanced with an impressive 6-0, 6-1 victory over the second-seeded Amity doubles team. Price and Magdalena teamed up for an exciting 7-5, 6-4 victory over New Canaan’s fourth-seeded Platt and Zuwiyaa.

Cheshire’s Alex Orlins won the singles championship in quite the thriller between two superb sophomores as she dethroned defending champion Zhang, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8, in a rematch of last year’s state invitational semifinal which Zhang won, 6-2, 6-2.

When Orlins won the second set this year to even the match up at 1-1 in sets, that was the first time Zhang had ever lost a set in her career.

Zhang has won Player of the Year in the FCIAC in each of her first two years while Orlins has also been so honored twice in her Southern Connecticut Conference.

Orlins had to beat a pair of Darien players in third-set tiebreakers in the semifinals and final this year. Donnelly, Zhang’s junior teammate, advanced to the state invitational singles semifinals for the second straight year. Orlins defeated Donnelly, 6-3, 3-6, 10-7, in this year’s semifinals.

Zhang was seeded No. 1 this year and she advanced to this year’s championship with a 6-3, 6-0 semifinal victory over Amity’s fourth-seeded Kiley Pickens in a rematch of last year’s girl’s singles state invitational final which Zhang won, 6-2, 6-0.

Along with Zhang being previously named the FCIAC Player of the Year for the second straight year, Donnelly, New Canaan’s Lexi McCall, Greenwich’s Kyra Dybas, and Fairfield Warde’s Elisa Tunaro were previously selected to the 2023 All-FCIAC Girls Tennis First Team Singles.

Sieghart was joined on the All-FCIAC Second Team Singles by St. Joseph’s Hannah Haywood, Greenwich’s Ivanna Diez de Bonilla, and Westhill’s Isabel Jakes.

Platt and Zuwiyya of New Canaan and Ludlowe’s Murphy and Price were a pair of duos selected All-FCIAC First Team Doubles along with Grace Althoff and Ava de Castro of Darien, and Wilton’s Phoebe Snow and Abby Byrnes.

Birns and Kercher of Staples made All-FCIAC Second Team Doubles a couple weeks before they won their state invitational championship and they were joined on that team by Julie Tarnis and Emily Weinstein of Greenwich, another Greenwich tandem in Yume Inagawa and Caitlin Mahoney, and Fairfield Warde’s Rhiannon Sizer and Jessica Han.

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