New Canaan Girls’ Tennis Shines in League and State

The quality of girls’ tennis players and teams in the FCIAC was rather strong this spring, just as it seems to be every year, and New Canaan had quite the banner year by winning conference and state championships.

Coach Catherine Walker’s New Canaan Rams nipped a very strong Greenwich team, 4-3, in the final of the 2024 FCIAC Girls Tennis Tournament and then first-year coach Gerard Sulli’s Greenwich Cardinals went on to become a state championship team as well.

New Canaan’s superb No. 1 singles player Leah Zheng had impressive victories in the finals of the FCIAC tourney and Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Girls Tennis Class L Tournament before she advanced to the singles semifinals of the 2024 CIAC Girls Tennis Invitational.

Darien senior Sarah Donnelly, who earned the All-FCIAC honors for the third consecutive year, was selected the “Player of the Year” in the conference this year.

The FCIAC final had plenty of drama. New Canaan won the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles matches in straight sets, Greenwich won a pair of doubles matches and a singles match in straight sets, and then it came down to the three-set No. 1 doubles match to determine the team champion.

Layla Zuwiyya and Camryn Lee of New Canaan clinched the team title for the Rams with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 victory after their Greenwich opponents Malena Schraa and Emily Weinstein won the second set to set up the dramatic championship-deciding third set.

Zheng, Aaciya Sonthonnax, and Liza Sieghart won their singles matches for the champion Rams.

Caitlin Mahoney was the singles winner the Cardinals and their victorious doubles teams were the duo of Yume Inagawa and Cameron Sowter, and the partnership of Emme Pecorin and Maddy Wilber.

New Canaan won its first FCIAC team title since 2011 and now has 11 conference championships.

Greenwich has the FCIAC record of 12 team championships as the 2012 Cardinals established that record.

New Canaan was tied for the second most with Darien going into this season.

Darien three-peated last year to win its 10 th FCIAC crown. The Blue Wave won five FCIAC championships from 2016-23.

These 2024 New Canaan Rams were so dominant in the CIAC Class L tournament that their singles players and doubles teams combined for 28 victories and did not lose one match in tourney. They were seeded No. 2 and they won the school’s 22nd overall state championship with a 7-0 victory over top-seeded Guilford on May 30 at Joel Barlow High School. That came after 7-0 victories in the preceding three rounds.

It was the second straight state title for the Rams, who won last year’s Class LL tournament with a 4-2 victory over Greenwich.

Greenwich won its third overall state title and first one since 2009 with a 4-0 victory over fellow conference member Staples in the 2024 CIAC Girls Tennis Class LL Tournament final.

There were five FCIAC teams out of the eight in the quarterfinals of the Class LL tourney and three of those teams advanced to the semifinals.

Top-seeded Greenwich defeated ninth-seeded Wilton, 5-2, in the quarterfinals and the Cardinals advanced to the championship with 5-0 victory over fifth-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe, which advanced to the semifinals with a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over fourth-seeded Darien.

Staples was seeded 11th and the Wreckers were a prime example of just how strong the FCIAC is. They advanced to the championship match with impressive victories over teams seeded significantly higher than them. The Wreckers shut out No. 3 Maloney, 7-0, in the quarterfinals and then advanced to the final with their 6-1 semifinal victory over No. 2 South Windsor.

Cheshire’s Alexandra Orlins was seeded first at the CIAC Girls Tennis Invitational and she defended her singles championship after winning quite the semifinal battle over Zheng of New Canaan. There were 64 players in the singles bracket.

The fifth-seeded Zheng won four matches to advance to the semifinals, then she won the second set against Orlins before Orlins secured her return trip to the championship match with a 6-3, 2-6, 12-10 victory.

Orlins then defended her title with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Peyton Gaudreau of Branford. It was the second straight year in which Orlins won a lengthy three-set battle against an excellent FCIAC player in the championship match. Last year the second-seeded Orlins rallied back for a 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 victory over top-seeded and defending champion Lauren Zhang of Darien.

Darien’s Donnelly was seeded No. 2 this year and she won three matches before being eliminated in the quarterfinals by No. 7 Sarah Hage, 7-6, 1-6, 10-4.

This tournament, also known as the State Open, involves no team component as it is an invitational generally for the best singles players and doubles teams in the state.

There were 32 doubles teams, and three of the four semifinal teams were from the FCIAC. Greenwich’s Yume Inagawa and Cameron Sowter won the doubles title with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Fairfield Ludlowe’s Phoebe Shostak and Paige Seaver, who advanced with their 6-2, 6-7, 10-7 semifinal victory over Wilton’s Phoebe Snow and Abby Byrnes.

Donnelly of Darien and New Canaan’s Zheng were two of the four players selected All-FCIAC First Team Singles along with Sydney Radashowsky of Danbury and Greenwich’s Kyra Dybas.

There were four doubles teams who earned All-FCIAC First Team Doubles honors. Those teams included Snow and Byrnes of Wilton, Lucy Day and Maggie Murphy of Fairfield Ludlowe, Rhiya Anand and Lola Lamensdorf of Staples, and the Greenwich duo of Schraa and Weinstein.

Sonthonnax of New Canaan, Fairfield Warde’s Elisa Tunaru, St. Joseph’s Hannah Haywood, and Westhill’s Isabel Jakes were the four players selected All-FCIAC Second Team Singles.

Inagawa and Sowter of Greenwich and Ludlowe’s doubles duo of Shostak and Seaver made All-FCIAC Second Team Doubles along with the other two partnerships of Ava Treat and Oren Dulecki of Ridgefield, and Wilton’s Charlotte Stapkowski and Lily Brown.

Prior to New Canaan winning that 4-3 thriller over Greenwich in the FCIAC final, the Rams advanced there with a 4-1 victory over Darien and Greenwich defeated Fairfield Ludlowe, 6-1, in the semifinals.

In the quarterfinals of the FCIAC tourney: New Canaan shut out Fairfield Warde, 7-0; Greenwich defeated Westhill, and Darien beat Staples by the identical scores of 5-2; and Fairfield Ludlowe nipped Wilton, 4-3.

New Canaan’s 4-3 victory over Greenwich in the FCIAC tournament final on the neutral site at Wilton avenged a 4-3 loss on the Greenwich High School courts on April 28. The Cardinals then won their final six matches to finish their regular season undefeated at 15-0. The Rams also won their last six matches and they finished 14-1.

The FCIAC playoff teams were the eight conference teams who had winning records in the regular season. Darien earned the third seed in the FCIAC tourney with a 13-2 record. Fairfield Ludlowe was 12-3, Wilton finished 11-4, Staples was 10-5, and Fairfield Warde and Westhill tied for seventh place at 8-7. Warde earned the No. 7 seed because of its tiebreaking heads-up victory at Westhill on April 26.

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