Injuries and spring break forced the Greenwich boys tennis team to mix-and-match its lineup for the last month, but on Monday the Cardinals were in good health and full force on way to a 5-2 victory over Fairfield Warde at the James Blake Courts in Fairfield.
"It's great having all the guys back from various things, and it's nice to look down and see the guys we're going to be playing with towards the end of the season," said captain Shaw Speer, who won his doubles match with teammate Louis McKenzie 6-3, 6-4. "The most important thing to remember is that it's a team sport; we're all out there individually but hearing the guys yelling for you is inspiring."
Motivation for Greenwich (9-1) was not in short supply as throughout the day the yells of the Cardinals' players could be heard, encouraging their teammates and providing a mental boost.
"What I appreciate most is how the people who aren't on the court have been unbelievably vocal," Greenwich coach Richard Lane said. "This is the first time this season that all 18 of us have been on the same page; everybody was cheering each other on and being one cohesive unit."
Using that to his advantage was Ari Cepelewicz, whose 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ted Berkowitz proved to be the longest (3 hours and 10 minutes) and most exciting match of the day at No. 1 singles.
"I wasn't feeling too well," said Cepelewicz, who entered the contest under the weather. "But when I got on the court, with the team behind me, I started to feel a lot better, and I think I played pretty well. I let my team carry the emotions for me -- I like to be reserved and stay internalized."
Cepelewicz remained internalized throughout the match as no matter the situation, he held his poker face, something Lane considers an advantage.
"He never looks flustered," Lane said. "He always finds a way; he's never out and I think that's a really great message for him to send to the other top players around the FCIAC -- that even if he's down a set, he's not going to falter."
Ben Zuckerberg, the coach of Warde (8-3), doesn't fault his team for the loss as long as the Mustangs gave it their best shot, which he said they did.
"I'm happy with them, I've always told them I'm not going to get mad as long as they fight as hard as they can, and they did," Zuckerberg said. "Do we wish we could have won? One hundred percent. But looking in perspective, this match could have gone either way. I'm not upset at all."
Besides the two matches Warde won, they went to three sets in another two.
"My team does not give up. Even if we play the best team in the country, they're going to play as hard as they can because that's the attitude I instill," Zuckerberg said.
Antony Parelli is a freelance reporter
Greenwich 5, Fairfield Warde 2. Singles: Ari Cepelewicz (G) def. Ted Berkowitz 6-7, 6-1, 6-1; Eyad Nagori (FW) def. Chris Salisbury 6-3, 6-0; Dickerman Hollister (G) def. Kanav Kumar 7-5, 6-0; Marcos Eslava (G) def. Jack Johnson 6-3, 6-2; Axel Hebrand (G) def. Henry Johnson 6-0, 5-7, 6-2. Doubles: Shaw Speer/Louis McKenzie (G) def. Jack Mappa/Kevin Mercado 6-3, 6-4; Daniel Pavoni/Eric Segerberg (FW) def. Tyler Dagnino/Trent Newman 1-6, 7-5, 6-2. Records: Greenwich: 9-1, Fairfield 8-3.