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Tuesday, March 20 Sports

Girls tennis season preview for Ludlowe, Warde

Fairfield Ludlowe

Last year, the Falcons went 22-3 overall, including trips deep into the postseason tournaments. Ludlowe lost five varsity players, including four starters, so some returning players will have to step up and others on the team may have to emerge for the Falcons to contend again.

"We have the potential to be a great team as long as we realize that we are not there yet. The hard work needed every day, especially early in the season, will pay great rewards at the end of the season and postseason," said Ludlowe coach John Reisert, whose career record stands at 263-67. "We are excited to defend the FCIAC title and (FCIAC) Eastern Division title, and hope to have another opportunity to play for a state title."

The strength of this squad, Reisert says, is its in its singles play, and in the overall depth of talent. To begin the year, the top four singles players in order are junior Lindsey Evans (All-State, All-FCIAC in 2013), senior Daria Efimov (All-FCIAC East), junior Cami Adajian (unbeaten and team MVP a year ago) and junior Kyra Adajian.

Senior captains are Efimov and doubles player Chelsea Keane.

Junior Sarah Jennings partners with Keane. Other doubles players are juniors Lauren Hilliker, Lexi Brown, Julia Cheung, Ana Wykoff and Olivia Gulian, along with sophomore Maddie Leverty. Junior Danielle Fox could be a factor in singles.

The Falcons expect tough competition from Darien, a team Reisert expects to be a top contender along with Staples and Wilton. "You can never count out Greenwich or New Canaan, either," said Reisert, whose team beat New Canaan in the conference title match before falling to the Rams in the Class L Championships.

Reisert is looking for the doubles lineup to take shape and develop into a strength, much like the singles, as the season unfolds.

"We will need to be ready for every team's best effort. The returning singles players are a big plus for us. We will need to work at replacing the doubles experience that graduated from last season," Reisert said.

The Falcons are set to begin the regular slate on Wednesday when New Canaan visits for a 4 p.m. match.

Fairfield Warde

Coming off a season of double-digit wins, the Mustangs have high hopes for bettering their record this spring. And why not? They lost only one player/starter to graduation.

The Mustangs "hope to improve on that record, now that our players have a year's experience behind them," nine-year Warde coach Marilynn Jamgochian said.

"Determination and dedication -- their no-excuses attitude," in Jamgochian's eyes, are Warde's strengths.

The players will need to ride that no-excuses approach through a rough start to the campaign, since injuries and illness have slowed progress in preseason.

Sophomores Emily Simmonds and Jennie Schneider are vying for the top singles spot, and the other appears in position to play No. 2 singles, Jamgochian said. Senior Mackenzie Burns is the team's third singles player, and senior Emily Schmerzler will play No. 4 singles. New-to-varsity juniors Liz Gallucci and Darci Byington, who played JV doubles a year ago, are contending for playing time. Seniors Megan Hines, Erin Hines, Hannah Greehall and Morgan Miller, along with juniors Ashley Aufiero and Mary Ball, were battling for positions as well as the preseason wrapped up this week.

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Megan and Erin Himes, and Burns are the team captains.

"I have a lot of confidence in this team. Their effort and execution, so far, shows me they are really committed to playing their best tennis ever," Jamgochian said.

The season begins Wednesday when Wilton visits for a 4 p.m. match -- the first of three straight home contests to begin the season.

No report on Notre Dame-Fairfield is featured because a request to submit information on the team by the coach was not received in time.

Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter