Greenwich High fought to the end at class LL boys tennis tourney

Greenwich High School senior captain Shaw Speer returns a serves during the CIAC class LL doubles finals. — Kevin Stein photo

Greenwich High School senior captain Shaw Speer returns a serves during the CIAC class LL doubles finals. — Kevin Stein photo

It came down to the final doubles match to decide two titles during the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament.

After the dust settled during the singles, and doubles brackets were down to the championship matches, both the Cardinals and Staples High School were tied in points. To make it even more dramatic, Big Red and the Wreckers were playing each other in the doubles championship match, with the winner claiming the doubles title, as well as the team state championship trophy.

The Greenwich High School boys tennis doubles team of Shaw Speer and Louis McKenzie have been making great strides throughout the season and advanced to the championship match of the class LL doubles finals at Yale University, however it wasn’t meant to be, as Staples’ Connor Mitnick and Baxter Stein won the titles with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

“As seniors, they left it all on the court,” Greenwich High School head coach Richard Lane said. “It was great to see them play tough. I think they played with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and professionalism. They approached the match with the right frame of mind.”

As a No. 5 seed to start the tournament, the duo of Speer and McKenzie upended Syed Ali and Faseeh Uddin of New Britain 6-0, 6-0 to start the class LL doubles tournament. In Greenwich’s second match, they upended No. 12 seed Peter Godwin and Austin Meleski of Manchester 6-1, 6-1.

Advancing to the quarterfinals, Greenwich’s McKenzie and Speer finished off third-seeded William Andrews and Jack Reardon of Staples 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.

With the win, Speer and McKenzie took on Westhill’s Alex Romaine and Prashant Toteja and stunned the No. 2 seed 6-1, 6-7 (0-7), 6-3 to advance to the championship match.

In singles action, no one on GHS was better than senior captain Ari Cepelewicz.

In his first three rounds of the class LL tournament, Cepelewicz only lost two points on the day. Starting as the No. 3 seed, Cepelewicz cruised past both Fairfield Prep’s Steven Westfhal and West Haven’s John Delgado 6-0, 6-0.

In the third round, Cepelewicz smashed No. 17 seed Brandon Howard of Hamden High School 6-2, 6-0.

“It was a great season for us,” Cepelewicz said. “Coming into this season we lost a lot of our top tennis players to graduation and we knew it was going to be a tough season. We also knew that Staples was going to be really good again. Overall, as a captain, I can say that I am so proud of the guys on the team. In the final match, with both teams tied for points overall, we took it to three sets. You couldn’t ask for anything better. Staples played really well.”

In the quarterfinal round, Cepelewicz kept the good times rolling against No. 12 seed Maxwell Einbinder, as he beat the Amity tennis player 6-2, 6-3.

However in the semifinals, Cepelewicz was defeated by second-seeded Bryson Mosley of Ridgefield 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

“I am very happy to get to the semifinals,” Cepelewicz said. “I thought I showed that I could play with the best in the state. I would have liked to go farther, but Bryson is a great player. It was a tough match, but overall I am very happy.”

Not to be outdone in singles action was the play of No. 11 seeded Chris Salisbury. After beating Crosby’s Norbert Jakova 6-0, 6-0 in the opening round, he upended Southington’s Kunal Kataria in the second round 6-0, 6-1. Salisbury’s day came to an end when he fell to No. 5 seeded Richard Ciamarra of Xavier 6-2, 6-3.

Also making it to the third round was No. 19 seed Dickon Hollister, who started his tournament with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Newtown’s Matthew Carino.

Against Cheshire’s No. 13 seed Jeremy Reichentahl, Hollister scored the big upset with the 6-3, 6-3 victory. However, his lost to top-seeded Jason Seidman of Amity in the third round 6-1, 6-2.

Rounding out the singles action for Greenwich in the class LL tournament was Marcos Eslava.
In the opening round, he netted the straight set victory over Manchester’s Andrew Hurd, but lost to Brien McMahon’s Zach Ely 6-0, 6-4 in the second round.

Joining McKenzie and Speer in doubles action for Greenwich High was 10th seeded Tyler Dagnino and Max Minichetti. After getting a first round bye, the GHS duo scored the 6-1, 6-1 victory over Simsbury’s Jacob Ingle and Jacob Lewtan.

In a hard-fought third round, Minichetti and Dagnino took out No. 8 seed Jason Chaskin and Thomas Price of Staples 6-0, 6-7, 11-9.

Despite just missing out on a repeat of the state championship, Cepelewicz couldn’t be happier for his team.

“We were playing as a team,” Cepelewicz said. “The bonding here has been unreal and I have never seen a group of guys back up each other like I have this year. We had nearly the entire team make the trip up here for Shaw and Louis today and that’s great to see. We all truly care about each other here and it made the season a lot of fun.”

With the number of talented seniors that graduated from the team last year, Lane said that there was a big question mark placed over GHS all season. However, Greenwich answered the bell in a big way.

“The players last year really dominated here,” Lane said. “With the players not on the team due to graduation, the expectations here were a little different. I think, without a doubt, this team achieved every goal but one they were after. To achieve all but one goal, for any team, is a successful season. We did really well.”

Greenwich was able to get the most out of its team due to the leadership of captains Speer and Cepelewicz.

“They were the true leaders of the team and they made everything happen,” Lane said. “Shaw was out there until the very last minute and Ari was out there until 7 p.m. during the semis. One of the many qualities captains need is the ability to lead by example. Both do that. They also did a whole lot more. They were the heart and soul of the team.”

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