Darien cuts Cards 5-2 in Class L girls tennis quarters

On a blisteringly hot day when the temperatures hovered around 90 degrees, the third-seeded Darien girls’ tennis team stormed past sixth-seeded Greenwich in the quarterfinals of the CIAC Class L state tournament, defeating the Cardinals 5-2 at home Tuesday.

“I think today because it was so hot we just had to stay hydrated and stay mentally aware and focused,” team co-captain Emily Neuner said. “We played them before, so each person already knew what to do, so that when it gets to the tough points we could have fast starts and hopefully get up pretty early in the set.”

Darien won three out of four singles matches, and two out of three doubles matches.

Leading the charge at No. 1 singles was FCIAC player of the year Lilly Ma, who remains undefeated this season after beating Martine Fierro 6-2, 6-0. Also winning at singles was No. 3 Emily Wiley, who defeated Tess Lamhauar 6-0, 6-3.

At No. 4 singles, Katie Wiley battled it out under the blazing sun against Christina Gianesello, ultimately prevailing in the last singles match left on the court 7-5, 7-5.

Darien’s only singles loss came at No. 2, where Emilia Callery, after a quick opening set loss of 6-1, fought back in the second set before ultimately losing 7-5 to Melanie Leguizamon. Callery had previously lost in the regular season to Leguizamon 6-2, 6-2.

While No. 1 doubles partners Neuner and Juliet Homes cruised to victory over Hannah Castro and Kendall Schrohe 6-1, 6-0, the other two doubles matches both went to third set tiebreakers.  Playing No. 2 doubles for the Wave, Elaina Cummiskey and Quin Wolters beat Melanie Murphy and Amy Bickham 6-3, 5-7, 10-7.

At No. 3 doubles, the freshmen team of Caroline Homes and Daniela Castellanos had the longest match of the day, also going to three sets, before losing to Abby Shropshire and Hanna Viney 3-6, 7-6, 15-13.

The quarterfinal loss meant the end to an otherwise successful season for Greenwich, which lost only two times in the regular season, to Staples and Darien, before losing to Staples in the FCIAC tournament and Darien in the CIAC quarterfinals.

Cardinals coach Betsy Underhill said she was proud of her team, but frustrated to exit so early.

“We’re a great team, we had some great wins, our team fights hard and we’re dedicated,” she said. “The Fairfield County league is such a tough league; it’s a shame that two Fairfield County schools have to play each other so early in the state tournament.”

Darien moved on to face No. 2 seed Daniel Hand Wednesday in Madison in the tournament semifinals. The winner of that match will face the winner of No. 1 Glastonbury vs. No. 4 Staples for the CIAC Class L championship on Thursday at 3 p.m.

If both Darien and Staples advance, it would mean a rematch of the FCIAC championship, where Staples defeated Darien 4-3 in a close match that marked not only the end of Darien’s perfect season, but also denied the Wave its third consecutive FCIAC title.

“It was a little bit disappointing to lose, we really wanted to win, but I think it just made us more determined, refocused us a lot,” Neuner said. “And hopefully we’ll meet them again in the finals.”

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Darien’s Emilia Callery returns a shot during her No. 2 singles match in the FCIAC girls tennis semifinals at DHS. — Dave Stewart photo

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