Darien boys tennis team carries perfect mark into matches with New Canaan, Staples

Darien's Nick Derby returns a shot during a Blue Wave victory last spring. Derby, a junior who played at No. 2 singles last year, returns as a key player in the Wave's singles lineup this season. - Scott Mullin photo
Darien’s Nick Derby returns a shot during a Blue Wave victory last spring. Derby, a junior who played at No. 2 singles last year, returns as a key player in the Wave’s singles lineup this season. — Scott Mullin photo

If, as Andre Agassi once said, tennis is the loneliest sport in the world, then someone forgot to tell the Darien High School boys varsity tennis team.

The 16-member “band of brothers” is rolling towards the midway point of the season undefeated, boasting an 11-0 record and ready to take on rivals New Canaan and Staples next week.

The key to their success, according to head coach Hugh Underhill, is their camaraderie, both on and off the court. And it’s a winning combination that could just take them all the way to the top.

Led by co-captains Tyler Cramer and John Lochtefeld, the starting lineup currently includes senior Michael Karr at No. 1 one singles; sophomore Ryan Patrick at No. 2; junior Nick Derby at No. 3; and sophomore Ethan Zhang at No. 4.

On the doubles side, junior Romano De Caprio and sophomore Chris Calderwood currently hold the No. 1 spot, while Cramer and junior Ian Wise play second doubles, and senior Sergei Doroshin and freshman Andrew Kelley are the third doubles duo.

"Our captains have been doing a great job of pulling everyone together and doing a lot of bonding,” Underhill said. “They do a lot of pasta dinners, and they are hanging out together all the time and practicing on their own. They kind of set the tone — they're just exceptional guys.”

Off the court, 10 of the players on the roster train at Solaris Racquet Club, an elite training facility in Stamford, adding to the shared bond.

"We've got a great group of boys,” Underhill said. “It’s so nice to see them committed to each other, and we put a lot of work into being able to think of ourselves as a team of brothers."

One the team’s biggest highlights of the season so far: A close 4-3 win against Greenwich, a feat that the team has not accomplished in years.

With Karr out of town, Patrick stepped up to play No. 1 singles, winning his match, before DeCaprio and Wise closed out the match with a nail biting three-set win.

Up next, the team faces two key FCIAC opponents with back-to-back matches against rival New Canaan and defending league champion Staples.

Darien and New Canaan (11-0) are the last unbeaten teams in the conference and they’ll square off at the New Canaan courts at 4 p.m., today, Monday.

"New Canaan is always a great match,” Underhill said. “The town rivalry is great, all the boys know each other which is great, their coach is a great coach, and it’s always a lot of fun. It’s always one of our tougher matches, but it’s always one we look forward to the most."

The Wave will host Staples (9-1) at 4 p.m., Tuesday.

With the wrap up of the regular season, Underhill already has his eye on the postseason.

Going 15-5 last year, the team made it to the FCIAC semifinals, and then lost to Daniel Hand High School in the state championship finals.

This year, Underhill said, things might be different.

“I think we might be a little stronger this year than we were last year,” Underhill said. “So we don't talk about it much, but there's kind of a feeling with the boys that we might be lining up for something special.  We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, you have to take it one at a time. But it could be fun.”