Darien girls tennis ready to defend FCIAC crown
Following a perfect 16-0 regular season, including nine shutouts, the Darien girls tennis team heads into the FCIAC championship this week seeking its third straight FCIAC title.
According to Coach Anne-Lise Brown, however, the road will not be easy, despite Darien’s dominance all spring.
“Staples is definitely looming out there,” Brown said. “Anything could happen. Greenwich is a great team, New Canaan is a great team — I would imagine we’re going to be the four teams moving into the semifinals. We beat all of them, but they were close matches, the girls had to work hard and they’ll have to work hard again.”
Adding to the pressure is the fact that the Wave lineup features four freshmen who have never played in an FCIAC tournament: Twins Emily and Katie Wiley playing No. 3 and No. 4 singles, and Daniela Castellanos and Caroline Homes at No. 3 doubles.
“For them, their nerves, and the excitement of the moment and the desire to want to do well, personally as well as for the team,” Brown said. “I think as long as they can conquer their nerves, which I fully believe they will, I think we have a strong possibility to move on.”
Guiding the freshmen in their first postseason are co-captains Emily Neuner, who plays No. 1 doubles; Emilia Callery, who plays No. 2 singles; and Daphne Gray, who has been out with an injury all season.
“Emily and Emilia have been such steady consistent players for Darien for their entire high school career, and I think they are excellent role models,” Brown said. “I think these girls realize how strong they are and how consistent and dominant in their matches. They have been really key in pulling the team together and team bonding and everything else — they’ve just been outstanding captains.”
The team is further bolstered by the consistency of junior Lilly Ma, who at No. 1 singles has yet to drop a match all season.
“Lilly hasn’t had a hiccup her whole high school career,” Brown said. “She goes out there, she gets the job done, she’s quick, she’s efficient — she just keeps getting better and better.”
Also key to the Wave’s success, according to Brown, are juniors Juliet Homes, who plays No. 1 doubles with Neuner, and Quin Wolters, who plays No. 2 doubles with sophomore Elaina Cummiskey.
“Juliet and Quin have really risen to their roles as juniors, and have done a lot for the younger girls on the team, just in terms of being really encouraging and leaders on the court,” Brown said.
First up for the Wave will be a quarterfinal contest on Thursday, May 17, against the Westhill Vikings, who the Wave defeated in the regular season 7-0. The match had been scheduled for Wednesday, but was pushed back a day due to rain. It will be played at the courts at Weed Beach.
With a win, the Wave would move on to the semifinals and either Wilton or New Canaan. The semis are scheduled for Friday, weather permitting.