The New Canaan boys tennis team is entering the 2013 campaign in familiar territory: Among the best in the FCIAC.
The Rams, which last captured the FCIAC championship in 2010, are well aware that climbing back to the top of the conference mountain will be no easy task.
"We want to keep up with past seasons. We've had some players step up. We were kind of wondering about this year and not really knowing if we could do as well," captain Will Burger said. "We've only had a week of tryouts so far, but I'm seeing some kids come back and they're playing much better, and I'm pretty impressed with how we look this year already."
New Canaan's early-season schedule looks daunting on paper, as three of its first five matches will be against Staples (April 4), Ridgefield (April 8) and Greenwich (April 9), all familiar elite FCIAC squads.
Despite the difficult nature of the schedule, captain Tommy Worcester sounded like he wouldn't have it any other way.
"We definitely have a hard lineup this year. Staples, Greenwich, Ridgefield early on and that's tough," Worcester said. "But I'm hoping that in the short time we have before playing those guys that we can make something out of what we have here, and that would be awesome if we can get a couple of big wins."
Now in his 42nd season as head coach at New Canaan, Dan Borgman will have to find a way to replace several key members from last year's squad.
"We lost four really good seniors from last year," Borgman said. "Both No. 1 doubles (Patrick Newton and Jacob Reiss) and our No. 1 player in singles (Nick Laub) plus a fourth at No. 2 doubles (Luke McDermott). It was a great team. They were all excellent players."
Of course, losing four varsity players also means heightened competition for the vacancies.
"It always does (create competition). Will Burger and Tommy McVeigh from last year are my co-captains and they look very good," said Borgman, who added that Burger and McVeigh are likely to be the No. 1 and 2 singles players. "Spencer Lambdin and Devin McVeigh are probably going to be playing singles, although Devin might go to doubles because he did a great job with doubles in states last year."
Borgman could go a number of different routes for the rest of his singles players, but Tim Casavant and Devin McVeigh are expected to be in the mix.
"The good thing about being in New Canaan is there's a lot of depth to draw from," Burger said. "Even though we lost four seniors, I feel like we've filled it up very well."
As for doubles, Borgman sounds as if he might move one half of last year's No. 2 doubles team to the No. 1 tandem, as Andrew Penchuk returns.
Penchuk's former doubles partner, McDermott, was lost to graduation.
"The doubles is really up in the air," Borgman said. "Andrew (Penchuk) is looking much improved from last year. Spencer Lambdin from what I've seen in tryouts has really improved from last year."
New Canaan kicks off its regular season on April 3 at home against St. Joseph, and Worcester is looking forward to seeing how he and his teammates stack up against some of the top teams.
"I'm looking forward to our Staples matchup next Thursday. It's going to be good for revenge after last year," Worcester said. "I'm looking forward to beating Westhill because we lost to them 4-3 last year (in the FCIAC tournament) after beating them in the regular season. I'm also looking forward to Ridgefield because Will and I have some good friends on that team and we're looking to play our buddies."
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