Rams boys tennis ends 15-year FCIAC title drought
WILTON -- Most times, tennis matches don't come down to the dramatics. But in the boys FCIAC final last Thursday at Wilton High, Staples and New Canaan played a title tilt for the ages.
Don't believe it? Just ask Rams head coach Dan Borgman, who won his first conference championship in 15 years and claimed the tightly contested final was one of the most riveting, high-anxiety matches he'd ever coached.
"It was the most tense match I've been in, I'll say 15 years," Borgman said after he took off his sunglasses for the first time all afternoon.
Wreckers head coach Kris Hrisovulos concurred.
"As a player and a coach, it's probably one of the most epic high school matches I've been around," he said. "I was a part of three state champions, three FCIACs in my day, in the late `90s and we had some battles, but this was epic."
Staples, the top seed that had not lost a match all season, could not defeat New Canaan for a second time this season. The Wreckers, who defeated New Canaan 5-2 on May 11, fell 4-2 after Nick Laub defeated Jake Hirschberg 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-3 to in the No. 4 singles battle, one that was watched by more than 70 vested spectators, family members and teammates in attendance.
"After the first set I thought I couldn't go another set. I thought, I'm done," Laub said. "I wouldn't say I dominated second set, but I definitely came out stronger."
Laub and Hirschberg played simultaneously to the No. 2 doubles match of Staples' Sam Hickok and Alex Ratner vs. Will Burger and Connor Hedley. In fact, before Laub and Hirschberg began their third set, the match halted -- with New Canaan ahead 3-2 -- in case the doubles match secured a victory for New Canaan. Burger/Hedley won the first set, 6-4, but after Staples took a tiebreaker 7-6 (7-4) to put that match at 1-1, Laub and Hirschberg went back to their game to determine the fate of their teams.
"Nick Laub told me he was going to win that match, and I can't say I was relaxed, but I knew he was going to win," Borgman said.
Hrisovulos wanted to make sure, above all, to remind his players that in a gut-check situation, there was no excuse for not giving it their all.
"When it came down to the last two matches, I went to our doubles team and our singles player and said, `When you walk over the court, they better have earned it,'" Hrisovulos said.
With Laub's win, No. 2 doubles didn't even finish their match, as celebration for New Canaan (19-3) began once Laub claimed victory, and Staples was forced to deal with defeat for the first time in 2010.
"I'm definitely an emotional player," Laub said. The New Canaan sophomore was visibly cramping and shaking after the win. He said it was the first time since last summer his body had failed him like that, a testament to how much he put into the match.
The Rams got their other two wins in singles at No. 2 and 3. At No. 2, Chase Urban defeated Jesse Heussner, 6-1, 6-2, while No. 3 saw New Canaan's Kevin Budrawich knock off Cam Marco, 6-1, 6-1.
Urban, who also lost earlier this year to Heussner despite winning 6-0 in the second set of the match, said he only had to make the changes in his head to win this time around.
"It was mostly mental," Urban said, and he had that mental edge for the majority of the match once he got up two games on Heussner in the first set. Urban said he double-faulted once, which was also huge.
"I made an adjustment to his serve," Urban said. "I was standing back, had more time and was playing better on his service games."
"As the match went on we realized we had to be more consistent," Huff said.
They started down 0-3, then stormed back to take the first set and kill McDonald's and Ratner's hopes.
"We realized, instead of having to drill the ball, we wanted to throw up a lob," Huff said.
"We play our best tennis at the net," Newton said.
New Canaan's two losses came in No. 1 and No. 5 singles. Staples (18-1) got wins from junior -- and FCIAC singles MVP Danny Hirschberg -- at No. 1 (over Ben Lee), and Graham Hyman playing at No. 5. The two defeated Ben Lee and Steve Evans in straight sets, respectively.
The Rams now look to the secondary prize -- yet another state title. Borgman has won more than 20 since he began coaching the team, but the incentive this year seems to be the chance to take home two titles. That's something the head coach may cherish just as much as finally getting back to the top of the league after trying for 15 years.