Fairfield Warde aims to defend its 2013 CIAC Class L co-championship with Hand this spring, while Ludlowe will try to improve on its third-place finish in Class L as the town's three strong high school boys tennis teams open their 2014 seasons. Fairfield Prep, which was hit hard by graduation, has already made strides in the preseason toward enjoying another successful year.
Despite last year's successful season and the return of several players with experience, the Falcons will be forced to overcome the injury bug this spring. Jack Meyer, the No. 1 singles players, will miss all of his junior year in 2014 because of an injury. Meyer reached the semifinals of the Class L championship singles tournament last year before losing to Noah Farrell, of Wilton, the two-time defending state champion.
The Falcons have graduated five players from the team that went 13-3 in the regular season to win the FCIAC East. Ludlowe beat New Canaan in the conference quarterfinals before losing a semifinal to Greenwich.
Ludlowe placed third as a team in Class L behind co-champions Fairfield Warde and Hand.
Junior Connor Doyle, who reached the Class L singles quarterfinals last May, was slated to play No. 2 singles this year. But coach Andrew Jorgensen has moved him to play No. 1 doubles in an effort to reduce stress on Doyle's injured knees.
"Our whole singles lineup will be different from last year," Jorgensen said.
Sophomore Mason Jennings, who reached the finals of the Class L doubles with the graduated Dan Adajian, likely will play at No. 1 singles, Jorgensen said. Junior Alex Skobin, who missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL, should be at No. 2 singles. Sophomore Jeff Pearson and co-captains Alex Barker and Ethan King, both seniors, are expected to round out the singles lineup, Jorgensen said.
Barker reached the Class L singles second round a year ago.
Newer players will hold down the two doubles positions. The candidates there are sophomore Zachary Angel, juniors Sarthak Bothra, Brandon Chen, Parker Doyle and seniors Liam Farrell and Justin Tormey. Parker Doyle was eliminated in the third round of the Class L doubles in 2013 with partner Roby Karson, who graduated.
The season opens Wednesday at New Canaan 4 p.m. The Falcons' home opener is Thursday at 4 p.m. against McMahon. They travel to Warde on April 29 at 4 p.m.
The Jesuits shut out Sheehan 7-0 in the SCC quarterfinals last year before losing to No. 2 Hand 4-3 in the semifinals. Prep, which compiled a 12-6 record in 2013, was the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
Harold Prather, who is 23-12 in his two seasons as Prep's coach, originally believed this spring would feature a remake because five players graduated in June, but he has changed his mind during the preseason. "I thought this would be a rebuilding year with all of the graduating seniors last year, but they have surprised me with how prepared they are to play after the winter. We'll be competitive again this year and keep working toward improving our play.
"We are an extremely deep team, so we are able to compete very well all the way through the lineup. We're a young team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores slated for significant playing time," Prather said.
Senior Matt McKinney, a captain along with senior Peter Nestor, has moved up from No. 3 singles to No. 1. He was 11-6 last year and reached the second round of the CIAC Class LL singles tournament. Junior Will Cannon (12-5 in 2013) played at No. 4 singles last spring but has moved into No. 2 singles. He lost in the Class LL first round a year ago.
Nestor was an abbreviated 5-2 at doubles last season because of an injury. Nestor and his 2013 partner, Scott Ball, lost in the third round of the state doubles tournament last spring. Junior Emil Friis likely will play some at singles and doubles this season. In 2013, he was 5-4 in singles, 4-1 in doubles.
Prather said he expects Hand and Amity to be the top teams in the SCC this spring.
Fairfield Prep kicks off its season Wednesday at Hand, which shared the Class L team title with Warde last year. The match begins at 3:45 p.m.
No report on the Mustangs, who went 11-5 in the regular season last year, is featured because a request to submit information on the team by the coach was not received in time.