Fairfield Ludlowe's second consecutive trip to the CIAC Class L girls tennis championship match was secured Wednesday afternoon by the third doubles team of juniors Lexi Brown and Julia Cheung when they defeated Amity sophomores Alex Petrucci and Jamie Hashem in straight sets. The team match was tied at three wins apiece before Brown/Cheung improved to 19-2 on the year with their 6-2, 6-2 victory, giving Ludlowe a 4-3 win on its courts and a spot in the finals.
The top-seeded Falcons, who were state runners-up to New Canaan in 2013, will meet FCIAC rival Darien, which beat No. 7 Staples 5-2 in the other semifinal, for the state title. The championship match is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. at Wilton.
The Blue Wave (19-2), seeded third, handed the Falcons (23-1) their only loss of the season by 4-3 on May 19.
This marks the second time in school history, which began for the 2004-05 school year, that Ludlowe has qualified for state finals in back-to-back years. In 2006, the Falcons won the Class S title over Stonington but lost the 2007 Class M championship to New Canaan.
"Our two sophomores at No. 3 doubles have not been tested significantly this year," said Amity coach Hal Freedman, whose team lost a Class L semifinal to Ludlowe 7-0 last spring in Woodbridge. "They have not been in the hot seat, and that's being in a match with the outcome on the line.
"We're definitely playing our best tennis of the season right now," Freedman said. "Our Nos. 1 and 2 doubles have really matured. That's really been the big impetus for us. It's been nice to see them jell. Our singles have been solid this year."
Amity won both matches at first and second doubles. Ludlowe's singles record has gone way beyond being solid. By winning three of the four singles matches against the Spartans on Wednesday, the Falcons' cumulative singles record improved to 93-3 (96.9 percent).
Ludlowe coach John Reisert said Brown/Cheung were in a pressure-filled match, with the outcome hinging on them, in the loss to Darien. Cheung and Brown played with composure.
"Most recently it was 3-3 when they (Brown/Cheung) played against Darien, so that was a similar scenario for them," Reisert said. "But they certainly handled the pressure for them to have won (Wednesday). Without a doubt, it was an important match for them to play."
Three of the eight singles players in the semifinal entered undefeated on the season, two from Ludlowe and one from Amity. The two Falcons' singles players who had sustained a loss previously each had merely one loss. Both won on Wednesday. Lindsey Evans, a junior, improved to 19-1 in 2014 by winning her match at No. 1 over Amity's Daphne Kreiger 6-1, 6-0; junior Kyra Adajian lifted her mark to 21-1 by defeating the Spartans' Lindsay Dragunoff 6-2, 6-0 at No. 4 singles.
Only one of the three unbeaten singles players escaped unscathed -- Ludlowe's Cami Adajian, who won at No. 2 singles over sophomore Victoria Li. Adajian won 7-5, 7-6 and improved to 24-0. Li lost for the first time and wound up 2014 at 19-1. At No. 3 singles, senior Claire Foster, of the Spartans, defeated Ludlowe senior captain Daria Efimov 7-6, 6-2. The loss by Efimov left her record at 23-1 this spring.
Both coaches said the Adajian-Li match was the pivotal showdown. It lasted almost two hours and moved the team score to 3-3; the Falcons won the first two matches to finish, then Amity rattled of three victories for its 3-2 lead.
"Cami's a great player," Freedman said, "and Victoria played really well."
"She was able to vary her pace and her shots after she was falling behind," Reisert said of Cami Adajian. "The changing of the pace of the ball and the depth of the ball allowed her to get opportunities to hit out and generally be more aggressive. When she was playing better, she was changing the pace."
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Class L girls tennis semifinal
Fairfield Ludlowe 4, Amity 3 (at Fairfield Ludlowe High School): Singles: Lindsey Evans (FL) def. Daphne Kreiger 6-1, 6-0; Cami Adajian (FL) def. Victoria Li 7-5, 7-6; Claire Foster (A) def. Daria Efimov 7-6, 6-2; Kyra Adajian (FL) def. Lindsay Dragunoff 6-2, 6-0. Doubles: Rachel Einbinder/Jamie Thimineur (A) def. Chelsea Keane/Lauren Hilliker 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; Lauren Zorena/Rebecca Bullers (A) def. Sarah Jennings/Ana Wyckoff 6-3, 6-0; Lexi Brown/Julia Cheung (FL) def. Alex Petrucci/Jamie Hashem 6-2, 6-2. Records: Amity 17-3, Fairfield Ludlowe 23-1.