By David Fierro
After graduating half of their starters from last season, the Cardinals were expected to go through some growing pains and experience a rebuilding season.
Two-thirds into their season, the Cardinals are more than holding their own against the FCIAC's top competitors.
Greenwich gave undefeated Fairfield Ludlowe all it could handle Monday in a 4-3 FCIAC loss featuring two three-set matches.
"I never really expected us to be where we are at this point of the season," Underhill said. "It's been a total team effort this year. Everyone is really doing a great job."
Juniors Lexi Brown and Julia Cheung of Fairfield Ludlowe clinched the match, edging Greenwich's Isabelle Janssen and Maitlyn Murphy in three sets at third doubles, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. The victory gave 14-0 Ludlowe a 4-2 lead in the match.
Janssen and Murphy held serve to even the match at 5-5, but the Falcons' duo held in a game that went to deuce point, then broke to pull out the win.
"They were going to be five and six singles this year, but I put them together in one match and they played great," Underhill said of Murphy and Janssen. "I have seen them pull out some close matches and today they never gave up."
Said Ludlowe coach John Reisert: "Our third doubles team is undefeated for a reason. This was the most pressure they have faced this season, but they stepped up and found a way to win some key points."
The Cardinals (11-2) received victories from their top two doubles teams and from Hannah Kratky at fourth singles. Kratky outlasted Ludlowe's Kyra Adajian in a match that lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4.
"I knew if I could just keep going to the next point I could win," Kratky said. "We definitely went into this match knowing it was going to be hard against this team, but everyone has been practicing hard and today we all pushed through our matches. We've done well so far this year, which is kind of a surprise, but we've also worked hard for it."
"We tried to stay consistent and be ready at the net," Akerman said. "Staying ready, trying to change the direction of the ball and then trying to lob it helped us. Playing so well against them today shows that our team doesn't give up and that we're really determined."
Griffin said their styles of play complement each other on the court.
"So far, we are playing very well together," Griffin said. "We really help each other out. What I'm not good at she is, and we really build off each other's strengths."
At No. 2, the Cards' first-year junior duo of Lena Schipper and Riley Sheets notched a 7-5, 6-1 triumph against Sarah Jennings and Ana Wyckoff. The tandem exhibited strong net play and solid chemistry.
"We have played doubles together this whole season and we have known each other since elementary school, so it's pretty normal to us," Sheets said. "As a team, we keep each other focused out there."
"They were really consistent and gave us one of the harder matches we've had," Schipper added. "We were down 4-3 that first set, so we really needed to get the momentum back."
Going into the match, all four of the Falcons' singles players were undefeated. Kratky stopped that streak with a win at No. 4 for GHS, but Ludlowe's top three singles players continued their perfect seasons. Displaying a strong serve and punishing ground strokes, junior Lindsey Evans notched a 6-0, 6-0 win over Greenwich's Anna Daccache.
"Anna and I play together a lot, so I am used to hitting to her," Evans said. "Our team was confident going into the season, but we thought maybe we would lose a couple of matches. We've definitely exceeded our expectations so far. Now, we're aiming to finish our season undefeated and go for the FCIAC title."
Said Daccache: "Lindsey's a really tough player. She's smart, moves her feet and is quick, so to win points off her she have to try to hit winners. We lost some key players from last year, but our incoming players and returning players have filled in the spots. I like our team dynamic."
"I feel great about our effort today against a very good team," Underhill said. "I think our players learned a lot from playing in a tough match like this.
LUDLOWE 4, GREENWICH 3
Singles: Lindsey Evans (FL) def. Anna Daccache 6-0, 6-0; Cami Adajian (FL) def. Maddie Arnold 6-1, 6-1; Daria Efimov (FL) def. Maggie Glynn 6-1, 6-2; Hannah Kratky (G) def. Kyra Adajian 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. Doubles: Julia Akerman/Lizzie Griffin (G) def. Chelsea Keane/Lauren Hilliker 6-3, 6-4; Lena Schipper/Riley Sheets (G) def. Sarah Jennings/Ana Wyckoff 7-5, 6-1; Lexi Brown/Julia Cheung (FL) def. Isabelle Janssen/Maitlyn Murphy 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.