Fairfield Warde's boys tennis team has a large, deep roster of hard-working players, many of whom might start regularly if they were on a team weaker than the Mustangs.
Relegated to the role of reserves as a result of strength among the starters, these players do get a chance to shine in match play from time to time. Tuesday afternoon, when Trinity Catholic came to Fairfield, was one of those times.
Four players not typically in the starting rotation got the nod for singles play, and all of them were victorious in helping the Mustangs to a 7-0 triumph. Warde, the defending CIAC Class L co-champion, improved to 6-1 overall and FCIAC foe Trinity fell to 1-4.
"I know when I need to put my best lineup out there," said Warde coach Ben Zuckerberg, adding that he mixes and matches his lineup when the time calls for it, so that those backup players can compete. "I like to reward my players for working hard."
Another ninth-grader, Geoff Gaulger, played No. 4 singles and picked up a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Patrick Fustini. His older brother, junior Brian Gaulger, played second singles and won 6-1, 6-2 over Ricky Heer. Senior Christopher Rexford also got a somewhat rare start and made the most of it with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Tim Sugrue in the third singles position.
Asked what worked well in his match, Rexford said: "I was serving pretty well today and being consistent with my ground strokes."
Senior captain and standout Ted Berkowitz, who got the day off, said of the reserves getting their chance: "They practice every day with us. It's good that they get a chance to play."
Warde's other wins: Senior Kanav Kumar won 6-0, 6-0 over Jack Farrell at No. 1 singles; the No. 1 doubles tandem of seniors Eric Segerberg and Daniel Pavoni defeated Will Lesoravage and Eliajh Jean 6-0, 6-0. Trinity didn't have enough players and forfeited at second doubles.
Warde senior captain Jack Mappa, who didn't play in the win, said the team worked well on Tuesday. "We all knew what we had to get done today. We all came ready to get down to business, and we all worked hard and did our part," Mappa said.
The Mustangs continue to win, and Zuckerberg believes some of the success stems from the togetherness of the squad and the easy-going atmosphere that has been instilled.
"I try to keep it as low pressure as possible," said Zuckerberg, noting how the players get together twice each week for team dinners, and how everyone plays a role on and off the court.
Trinity coach Craig Pucci noted that his players took more than just a lopsided loss out of this meeting. "We get good experience playing against some really good tennis players," said Pucci, noting that his players fought hard, the scores were a little deceptive, but his team was simply over-matched.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter