The red-hot Fairfield Warde girls tennis team spotted Ridgefield the first two singles matches but rebounded to earn its sixth straight victory by sweeping the remaining five contests in an FCIAC match Monday afternoon at the James Blake Courts. The Mustangs won the regular-season finale 5-2.
Warde will bring a 12-4 record into the conference quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon in Westport at 4 p.m. Warde will finish as the No. 6 seed in the eight-team field, earning a berth against No. 3 Staples (14-2). Ridgefield (11-5), which beat Greenwich on Sunday, will be the seventh seed and play at No. 2 Fairfield Ludlowe (15-1) on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The Mustangs got singles victories in the Nos. 3 and 4 positions from seniors Mackenzie Burns, a captain, and Emily Schmerzler after the Tigers opened with wins at Nos. 1 and 2 by seniors Kelly Janasek and Olivia Beatty. Warde swept doubles with senior captains and sisters Erin and Megan Hines, at No. 1, Mary Ball and Ashley Aufiero, at No. 2, and Darcy Byington and Liz Gallucci, at No. 3.
"We had to bring our `A' games today," said Warde coach Marilynn Jamgochian, "and we really did at number three and four singles.Their number one and two are both seniors. They are two talented players who are hard to beat. They were the better players today. What it came down to was the team that can persevere.
Ball and Aufiero wrapped up their doubles victory to cut Ridgefield's lead to 2-1. Then the No. 1 doubles match, with the Hines sisters against Candace Condon and Gretchen Ball, was delayed by close to 15 minutes when the score became disputed in the third set after the first two were split.
Matches are self-officiated. Persuasive speaking began among the four players.
Protocol is clear when such disputes arise, which are infrequent, Jamgochian said. Coaches cannot moderate; it's up to the competitors to agree or to go back to the point where both sides last agreed on the score. In this case, at 1-1 starting the third game in the third set. The Mustangs and Tigers players each believed they had a 2-1 lead. Jamgochian and Burns both said the dispute was a distraction.
When play resumed, the Hines sisters won five of six games to win the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and the match at two wins apiece.
"It was pretty hard," said Burns, whose court was next to No. 1 doubles. "I thought it was distraction," said Jamgochian, who did not believe the contentious match was the turning point, swinging the momentum the Mustangs' way.
Burns believed the decisive factor was the focus on the seniors, with a celebration of the six 12th graders planned for after the match. "We pulled through," Burns said. "Cheering for our teammates was helpful. It was important for our (five) seniors out there."
Jamgochian said momentum was established with victories over Greenwich and New Canaan back to back on May 5-6, both by 5-2 margins, which began the winning streak, following successive losses to Fairfield Ludlowe and Staples.
"That was a huge momentum burst for us," Jamgochian said of beating the Cardinals and Rams Wins against Stamford, Bridgeport Central and Norwalk followed May 7-13. "We hadn't beaten Greenwich in five years and we hadn't beaten New Canaan is several years.
"We started to have more confidence in our matches. We started hitting harder, and we were hitting with more confidence," she said. "Everyone was dedicated to pushing harder, especially in practice. In practice, our singles players work with doubles players and other singles players and our doubles players work with singles players and other doubles players."
Ridgefield coach Juan Ocampos noted how three of the seven matches were decided in the third set, all won by Warde. "Everyone worked the best we could," he said.
Ocampos said the Tigers failed to maintain the momentum gained from the previous day's 4-3 win at Greenwich. "I thought we were a little slow out there, a little slower than we usually are."
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Warde 5, Ridgefield 2 (at James Blake Courts): Singles: Kelly Janasek (R) def. Emily Simonds 6-2, 7-6 (6-4); Olivia Beatty (R) def. Jenny Schneider 6-4, 6-2; Mackenzie Burns (W) def. Maxine Gorelick 6-1, 6-4; Emily Schmerzler (W) def. Jamie Coconis 6-4, 6-1. Doubles: Erin Hines/Megan Hines (W) def. Candace Condon/Gretchen Ball 6-2, 4-6, 6-2; Mary Ball/Ashley Aufiero (W) def. Katelyn Hill/Rebecca Vandervoorn 6-1, 2-6, 6-4; Darcy Byington/Liz Gallucci (W) def Natasha Armbrust/Caroline Nethercott 6-2, 7-6 (6-4). Records: Ridgefield 11-5, Warde 12-4.