New Canaan upsets Ludlowe for third straight Class L girls tennis championship
In the New Canaan girls tennis team's two prior 4-3 losses to Fairfield Ludlowe, the Rams' third-doubles duo, Giuliana Savini and Emma Gruber, had lost to Ludlowe's, Chelsea Keane and Sarah Jennings -- including a three-setter that fueled the Falcons' FCIAC championship on May 22.
After losing the first set Friday, 6-2, Savini and Gruber could have packed it in.
Instead, they willed New Canaan to another state championship.
Gruber and Savini claimed the final two sets, including a near-flawless 6-1 third set, keying the 10th-seeded Rams to a 4-3 win over the fifth-seeded Falcons in the Class L state championship at Yale. It is the third straight state title for the Rams and their seventh overall.
New Canaan (19-4) swept doubles, and freshman Caroline Gordon won at No. 4 singles, as the Rams claimed their fifth-straight state title, third-straight Class L championship and first win in three tries this year over Ludlowe.
"We wanted Ludlowe," Rams coach Erin Gildea said. "I stressed to them, win or lose, you have to learn from the previous matches, and I was confident that if we did that we might be able to pull it out."
Lindsey Evans, Daria Efimov and Cami Adajian all claimed singles wins for Ludlowe, as the Falcons (22-3) had their 15-match win streak snapped.
"The two best teams in the state played today," Ludlowe coach John Reisert said. "We played very well today; they played a little bit better."
Keane and Jennings claimed the first set in No. 3 doubles, 6-2. With the Falcons leading 3-2 after five completed matches, it appeared as if they would ride their third-doubles duo to their first title since 2007.
But, Gruber and Savini settled in. At 4-4 in the second, they claimed three of the final four games, winning the second set 7-5.
"We said `we don't want to lose giving them free points,'" Gruber said. "We weren't going to give it to them."
New Canaan's third-doubles pair also fought off three game points in the third set, executing stellar shots, and capitalizing on Ludlowe errors to build a 5-1 advantage.
"Our girls played very well," Reisert said. "But their girls, to their credit, they didn't make mistakes, and we had a hard time finishing points."
After falling behind 30-0, New Canaan roared back, winning the final four points; Savini's winner claimed the set and match for the Rams.
"We just never missed," Savini said. "We kept hitting out shots and hitting our shots."
Efimov, Evans and Adajian all won in straight sets, as Evans claimed her match with relative ease, beating New Canaan's Jensen Lee 6-1, 6-1.
"She's gotten a lot more consistent," Evans said of Lee. "I had to change it up a little bit."
Savini, Gruber, Greene, Laub and Lovejoy make up five of the Rams' seven departing seniors who have never completed a season without a state title.
"Every practice and every two-miler around the track was worth it," Gruber said. "Every loss does not matter because of this win right here."
Class L Final at Yale
New Canaan 4, Fairfield Ludlowe 3: Lindsey Evans (FL) def. Jensen Lee 6-1, 6-1; Daria Efimov (FL) def. Kate Howard 6-2, 6-1; Cami Adajian (FL) def. Emily Brand 7-5, 6-2; Caroline Gordon (NC) def. Kyra Adajian 6-4, 6-2; Kristin Laub/Sara Greene (NC) def. Colleen Fitzpatrick/Sarah Boyle 6-1, 6-1; Sarah Lovejoy/Amanda Merjian (NC) def. Molly Boyd/Erica Elmslie 6-2, 6-1; Emma Gruber/Giuliana Savini (NC) def. Chelsea Keane/Sarah Jennings 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.