[May 2017] Staples boys’ tennis eyes fourth straight FCIAC title

[May 2017] Staples boys’ tennis eyes fourth straight FCIAC title

By: Cooper Boardman ’17

Max Zimmerman’s ’17 racket flew out of his hand and clattered to the hardcourt. It fell with a crash that would not be heard, as the crowd screamed in celebration. Zimmerman was engulfed in a sea of teammates clad in blue and white—for the third straight year, the Staples boys’ tennis team was the FCIAC champion.
It was on that blazing afternoon last May when the Wreckers achieved their second three-peat and ninth overall title, extending their reign of dominance that began in 2014. This year, Staples is back, attempting to become the third FCIAC program to capture four straight titles.
“Not a lot of guys can leave high school saying they’ve won one FCIAC championship. It’s truly a special program,” Zimmerman said.
2016 was supposed to be the year in which the Wreckers were toppled from their pedestal atop the league. Staples’ 42-game win streak was snapped in the team’s fifth match of the season by rival Greenwich, and the team fell in unprecedented fashion to an upstart Westhill—each by just one point. But the Wreckers reloaded, notching playoff wins over Fairfield Warde and New Canaan before exacting their revenge over the Greenwich Cardinals in the league final. The team pointed to chemistry as the main reason for its bounce back performance, and this season the camaraderie is even stronger.
“I think we all respect each other as players and caliber competitors, so the mutual reverence is there as well,” co-captain Jay Mudholkar ’17 said. “I think this duality, in part, makes this year special.”
In fact, the team’s first pasta dinner went an hour longer than usual because the team was so engrossed in its conversation.
The senior co-captains, Zimmerman and Mudholkar, have played together since freshman year. As the team battled against Greenwich earlier this season, the echo of tennis balls ricocheting off rackets was drowned out by cheers of encouragement from teammates.
The bonds have also translated to success on the court, as Staples has opened the season at 9-0, outscoring opponents 62-1.
“We all know how the guy next to him plays, his styles, his shots, where he likes to hit the ball, how hard, the amount of spin and that knowledge just leads to more success,” Ben Stein ’18 said. “I think that because we are all just having fun and enjoying our experience, our chemistry is reaping the benefits.”
The team takes the court with “Staples” across their chests, carrying on a legacy of a program that has played in 16 FCIAC title matches since 1997. Three teams have dominated the boys’ tennis since the league began keeping records in 1963—New Canaan (19 titles), Greenwich (16 titles) and Staples (nine titles). Each of these squads has been to the final game in the last six years, but only Staples has been there every single year in that span.
Nonetheless, the Wreckers’ focus is on completing this season in the same fashion they did a year ago.
“One day I hope I can have a legacy that is remembered with the Staples boys’ tennis team,” Stein said. “But for right now I’m just trying, with my teammates and coach, to have a great 2017 season.”