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The Hand boys’ tennis team defended its conference title and finished off a second-straight undefeated campaign by blanking Amity 7-0 in the SCC Tournament final on May 22 at Yale University. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Senior co-captains Noah Gulla and Nick Chieppo stand with Head Coach Dawn Fagerquist after the Tigers took the SCC title for the second year in a row with a 7-0 victory versus Amity. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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It’s never easy to defeat a rival three times in a season, but the Hand boys’ tennis team achieved that feat by recording a 7-0 win versus Amity in the final of the SCC Tournament last week. The Tigers not only defended their conference crown by shutting out the Spartans, they also posted an undefeated record for the second-consecutive campaign.
The defending champion Tigers entered the SCC Tournament as No. 1 seed following a regular season in which they went 19-0. After starting off the draw with victories over North Haven and Guilford, Hand squared off against No. 2 seed Amity for the second year in a row and the third time in four years in the title bout. The Tigers, who had defeated Amity twice during the recent regular season, made it 3-for-3 against the Spartans by netting a 7-0 sweep in the conference final at Yale University on May 22. With the win, Hand captured its fourth SCC championship, put a bow on a 22-0 record for the year, and also extended its winning streak to 58-straight matches.
Sophomore No. 1 singles player Josh Israel was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC Tournament and was also named the SCC Player of the Year. Israel said that Hand was determined to play great in the face of pressure as it tried to maintain its place atop the conference this spring.
“Being the defending champions, we went into this season with a target on our backs. Every team we played did everything they could to beat us, but we went out with our set lineup every match and just executed,” said Israel. “Being undefeated did put a lot of pressure on us, because a loss would have been a big deal and ended our streak. It was great to see the entire team clutch up and play our best tennis.”
In addition to Israel, senior captain No. 2 singles player Noah Gulla earned a spot on the All-SCC team for Hand. The Tigers’ No. 1 doubles tandem of sophomore Reilly Vejar and junior Darby Rogers collected All-SCC accolades, as well.
Israel claimed a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Brett Gloria in the No. 1 singles match when Hand defeated Amity (15-6) in the SCC final. Gulla notched a 6-1, 6-2 triumph versus Chris Bullers at No. 2 singles. At No. 3, freshman Sebastien Lowy posted a 6-0, 6-0 shutout against Ira Einbinder. Sophomore David Levchenko claimed a 3-6, 6-4, 10-5 victory over Ben Schaffer in the No. 4 singles matchup.
For doubles play, Rogers and Vejar defeated Livesay and Geoffrey Wady by a 6-1, 6-0 final in the No. 1 contest. At No. 2 doubles, senior captain Nick Chippeo and freshman Will deChabert earned a 6-0, 7-6 win against Max Dragaon and Gabe Sabatelli. In the No. 3 matchup, Hand’s duo of junior Jamie Watkins and sophomore John Van Ostenbridge notched a 7-6, 6-1 victory versus Jon Schachtet and Evan Arovas.
“It means the world to me to see this team win another SCC title. Everyone has worked so hard during the season and even before it to make our team the best it could be,” Rogers said. “We fought for every point, game, set, and match, and no one ever gave up. It also means a lot, because we allowed our talented freshmen to feel what we got to feel last year.”
Head Coach Dawn Fagerquist said the Tigers had their sights set on defending their SCC title and worked well together throughout that quest. It means a lot to Fagerquist that Hand was able to seize the repeat by defeating a talented Amity team for the third time this year.
“When you play a team multiple times, the team you play the first time won’t be the same the second time. Everyone gets better and smarter,” said Fagerquist, who’s in her 10th year as head coach of the Tigers. “Amity always fights us, and we will always enjoy playing them, but it’s all about the team with the most desire.”
Hand started off the SCC Tournament by recording a 7-0 win against No. 8 seed North Haven in the quarterfinals on May 20. Israel (6-0, 6-0), Gulla (6-0, 6-0), Lowy (6-0, 6-0), and Levchenko (6-0, 6-1) were triumphant on the singles court. The Tigers’ doubles teams of Rogers and Vejar (6-0, 6-0), Chieppo and deChabert (6-0, 6-0), and Watkins and Van Ostenbridge (6-2, 6-0) also prevailed.
On May 21, the Tigers clinched their spot in the SCC final for the seventh-straight year by earning a 6-1 semifinal victory over No. 4 seed Guilford at Yale.
Following SCCs, the Tigers began another title defense when they opened play in the Class L State Championship. After two days of competition, Hand, which claimed the Class L title in 2018, was in third place with 18 points, trailing New Canaan and Darien with 21 points apiece. Israel advanced to the quarterfinals of the singles tournament as the No. 3 seed. Hand’s 4th-seeded tandem of Rogers and Vejar made it through to quarterfinal round of the doubles bracket.
From the Sidelines
The Tigers’ roster additionally features senior Maxwell Thompson; juniors Ryan Hennessey and Christian Northrup; and freshmen Will Fumex, Maximo Gulla, Patrick Hennessey, Charles McIntyre, Ethan Speerli, and Rob Washburne.
This marked the fourth year in a row that Hand reached the SCC final. The Tigers defeated Amity by a 6-1 score in the Division I championship in 2016. The next year, Hand took a 5-2 loss to Fairfield Prep in the SCC final. Last year, Hand blanked Amity by a 7-0 score to take the title.
In the regular season, Hand posted victories over Guilford (6-1 and 4-3), Xavier (6-1 and 5-2), Fairfield Prep (6-1 and 6-2), Amity (7-0, and 6-1), South Windsor (7-0), Hamden (7-0), Foran (7-0), East Haven (7-0), Lyman Hall (4-0), North Haven (6-1), Notre Dame-West Haven (7-0), West Haven (7-0), Cheshire (7-0), Shelton (7-0), and Branford (7-0).
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