Branford Girls’ Tennis Enjoys Sensational Campaign on the Court
Entering the season with a new head coach and a relatively young roster, the athletes on the Branford girls’ tennis team were determined to prove that they would be a formidable opponent in the SCC this year. In the end, the Hornets put together a stellar performance on the court by claiming 15 victories and making it to the quarterfinals of the Class M State Tournament during the 2022 spring season.
Branford finished its campaign with an overall record of 15-4, posting a mark of 14-3 in the regular season. With Dave Gruendel beginning his second tenure as the program’s head coach, the Hornets started the season strong by winning their first seven matches this spring. In 7 of the team’s 14 regular-season victories, Branford came away with a 7-0 sweep.
On May 3, Branford earned a big victory when it defeated West Haven by a 5-2 score in a home match. The win marked the Hornets’ seventh victory of the season, clinching their berth in the Class M State Tournament. Freshman Peyton Gaudreau posted a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles for the Hornets, while junior Evelyn Mollow prevailed by that same score in the No. 2 doubles match. Branford also swept the doubles slate by receiving victories from its teams of senior captain Juliana Torello and junior Evie Kaiser (6-1, 6-1), senior captain Zaide Schlesinger and junior Scout Engstrom (6-1, 1-6, 6-1), and senior Tiffanie Ly and freshman Erin Newlan (6-0, 6-0).
After solidifying their spot in the postseason, the Hornets entered the Class M State Tournament as the No. 3 seed. Branford notched a 4-3 win versus No. 14 seed Jonathan Law in the first round of the state draw before taking a 4-2 loss against No. 6 Valley Regional in a quarterfinal contest.
Gaudreau netted a 6-3, 6-0 victory in the No. 1 singles match for the Hornets. Mollow won a 6-0, 6-1 decision at No. 2 singles, and junior Lelia Omeragic posted a 6-0, 6-0 shutout at No. 3 singles. Branford’s No. 3 doubles team of junior Dominique Smith and Newlan secured the victory over Law by recording a 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) win in their matchup.
Only a freshman, Gaudreau enjoyed an excellent campaign at the No. 1 singles position for Branford this year. Gaudreau won all 21 matches that she played and wound up earning a spot on the All-SCC Tier 2/3 Team and the All-State Team for her performance.
Gaudreau capped off her season by representing Branford in the singles bracket at the Individual Invitational Tournament. Gaudreau won her first two matches in straight sets to advance to the quarterfinal round, after which she withdrew from the tournament due to an injury.
Branford’s senior class was led by the team’s two captains, Schlesinger and Juliana Torello. Schlesinger has been a member of the team since her freshman year, while Torello joined the Hornets as a junior. Both athletes played major roles in Branford’s doubles lineup this season. Branford’s senior class also included Reese Inzero, Tiffanie Ly, and Celina Shrestha.
Next year, Branford will be returning a bevy of players who gained major varsity experience in 2022. In addition to Gaudreau, Mollow and Omeragic both saw significant time on the singles court this season. Fellow juniors Olivia Torello, Smith, Kaiser, and Engstrom all played key roles in the doubles lineup for the Hornets. Sophomore Ellie Wieland competed at the No 1 doubles position, while fellow sophomore Isabella Kelly played in several singles matches. Newlan put together a strong freshman season for Branford, earning a spot in the doubles lineup.
Gruendel had previously served as Branford’s head coach 20 years ago and stepped back into that role after the team’s previous coach, Jim Cole, passed away in January. The first season of Gruendel’s second stint at the helm saw the Hornets enjoy a tremendous amount of success this year. With so many returning players on the roster, Branford will be looking to build off of this year’s momentum and come back even stronger when the Hornets step back on the court in 2023.
The roster for Branford girls’ tennis team in the 2022 season featured senior captains Zaide Schlesinger and Juliana Torello; seniors Reese Inzero, Tiffanie Lyn, and Celina Shrestha; juniors Scout Engstrom, Evie Kaiser, Evelyn Mollow, Leila Omeragic, Dominique Smith, and Olivia Torello; sophomores Isabella Kelly, Allison McCarthy, and Ellie Wieland; and freshmen Jenna Acquarulo, Peyton Gaudreau, Erin Newlan, and Lynka Orosz.