For the first time since 1998, the Wilton High girls tennis team begins the season today (at Fairfield Warde) as defending state champion.
There’s always pressure that goes with that honor, but the Warriors should have the talent to handle whatever comes their way.
“We’re a solid group, up and down the lineup,” said first-year coach Mike Racanelli, who takes over from Mike Gillespie.
The team graduated two of its four singles players, Allie Schaefer (15-6) and Sammy Augenbraun (16-4), as well as the first doubles team of Javier Fiol and Maya Srivastava (18-6).
Some things, however, seem set.
A strong singles rotation will again by led by sophomore Maddi Stow and senior Brooke Connolly.
Stow had a tremendous freshman season last year, advancing to the State Open semifinals with a five straight wins in the state tournament. She finished the season with a sparkling record of 22-2.
At second singles, the Warriors return senior Connolly, a four-year starter who went 16-5 last season.
Also back are senior Maddie Murphy and junior Bridget Cott, who played together at second doubles a year ago and finished at 19-3, earning All-FCIAC East honors. They advanced three rounds at the state tournament.
Three other players are also back in sophomores Kaitlyn Zheng, who played at third doubles last season with Hanna Montgomery (going 11-1), Ally Shay (11-1) and Maya Seshan (5-0).
Racanelli expects big things from two sophomores moving up from the JV ranks, Taylor Ingerman and Leigh Culnane. Both are strong players who could have easily played varsity last year he said.
Other additions are senior Hannah Sullivan, juniors Alex Babkowski and Sara Steinberg, sophomore Carly Lovallo and freshman Emma Stow.
Racanelli said the team’s lineup still hasn’t been locked in, except for the first two singles spots.
“It’s going to be a mix of players for singles and doubles,” he said. “The doubles teams for now are a little interchangeable.”
Wilton finished the season at 18-4 last year, and had a dominating run through the Class M state tourney, winning 33 of 35 matches in sweeping to five wins.