Top-seeded Darien tops No. 2 Staples for 8th FCIAC girls tennis crown

WILTON — Lauren Zhang, the freshman ace of the Darien girls tennis team, had just wrapped up a tough match with Staples’ Amelia Galin when she received a surprise from her Blue Wave teammates.

Zhang’s final point made Darien a repeat FCIAC champion, and the players rushed onto the court in celebration. The Wave’s No. 1 had been unaware of the match score.

“Not at all, not until they all came running on (the court). I was a little bit scared,” Zhang said with a smile.

No. 1 seed Darien, which is unbeaten at 18-0, won the top three singles matches and No. 3 doubles to nail down a 4-1 victory over No. 2 Staples in the conference final Tuesday at the Wilton tennis courts.

It was the Wave’s eighth overall FCIAC title and its second straight against Staples. The Wave and Wreckers have met in five of the last six league finals.

“They were super-focused, point by point,” Darien coach Anne-Lise Brown said of her players. “They’re used to playing with each other in these positions, so they know the pressure that comes with playing other D1 or D2 players. Having that experience when it comes to big matches like this.”

Staples, which was appearing in its sixth straight league final, is now 16-2 and its only two losses have come against Darien. The Wave won 4-3 during the regular season.

This time around, the Wreckers were at a disadvantage with four players sidelined due to the flu.

“Under the circumstances, the girls came out really strong,” Staples’ first-year coach Jena Wider said. “We were a bit handicapped today, but they all came out with positive attitudes. Darien is a tough competitor and I was proud of the way they played.”

Darien picked up a quick point at No. 2 singles, where Sarah Donnelly defeated Rhiya Anand 6-0, 6-0.

The Wave’s Emmeline Wang then took a 6-2, 6-1 decision against Maddie Hendley for a 2-0 lead.

Staples got one point back at No. 2 doubles, where Jordanna Latzman and Allie Francis defeated Juliette Johnson and Catherine Rolapp in straight sets 6-2, 7-5.

“They are both really, really strong players,” Wider said of Latzman and Francis. “We had to mix up our lineup a little bit because we’re missing some key players, so they don’t typically play together. That was a very strong effort for them.”

Darien’s No. 3 doubles team of Remy Sufrin and Delaney Das then won 6-1, 7-6 (2) over Giselle Oldani and Lucia Wang for a 3-1 lead.

Zhang survived a tough match against Galin in the first set before rolling in the second for a 7-5, 6-2 win to clinch the championship.

“It’s a really great feeling,” Zhang said. “The team has worked so hard this year and really, it’s all about the coach, the captains and my teammates. I’m really happy with how far we’ve come this season.”; @dstewartsports

No. 1 DARIEN 4, No. 2 STAPLES 1

Singles: Lauren Zhang (D) def. Amelia Galin 7-6, 6-2; Sarah Donnelly (D) def. Rhiya Anand 6-0, 6-0; Emmeline Wang (D) def. Maddie Hendley 6-2, 6-2; Doubles: Jordanna Latzman/Allie Francis (S) def. Juliette Johnson/Catherine Rolapp 6-2, 7-5; Remy Sufrin/Delaney Das (D) def. Giselle Oldani/Lucia Wang 6-1, 7-6 (2).

Records: Staples 16-2, Darien 18-0.