Girls tennis: Warriors prepared for move up

With eight of 10 starters back from last year’s Class M state champs, the Wilton High girls tennis would be expected to be a solid contender for a third straight state title.

But with Wilton being bumped up to Class L this spring, the road to repeat will much, much tougher.

Last year, the Warriors were able to escape the FCIAC in the Class M tourney, where they were the only team from the state’s dominant conference.

Class L on the other hand includes 14 of the FCIAC’s 15 girls tennis teams — including all four teams Wilton lost to during last year’s 18-5 season.

But second-year coach Mike Racanelli said the Warriors should be up to the challenge when the season begins next Wednesday.

“I know they’re very proud about being back-to-back state champions. They’re looking forward to the challenge, and so I am,” he said. “It’s even a greater challenge that we’re playing in the L Division this year. We’re a small big school going up against big big schools. We feel we can compete in L, too.”

Wilton got the season off on the right foot on Wednesday with a 7-0 win at Trinity Catholic.

The Warriors last year finished fifth in the FCIAC standings. The team graduated number-two singles player Brooke Connolly, and also does not return number-four singles player Maya Seshan. Several other players who were projected to step in this season aren’t playing, so the season has begun with more question marks than anticipated.

Racanelli is looking for help from several newcomers.

“I didn’t figure to have to fill as many positions. It’s given others an opportunity to step up,” he said.

The one spot that is solid at this point is first singles, where Wilton returns its number-one player the last two years in junior Maddi Stow, who has only four losses in two years. Last season, she went 21-2.

The Warriors also return starters in seniors Bridget Cott and Kaitlyn Zheng; juniors Leigh Culnane, Taylor Ingerman and Ali Shay; and sophomores Sara Steinberg and Emma Stow.

Zheng and Ingerman last season played at first doubles, went 20-1 and became the first Wilton doubles team to win the State Open title in 14 years.

Cott and Shay played at second doubles last year, and Culnane and Emma Stow at third doubles.

Steinberg started last season in the double rotation but played at third singles down the home stretch and state tournament.

Newcomers to varsity this season are senior Brooke Wistreich, juniors Katie Robertson, sophomores Rachel Low, Isabella Jones, Hannah Jung and Kinsey Watson, and freshman Jelena Sypher.

“We have strong players coming back. We have a good nucleus,” said Coach Racanelli. “I’m impressed with the way the team has worked and how they’ve pulled together.”