Girls tennis preview: Talented newcomers bolster Wilton

With eight returning varsity players and the addition of two nationally ranked players, the Wilton High girls tennis team has the potential to make some noise in the FCIAC this season.

The Warriors, who open the season today at Westhill, are looking to improve on last season’s 10-6 FCIAC record. They were 13-8 overall, ending the season with a loss to Greenwich in the Class L quarterfinals.

“I think we’ve got some great potential,” said first-year head coach Ben Alexander. “We’ve got a really young team. I think we’re going to go far.”

The team graduated its first doubles teams of Taylor Ingerman and Leigh Culnane, who were first-team all-FCIAC and state finalists, along with Ally Shay, who teamed up with Rachel Low at second doubles, finishing at 14-5. The Warriors also graduated one of their main singles players in Katie Robertson.

Low, an all-East FCIAC pick last year, is the team’s senior captain and will played first doubles this season. Alexander said she is an outstanding doubles player, giving Wilton a strong first doubles unit regardless of whom she is partnered with.

Wilton shuffled its lineup through the season last year, meaning it returns many players who saw action at multiple spots in the lineup, singles and doubles.

The returning group includes seniors Hannah Jung and Kira Essig, juniors Jelena Sypher and Cara Kilmartin, and sophomores Meghan Golden, Amber Li and Alix Wadehra.

The big additions to the lineup are freshman Izzy Koziol and junior Natalie Ivanov, both nationally ranked players who Alexander said will battle with the best in the FCIAC at first and second singles.

“They should hold their own,” he said.

Koziol, who will be at first singles, is “going to be a powerhouse,” he said. She is currently ranked 29th in the USTA New England 16-under rankings, and ninth in Connecticut.

Ivanov will finally make her debut for Wilton High, opening at number-two singles. She spent her freshman year in the USTA player developmental program, and sat out last season with a wrist injury.

Ivanov is ranked 35th in New England for 18-under, and 10th in Connecticut.

Sypher, who played at first singles in about half of the team’s matches last season, will move into the number-three singles spot.

“We’re going to be extremely strong with our singles, especially our 1-2-3. They’re outstanding,” said Alexander.

The fourth singles spot will be filled by either Essig or Kilmartin, who are also the candidates to join Low at first doubles.

Jung and Li will open the season at second doubles.

Third doubles is still up in the air. In addition to Golden and Wadehra, the candidates include senior Jamie Follett, sophomores Arden Lee and Gerri Fox, and freshman Alexandra Iotzoba.

“I think we’ll definitely have a winning record. We want to win FCIACs and make states and hopefully win states,” said Alexander. “I think we’re headed for great things this season.”

Notes: Alexander, who coaches USTA tennis and is a pro at Four Seasons Racquet Club, is a former number-one singles player at Ridgefield, where he played for current Wilton boys tennis coach Chris Damone.
— J.B. Cozens