Wilton girls doubles team advances to state finals (updated)
The Wilton High doubles team of Taylor Ingerman and Leigh Culnane advanced to Wednesday's girls tennis State Open championship match, after a straight-set win over second-seeded Rachel Einbinder and Sarah Bullers of Amity, 6-3, 6-3, today at Yale University.
The Wilton team, seeded sixth, plays top-seeded, and unbeaten, Anna Barsanti and Mia Dursht from Darien in the finals at 2, also at Yale.
It is the third straight year that Ingerman has been part of a Wilton doubles team playing in the state title match. Her three-year record at the tournament is now 16-1.
Ingerman and Culnane improved their season record to 16-2.
In the quarterfinals at Yale on Monday, the Wilton duo rallied from a set down to defeat Megan Brown and Kristin Butler of Staples.
The third-seeded Wreckers swept the first set 6-0. The Warriors, however, overcame their nerves, as well as a 6-5 deficit in the second set, to force a tiebreaker, which they won 7-4.
Ingerman and Culnane then put it all together in the third set for a 0-6, 7-6, 6-3 win.
“Staples is a strong and dangerous team and they have the ability to beat anybody in the tournament. They can take you apart quickly,” said Wilton coach Mike Racanelli, who credited his team's mental toughness for being able to come back.
“They showed great resilience. It was tough to get drilled in the first set and then come back,” said Racanelli. “We came out timid and not playing our best. They just weren’t firing on all cylinders. They felt the pressure.”
The stakes involved, and a large crowd looking on at Yale, made it a pressure-packed experience for both teams, he said.
“It was more about the mental battle than the physical battle. It was who could handle their nerves the most and who was able to relax more, that was the difference. We were just able to do that a little better than Staples.”
The Wilton seniors had swept Katelyn Mogelnicki and Lauren Mogelnicki of Northwest Catholic in the round of 16 earlier on Monday, 6-0, 6-0.
The quarterfinal match was the third time this season Ingerman and Culnane, Wilton’s number-one doubles team, had faced Brown and Butler, the Staples first doubles team.
Brown and Butler had beaten Ingerman and Culnane during the regular season, but the Wilton duo rallied from a set down to win in three sets in the Warriors’ 6-1 loss to Staples in the FCIAC quarterfinals.
Today's semifinals match marked the third year in a row that Ingerman and Amity's Rachel Einbinder have been on the opposite side of the net in the state tourney.
Last year, Einbinder and her partner Jamie Thimineur beat Ingerman and Kaitlyn Zheng in the state finals. Two years ago, Ingerman and Zheng beat Einbinder and Thimineur in the quarterfinals en route to the state title.
Wilton’s number-two doubles team, Ally Shay and Rachel Low, also played in Monday’s round of 16, turning in an outstanding performance in losing to the top-seeded team of Barsanti and Dursht from Darien, 6-4, 7-5.
Shay and Low jumped out to leads in both sets. In the first set, they were up 4-2, and in the second set held leads of 4-2 and 5-4.
“They just weren’t able to close it out,” Racanelli said. “Give Darien credit. They were able to make a few more shots at the end of each set that made the difference.”
Shay and Low, who finished the season with a record of 14-5, showed they belonged with the best doubles teams in the state, said the coach.
“They are a strong doubles team,” he said. “They’re in the conversation when talking about the great doubles teams in the state.”