Ludlowe netters win FCIAC title

Fairfield Ludlowe’s Daria Efimov returns a volley from New Canaan’s Kate Howard in the No. 2 singles match. Efimov’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory proved to be the decisive point in the Falcons’ 4-3 win to earn the program’s first FCIAC title. (By Dave Stewart)

Fairfield Ludlowe’s Daria Efimov returns a volley from New Canaan’s Kate Howard in the No. 2 singles match. Efimov’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory proved to be the decisive point in the Falcons’ 4-3 win to earn the program’s first FCIAC title.
(Photo by Dave Stewart)

As the drama heightened and the tension rose during the FCIAC girls tennis finals, Fairfield Ludlowe junior Daria Efimov remained focused on her own battle against New Canaan senior Kate Howard.
A roar went up from the other side of the Wilton tennis courts, signaling a victory for the Falcons’ No. 3 doubles team and a tied score through six matches. Efimov thought it announced something different.
“Truthfully, when they were cheering that loudly, I thought we had won already,” Efimov said. “I had no idea it was tied.”
The growing crowd watching the final set of her No. 2 singles match with Howard soon revealed the situation, and Efimov turned on the jets for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory which gave the Falcons their first-ever FCIAC championship, 4-3, on May 22.
Ludlowe overcame one of the FCIAC’s perennial powers, as New Canaan was playing in its 11th consecutive conference final, and had upset No. 1 seed Greenwich in the semifinals.
The Falcons, on the other hand, were making their first trip to the FCIAC’s title match, and are now batting 1.000.
“I could not be happier for the girls,” head coach John Reisert said. “This was a gut-check win… This was as good as tennis gets.
“To have it come down to a third set in one match, that’s really where this match deserved to be. New Canaan is a phenomenal tennis team and our girls had the mental strength to pull these matches out.”
The match was a nailbiter from start to finish, with a split of the first four matches.
Ludlowe won the first two, as Lindsey Evans took the No. 1 singles match with a 6-0, 6-1 decision over New Canaan’s Jensen Lee, and Cami Adajian won 6-2, 6-0 over Emily Brand at No. 3 singles.
New Canaan tied the score with wins at No. 1 doubles and No. 4 singles.
The top tandem of Sara Greene and Kristin Laub defeated Ludlowe’s Sarah Boyle and Colleen Fitzpatrick in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, while Caroline Gordon won the singles match, 6-1, 6-2, over Kyra Adajian.
That left three contests still on the courts, all of which went to three sets.
At No. 2 doubles, New Canaan’s Amanda Merjian and Sarah Lovejoy completed a come-from-behind win over Molly Boyd and Erica Elmslie, as they won 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, putting the Rams within a point of the championship.
Ludlowe’s Sarah Jennings and Chelsea Keane turned the tide to win the No. 3 doubles match 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 against New Canaan’s Emma Gruber and Giuliana Savini.
“We’ve been in similar situations in important matches and (Jennings and Keane) have not lost a single fold match the entire season,” Reisert said.
“They’re both very good aggressive players and Sarah’s especially good at finishing. When we get them playing their brand of tennis, I have great confidence that they can close the match out.”
That left Howard, who had clinched a state championship for the Rams with a three-set win in the final last year, against Efimov, the Falcons’ most veteran singles player. The rest of Ludlowe’s singles lineup consists of sophomores.
“When I was playing, I was thinking about doing it for the team,” Efimov said. “The girls worked hard. This is for them, not for me. We’ve worked very hard this year and we’re very lucky to have such a good group.”
Trailing Howard 2-1 early in the third set, Eflmov won five of the last six games for her three-set win, making champs out of the Falcons.
“To have Daria do it, the elder statesman of our singles players, was fitting,’ Reisert said. “She’s been out there one more year, she’s had the opportunity and she showed her strength with how she finished that third set.”

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