Boys tennis preview: Song leads Ridgefield
With many of his team's top players back, Ridgefield High boys tennis coach Aaron Hyde has high hopes for this season.
"This is tough group of guys, who challenge each other each and everyday at practice to be better," Hyde said. "Much of this team have been together for three years now, so its a tight-knit group who want to do one thing: win. [We reached] FCIAC quarterfinals in 2017, [and] semifinals in 2018, so you can guess what we're going for in 2019."
Ridgefield went 12-6 last season, beating Westhill in the FCIAC quarterfinals before losing to Greenwich in the semifinals.
Among the returnees is junior Brian Song, who made the All-FCIAC first team while sharing time with Luke Queiroz at first singles last year. With Queiroz not playing this season, Song is the full-time starter at first singles.
"We lost an All-FCIAC singles player in Luke Queiroz, [who has moved] to South Carolina to train, but fortunately we have another All-FCIAC singles player in Brian Song, who is ready to lead this team and take a firm grip of the number one singles position," Hyde said. "Brian continues to impress ... his court maturity is unlike anything I've seen, and his tennis IQ is unbelievable. It's awesome watching him work with everyone on the team, sharing his knowledge and experiences."
Also back are juniors Ramiro Davila and James Hourihan, who both started at singles for the Tigers in 2018. Davila begins the season at second singles, and Hourihan will be at third singles when he returns from a hand injury next week.
"These guys are very evenly matched ... both could play the second singles position," Hyde said about Davila and Hourihan. "Along with Brian (Song), these are a couple of tournament players we have on this roster, and [they] bring a great deal of experience to our singles lineup. I'm expecting a big year for these two."
Freshman Andre Letourneau will open the season at third singles and could play at fourth singles once Hourihan is back. "He's got some great hands, and he's very strong at the net, so he will play in the doubles lineup as well," Hyde said about Letourneau.
"Our singles lineup will be challenged this year with the departure of Luke Quieroz," Hyde said. "Everyone will be bumped up a position, but everyone is looking forward to the challenge."
After going 12-2 at second doubles and advancing to the round of 16 in the Class LL state tournament last spring, senior Tadd Long and junior Seth Prusko will move up to first doubles.
"They will be a tough team to beat this year," Hyde said. "[I'm] excited to see these guys out there together again; they know each other's game so well."
Noah Butler, who made the All-FCIAC team while playing first doubles with the graduated Tanner Daubenspeck last season, will be at second doubles with either sophomore Emmett O'Malley, sophomore Joseph Campos, or Letourneau.
"Tanner did a great job of coaching Noah up last year," Hyde said. "[Noah] will look to take on that leadership role this year in the second doubles spot.
"[O'Malley and Campos] played third doubles last year and with a year of experience under their belt, these guys are ready to take their game to the next level," Hyde added. "Both have matured in the off-season; these are definitely Ridgefield's most passionate players, and they let everyone know it. Every team needs players like them."
Senior Harrison Berger, junior Stephen Chen, sophomore Carter Schroppe, and freshman Evan Bellusci are all vying for the final spot in Ridgefield's starting lineup.
"[We're] looking for our 10th man to round out our starting lineup," Hyde said. "Harrison Berger, Carter Schroppe, Stephen Chen, and Evan Bellusci have all impressed since day one this season."
Notes: Ridgefield is scheduled to open the season this afternoon (4 p.m.) at home against Trinity Catholic.
Song and Long are the team's captains.