One big advantage for this season's Ridgefield High girls tennis team is its versatility.
"We are very deep with a great deal of parity among our players. We're even carrying four exhibition players — two of whom saw significant action, including wins in states, last year," said Ridgefield head coach Adam Moskowitz. "All four will certainly crack into the lineup several times this year. There are even two-to-three players on JV that could step up and fill in if needed."
The Tigers went 11-8 in 2016, losing to Amity in the quarterfinals of the Class L state tournament. Ridgefield was unable to make the eight-team conference playoffs, getting edged by Trumbull on a tiebreaker for the final FCIAC berth.
That makes today's season opener against Trumbull (RHS courts, 4 p.m.) an important match for Ridgefield.
"... It was a loss to them (Trumbull) last year that served as a tiebreaker between the two teams," said Moskowitz. "That said, we just want to ease into the season and get better every day."
With last year's number one singles player, Lea Letourneau, focusing on private training, junior Aurora Joblon moves into the top spot.
"Aurora has an uncanny ability to play 'up.' She hasn't been at the game as long as others on the team and certainly not the league, but she's a tough out because of her desire to fight hard on every point," said Moskowitz.
Senior Anabel Cordano, a four-year varsity player whom Moskowitz calls "the team's leader in every sense," will play at second singles, with junior Morgan Held at third singles. "She's extremely consistent and just fun to watch," said Moskowitz about Held, an All-FCIAC honorable mention choice last year. "She covers a lot of court and would honestly make an awesome doubles player, too."
Junior newcomer Micaela O'Malley begins the season at fourth singles, although she could switch to doubles, according to Moskowitz.
"Micaela is one of our happy surprises this year. She's a junior that moved to town and brought a great game with her," said Moskowitz. "From a lineup perspective she, too, would make a great doubles player. We'll make a decision really early on which is best for her and the team, but out of the gate she looks like a solid four (singles player)."
In an effort to replace last year's graduated top doubles team of Chelsea Hopper and Isabella Rendon, Moskowitz has paired junior Hillary Sherpa (Ridgefield's second singles player in 2016) with sophomore Jillian O'Keefe.
"These are two of the most talented players we have," said Moskowitz. "O'Keefe can chase any ball down from anywhere on the court, and Sherpa has wonderful touch on her volleys and a nice serve."
Seniors Carmen Sanz and Caitlin Kissel, who teamed at third doubles last spring, will play second doubles for the Tigers, with senior Caroline Rychlik and junior Jennifer Gordon at third doubles.
Two other contributors could be junior Julia Driscoll and sophomore Rachel Bodner, both of whom played varsity matches last season. "Both were hurt before the season started, so we're easing them back in and will see where they land," said Moskowitz.
Other options include sophomore Samantha Margolin (a JV player last year) and freshman Phoebe Seidenberg, who won a short-form team tournament to fill the 14th spot on the varsity roster.
"Each student is focused on team goals, but the the 'work' of the season will happen at the individual level," said Moskowitz. "It will be really fun to see how they develop as individuals and then of course to see how far we can go in states and FCIACs."