MERIDEN — The courts are full as we roll out our inaugural All-Record-Journal Tennis Team.
There are 16 girls and 12 boys, which would make for a nifty one-day community tournament, featuring some pretty good mixed doubles competition.
It is admittedly a crowded All-RJ field. For good reason: It was a better-than-average spring on the area high school tennis front. In particular, a number of doubles teams did quite well.
So did teams in general. Five girls squads made the CIAC team tournaments: Southington (15-3) and Cheshire (12-3) in Class L; Maloney (12-5), Sheehan (13-7) and Lyman Hall (12-8) in Class M.
Each of those teams also had girls qualify for the State Open.
Among the boys, four teams qualified their starting lineups en masse for the class singles and doubles tournaments: Southington (15-4) and Cheshire (12-6) in Class LL, Lyman Hall (11-9) and Sheehan (10-10) in Class M.
There is a conference Player of the Year in the All-RJ mix. There is a conference champion. There are three All-Staters.
Let’s start at the top, with the All-State players. The Cheshire doubles team of Kelsea Mann and Jenny Wang earned their stripes by reaching the quarterfinals of the State Open.
Mann and Wang, both seniors, were Cheshire team MVPs for two years running. Mann is going on to Boston University, Wang to Wellesley. They were named All-SCC DIvision I.
Also attaining All-State status was Southington’s Abby Murphy. In her second year at No. 1 singles — and still only a junior — Murphy went a perfect 18-0 in the regular season. She made All-State by reaching the Round of 16 at the State Open.
(Note: The top 16 players in singles and in doubles make All-State, hence the Round of 16 cut-off in singles and the quarterfinal level in doubles.)
Murphy is believed to be the first All-State girls tennis player at Southington. She finished the season 21-2 and was named the Record-Journal’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year at Sunday’s “Best of the Bunch” awards event.
The Conference Player of the Year? That was Cheshire’s Utsav Subramani.
He’s quite a story. Only a freshman, Subramani stepped in, earned Cheshire’s No. 1 singles spot and proceeded to go 13-1 in the regular season, with his only loss to an unbeaten SCC Division I player.
Subramani reached the Round of 16 in the Class LL state tournament. He was ultimately named the SCC’s Division II Player of the Year.
As for the conference champion, that was Wilcox Tech senior Eli Henry. In fact, Henry didn’t just win the Connecticut Technical Conference singles crown once, he won it twice, starting his junior year.
Also a standout soccer player, Henry was a scholar-athlete who graduated with No. 2 in his class with a 104 academic average. He was Wilcox Tech’s CIAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Matching that model was Southington’s Matt Balaoing. A returning No. 1 singles player, the senior went 11-5 in his final season and earned his team’s R-J Scholar-Athlete nod with a 103.5 GPA.
Balaoing is heading to UConn to major in Biology. He was a three-time All-Conference player and was named the Record-Journal’s Male Tennis Player of the Year.
This season, Balaoing battled through a shoulder injury to lead the Blue Knights to their 15-4 record. He had help. Marek Kryzanski went 10-5 at No. 2 singles and fellow junior Andrew Kudla was 12-5 at No. 3.
Kryzanski was All-Conference. Both were All-RJ.
For the Southington girls, who were virtually in lockstep with the boys in going 15-3, two doubles teams were starring while Abby Murphy was tearing things up in singles. The No. 1 team of Kate Hardy and Isa Miani went 12-4. The No. 2 tandem of Gianna Wadowski and Avery Korp went 13-1.
Both duos were All-Conference. Both qualified for the State Open. All four girls, like Murphy, are juniors, so coach Robin Thompson’s squad looks solid for 2020.
So does coach Nan Cunningham’s boys team in Cheshire. Along with Subramani, the Rams will return No. 2 singles player Yasha Laskin. This spring, as a sophomore, Laskin went 12-4 and was named All-Conference.
The No. 1 doubles team will need to be rebuilt. While junior Ben Fritz returns, Nate Pisani has graduated and is heading off to the University of Delaware to major in Nursing and Medical Services. Together this spring, Fritz and Pisani had an All-Conference and All-RJ campaign in which they went 12-6.
Key singles positions will need to be filled in Wallingford, as well. Senior Corey Flynn went 10-4 at No. 1 singles for Lyman Hall. Senior Andrew Saball went 10-3 at No. 2 for Sheehan. Both were All-Conference selections.
The Trojans are also losing their No. 1 doubles team. The All-SCC duo of Jake Lynn and Jared Cervero posted a 14-6 record in their final season and reached the Round of 16 at the Class M tournament.
From the Lyman Hall girls team, two doubles pairings made All-RJ by qualifying for the State Open. Juniors Nicole Nicefaro and Abbey Pallas held down the No. 1 slot and went 11-7. Senior captain Bianca Vega teamed with sophomore Olivia Vegliante to go 12-3 at No. 2.
One of the area’s top doubles teams is one of its youngest, Abby and Haley Lespier. The twin sisters from Maloney went 14-2 in their sophomore season to lead the Spartans to the Class M team tournament and qualify themselves for the State Open.
The Lespiers were named All-Conference, as was Grace Waldron at Sheehan. Already a team captain as a junior, Waldron went 14-4 for the Titans at No. 2 singles.
Her fellow Sheehan captain, senior Shreya Patel, teamed with Crystal Gallagher at No. 1 doubles. They posted an 8-2 record and, like Waldron, advanced to the State Open.
Patel, by the way, graduated No. 5 in Sheehan’s Class of 2019. She’s heading to college to major in Physiology and Neurobiology with a Pre-Med track. A new sort of service lies ahead for her.