ALL-RJ TENNIS: Quality served as a sport springs back to life

MERIDEN — With Wimbledon winging toward its climax and the start of the Wayton Open fast approaching, we roll out the All-Record-Journal Team for a 2021 high school tennis season that almost made up for the lost 2020 season.


Eight area teams had winning records, seven posted double-digit wins and 10 of our 13 teams reached the CIAC state tournament.

The Cheshire and Sheehan boys both reached divisional finals in the SCC. In Meriden, the Maloney girls won their first CCC South title since 1989 and reached their first state semifinal.

The R-J Tennis Players of the Year are already known. Cheshire junior Utsav Subramani, the lone area player to draw a bid to the singles and doubles invitational that followed the team tournament, was our boys player of the year. Maloney twins Abby and Haley Lespier were the girls players of the year.

For four years, Maloney coach Tim Swiegard likes to say, he didn’t have to worry about his No. 1 doubles match. The Lespiers held that spot since their freshman season and they capped their 45-10 career with an 18-2 senior campaign.

The Lespiers made All-Conference and so did Maloney’s top two singles players in the 15-5 march to the Class L semifinals: juniors Samantha Pirruccio and Lilly Marcuss. Pirruccio was 14-6 at No. 1; Marcuss was 14-5 at No. 2.

Across town, the Platt boys had three of their number earn All-Conference nods in the CCC South: seniors Anthony Buscemi and Michael Urban and junior Will Suzio. The trio led the Panthers (6-7) to the Class M state tournament.

Meanwhile, the Wilcox Tech girls compiled a record of 11-3 overall, including 8-0 against Connecticut Technical Conference rivals, and ultimately captured the league’s team tournament.

Junior Xochilt Rangel and senior Melani Medina made it an All-Wilcox singles final, with Rangel earning the CTC crown. The Tribe’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Luisa Avila and junior Gia Alvarez were CTC runners-up.

In Cheshire, Subramani led a stocked singles slate that carried the 16-4 Rams to the SCC Division I final. Three of the four made All-Conference: Subramani, Yasha Laskin and Andrew Gershfeld.

Subramani finished the year 16-6 and was named All-State Class L.

Laskin, Cheshire’s senior captain, enjoyed a 19-1 farewell campaign. Gershfeld, only a sophomore, was a spotless 19-0.

Subramani was one of just two area players to earn All-State designation. The other was Southington freshman Sam Raniolo. He made the grade in Class LL.

Raniolo went 18-4 playing No. 1 singles for the 16-6 Blue Knights. His18 wins were the area high.

One of Raniolo’s four losses, however, was to Subramani when the Rams beat Southington 6-1 in a head-to-head matchup in Cheshire on May 8.

The Southington girls, an 11-7 qualifier for the Class LL tournament, were led by their All-Conference singles player, Adriana Palmieri. An unknown commodity after losing her freshman year to the pandemic, Palmieri hit varsity as a sophomore, earned her spot at No. 2 singles and went 13-5.

“I knew she came to our team with tennis skills, but I was unsure as to how that would play out on the court,” remarked Southington coach Robin Thompson. “Approximately midway through the season, Adriana was able to kick it up to another gear mentally and earned a very impressive win against Glastonbury in a match that was over two hours long and was settled in a third-set super-tiebreaker. I anticipate a bright future for her on our team.”

Conversely, Thompson will have to replace ther No. 1 doubles team of Avery Halloran and Ali Bruce. Finalists for R-J girls players of the year, the seniors combined on a 12-6 campaign.

Halloran, a southpaw, deployed a strong backhand to complement Bruce’s keen court awareness. Both are hoping to play in college — Halloran at Simmons, Bruce at Salve Regina.

Another doubles team that has played its high school last is the Lyman Hall duo of Keertana Chagari and Abigail French. The seniors were named All-SCC Division II after compiling a 14-2 record at No. 1.

They, too, were finalists for R-J girls players of the year and, yes, flair had a little bit to do with it.

“Watching Keertana and Abigail play a doubles match is one of the most entertaining things,” said LH girls coach Samantha Provenzano. “They have this unspoken communication that is fascinating. The chemistry that the two of them have on the court is the secret to their success. Alone, both Keertana and Abigail are extremely skilled players, but when you put them together, they explode on the court.”

Lyman Hall also had All-SCC Division II singles players in Jackson Mailhot and Olivia Vegliante. Both played at No. 1. Mailhot, a junior, went 9-5 for the boys. Vegliante, a senior, was 10-6 for the girls.

“Olivia is the epitome of a driven tennis player; the focus she shows both on and off the court is incredible,” Provenzano remarked. “Even when put up against a difficult opponent, Olivia handles herself with pure focus and grace on the court. Watching Olivia play tennis is so enjoyable. She took on the role of the No. 1 singles player with insatiable determination.”

We sign off with the school that, when the boys and girls are combined, had far and away the most successful spring among area teams: Sheehan.

The boys were 15-4, the girls 14-5. Both qualified for the SCC Division II and CIAC Class M tournaments.

Jamie Canney’s boys team, sparked by the All-SCC Division II doubles tandem of Jaidin Kapoor and Matthew Carboni, reached the division final. Kapoor and Carboni, both juniors, combined on a 13-3 season.

Coach Doug Sime’s girls team was led by three All-SCC D-II selections: No. 1 singles player Madison Yasgar and the No. 1 doubles team of junior Becky Falcone and sophomore Alondro Lopez.

Yasgar, a senior captain who also excelled in soccer, enjoyed a 10-6 spring.

Falcone and Lopez? They were 15-1, and they’ll be back. Falcone was a junior captain this year, Lopez just a sophomore. Hopes will indeed be high on Hope Hill a year from now.

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