By By Dean Bibens • 05/31/2021 05:34 p.m. EST • Last Updated 05/31/2021 06:08 p.m.
One year removed from the sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hand boys’ tennis Head Coach Dawn Fagerquist wasn’t sure what to expect from her team at the start of the 2021 season. What Fagerquist got was another historic performance from the Tigers, who posted their third-straight undefeated regular season and then claimed their third-consecutive SCC title last week.
On the heels of a 16-0 regular season, Hand entered the SCC Division I Tournament as the No. 1 seed last week. After receiving a bye through the quarterfinals, the Tigers earned a 6-1 semifinal victory versus Fairfield Prep and then upended Cheshire by a 5-2 score in the final to attain the three-peat. Hand is now 18-0 overall as the team opens play in the Class L State Tournament this week.
“What I am most proud of is that a bunch of guys who had a year of no normalcy or interaction with friends in and out of school made a commitment to make this teamwork,” Coach Fagerquist said. “These guys worked hard during the year and had a goal to have a winning season and win their conference. I’m proud of how this team pulled together and kept this family going.”
No. 1 seed Hand started off the SCC draw by hosting No. 4 Fairfield Prep for a semifinal matchup on May 25, winning the contest 6-1. Senior captain Josh Israel claimed a 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 1 singles for the Tigers. Junior Sebastian Lowy won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles; junior Max Gulla earned a 6-4, 7-6 (7-0) win at No. 3 singles; and senior captain David Levchenko won his No. 4 singles matchup in a walkover when Prep’s competitor was unable continue during the middle of a first-set tiebreaker.
In the doubles court, Hand’s No. 1 team of senior captain Reilly Vejar and junior Will deChabert posted a 6-1, 6-2 victory. The No. 2 duo of junior Will Fumex and freshman Elliot Booth won a 6-3, 6-2 decision to help the Tigers defeat the Jesuits and advance to the final.
“I just don’t have one guy who stood out at SCCs. Everyone on this team stood out. They all wanted to play and give their 100 percent,” Coach Fagerquist said. “This group of guys had a goal this year, and they achieved it, even with the obstacles. The competition this year in our conference was good. We had good, fun matches. Some schools pushed us more than others, which I like, because I like to see the competitive side of players and coaches.”
The next day, Hand secured its third-straight conference title by recording a 5-2 victory against 2nd-seeded Cheshire in the SCC Division I title match at the Polson Courts. Israel and Lowy claimed victories at the No. 1 and 2 singles positions, respectively, for the Tigers. Israel battled to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win in a three-set duel at No. 1 singles, and Lowy won a straight-setter by the score of 6-4, 6-4.
Vejar and deChabert won a 6-1, 6-1 decision for Hand at No. 1 doubles, while Fumex and Booth prevailed by that same score in the No. 2 doubles match. The Tigers’ No. 3 doubles team of senior John Van Ostenbridge and junior Patrick Hennessey posted a 6-0, 6-0, shutout to help Coach Fagerquist’s club claim SCC gold for the third time in as many seasons.
“The final was something that we looked forward to. Cheshire had pushed us during the season, so we knew we had to buckle down and play smart,” said Fagerquist. “The final is exactly what we thought it was going to be—a good fight and it was. They all grinded it out and did what they had to do.”
The other athletes on Hand’s roster include juniors Charles McIntyre, Ethan Speerli, and Robert Washburne, along with freshman Matthew Vetter.
With another SCC title in the books, Hand will compete in the Class L State Tournament as the No. 1 seed this week. The Tigers had a first-round bye and then hosted No. 8 seed Farmington in a quarterfinal match on June 1 (after press time). The semifinals were on June 2 (after press time), and the Class L State final takes place on Thursday, June 3. Hand last won the Class L title in 2018.
“I’m being a realist. Everyone knows that the FCIAC [Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference] is tough. We will do our best with what schools come our way. We will pull together as a team like we have done,” Coach Fagerquist said. “We are trying to keep our undefeated season alive. Numbers don’t matter to me. I want to keep the boys grounded, safe, and hungry, and I want to remind them what they are playing for.”