STONINGTON — Stonington High’s girls’ tennis team began the season with a lot less experience than the Bears have grown accustomed to, but that didn’t stop them from getting their share of postseason accolades.
Heading into this season Stonington was faced with the challenge of replacing six first-team All-ECC Medium Division players from a team that won the school’s first Class S girls’ tennis title.
Despite not having any player returning with significant varsity singles experience the Bears had three of their four singles spots earn postseason ECC honors with a total of four athletes making first-team All-ECC Medium Division.
Hannah Fabianski and Taylor Startz were named All-ECC Medium first team for their singles play and Gina Feliciano and Morgan Parrilla made first team as a doubles team. All four are juniors.
Also getting postseason accolades were Emily Gardiner, honorable mention All-ECC Medium in singles, and Claire Morehouse, a sophomore, earned the sportsmanship award.
Fabianski was one of four new singles players for the Bears and the junior learned on the fly in the No. 1 spot. Fabianski played primarily second doubles as a freshman and first doubles as a sophomore as she waited her turn in singles play behind some talented and experienced upperclassmen.
When the junior got her chance she took full advantage, posting a 13-7 record. She advanced two rounds in the ECC tournament before falling to the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinal round.
Stonington coach George Crouse said Fabianski improved by leaps and bounds against the top competition as the season went on.
“Hannah basically improved the whole season. She beat two girls, the No. 1 from Waterford and the No. 1 from St. Bernard, who beat her earlier in the season. You look at the early scores and she wasn’t in it against those two, but the second time around she hung in there and won in three sets,” Crouse said.
In the first meeting against the No. 1 from Waterford, Nisha Rajamohan, Fabianski fell, 6-0, 6-1. In the second meeting Fabianski won, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Rajamohan won a hard-fought 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5) match in the ECC quarterfinals on her way to the championship match where she finish as the runner-up.
“I look at Hannah’s early season matches and call them learning matches. She got a little more confidence and worked hard at improving. She cut down on the unforced errors and her forehand became a weapon,” Crouse said.
“She has the potential to, basically with a little more power on her strokes, become one of the top players in the ECC. Hannah just needs some experience and that’s what she got this year.”
The path Startz followed to a first-team All-ECC Medium singles player was very similar to Fabianski, although Startz did play in a handful of singles matches as a freshman. A year ago Startz made honorable mention All-ECC Medium in doubles, playing mainly at No. 3. This season Startz split time between No. 2 and No. 3 singles and posted a 14-4 record.
Startz went into the ECC tournament as the No. 12 seed and won a match before falling to the No. 5 seed in the round of 16.
According to Crouse, Startz is not going to beat her opponents with an overpowering serve or forehand, instead relying on her conditioning and ability to run down shots.
“Taylor is basically a backboard, she doesn’t give up and fights every match. Taylor is very competitive and she basically outlasts her opponents. She can control all of her shots and I think her competitive spirit carried her to all-conference,” Crouse said. “Occasionally she will hit it hard, but she can run anything down.”
Feliciano began the season as a singles player and went 6-2 before moving back to doubles play, a spot where she earned honorable mention All-ECC Medium the year before. Parrilla was seeing her first extensive varsity experience this season and teamed with Jennifer Carroll before being paired with Feliciano. Together Feliciano and Parrilla went 5-3.
“Gina was very experienced in doubles and this was Morgan’s first go at it in varsity. They blend very well. The experienced play of Gina helped Morgan and stabilized things,” Crouse said. “They were never out of a match and only lost (three).”
Gardiner received honorable mention for singles play and tied Startz for the best singles record on the team at 14-4.
After opening the season 8-0 in No. 4 singles play, Gardiner used a ladder match to jump all the way up to the No. 2 spot and won five of her first six matches in second singles play. Gardiner won one match in the ECC tournament before falling in the round of 16.
The Bears went 6-2 in the ECC Medium and 12-4 overall. Stonington won its first Class S match before falling to top-seeded Westbrook, 6-1.