A long, strange day but Old Lyme's Danes repeats as Shoreline tennis champ

May 26—OLD SAYBROOK — George Danes awoke at 5:30 Tuesday morning to play a 7:30 Shoreline Conference semifinal match, which he did to accommodate his opponent, East Hampton's Sam Gibson.

Danes won 6-0, 6-0, and went to school for a bit. Then he waited through a long, weird day at Old Saybrook High School where the Shoreline tournament was taking place.

He waited through a three-set doubles championship by teammates Tim O'Brien and Regan Kaye, through a three-set singles victory by Valley Regional's Nic Wyszkowski — Danes' eventual championship opponent — and he waited through a surprise emergency lockdown drill at the school which interrupted the doubles final.

The top-seeded Danes finished up just shy of 6 p.m. with a win over Wyszkowski, the No. 2 seed, coming back from a second-set deficit to win 6-4, 6-4.

It was the second title for Danes, a senior, who won as a sophomore before the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.

"Tired, weak, annoyed," Danes started off, asked how he felt following the match, before breaking into a smile. "It's a long, long, long day, but it's a good day. In the first match, my lower back started hurting. I had to be careful. I had to plow through. I worked hard, but it was worth it."

O'Brien and Kaye, the top seed in the doubles bracket, beat No. 2 Gareth Whitehouse and Mason Malchiodi of Westbrook 7-5, 5-7, 6-4, approximately two and a half hours after the match started, with Kaye hitting a return which ricocheted off an opposing player at the net and fell in for match point. Kaye launched his racket into the air and the duo was met as it came off the court by Danes.

Danes was asked what he did, in particular in the gap between matches Tuesday. Took a nap, perhaps?

"I cheered on Tim and Regan winning. I don't take naps. I watch my team win," Danes said. "It was fun. Now we're going to win states. I want to win this year as a team.

"We didn't get to play last year. It was fun to play this year. Our team was small but we plowed through."

Danes was 17-0 during the regular season for the Wildcats, who were 15-2 as a team.

In the match between Danes and Wyszkowski, the players chatted amicably. Danes drilled a shot at the start of the second set that Wyszkowski told him was scary. Wyszkowski was showing signs of leg cramps at the end of the match, with Danes continually asking him if he was OK.

"I knew this was going to be a gritty game. Both of us were tired," Danes said.

Wyszkowski led 2-0 and 4-2 in the second set, with Danes mixing up the pace of his shots. Danes then won four straight games, tying it at 4-4 as he sent Wyszkowski scrambling backward only to chip the next one short with Wyszkowski unable to recover.

Both members of Old Lyme's doubles championship team are also seniors. Kaye said he came back to doubles after playing singles in 2019 just so he could win a title. Kaye and O'Brien said their forte is team chemistry.

"We don't have to talk too much," O'Brien said. "We just do it. ... After we won the first game in the third set, we realized we know how to play tennis. We had a burst., an adrenaline rush. We played the best we've ever played, the best match overall.

"We might have got a little scared, but we knew we were winning."

— The Old Lyme team of senior Lauren Wallace and sophomore Alexis Fenton won the Shoreline Conference girls' doubles title at Morgan, beating Westbrook's Xan Zanzalari and Bree Koplas 6-1, 6-1.

"When I was talking to them in the changeover, Lauren said, 'I want it so bad,'" Old Lyme coach Lauren Rahr said. "I said, 'You show me then. Go out and show me how much you want it.' They played amazing. Everything seemed to come together. Everyone was watching saying, 'This is how doubles should be played.'

"They fought through every single point. They wanted it."

In singles, Old Lyme No. 1 Abby Sicauranza lost a three-hour, three-set semifinal, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. Old Lyme No. 3 Sam Tan won the bracket for third and fourth singles players, 6-1, 6-1.

v.fulkerson@theday.com