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Downs, but mostly ups as Old Lyme boys' tennis wins roller coaster of a match

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published May 22. 2014 4:00AM
Tim Cook/The Day
Old Lyme's Luke Grabowski faced off against Old Saybrook's Sabahudin Cecunjanin at No. 2 singles Wednesday afternoon. Cecunjanin won 6-1, 6-3, but Old Lyme captured the match 4-3 and with it a share of the Shoreline Conference title.

Old Saybrook — The urge was there for Old Lyme High School senior Johnny Fairfield-Sonn to go loco during his must-win singles tennis match on Wednesday, mostly because Old Saybrook opponent Sam Henry was, "doing the Dave Peck thing."

The definition of "the Dave Peck thing" is as follows:

"Charge the net and be aggressive because my lobs are pitiful," Fairfield-Sonn said of his summer matches against Peck, his good friend, who had just wrapped up a baseball game on the Old Saybrook grounds.

"I could never set anyone up better for lobs than I do in tennis. If you want it perfect, you play me and hit a deep shot on me. I will give you the perfect overhead."

Fairfield-Sonn fought through his frustration and won his match in three sets to clinch a 4-3 win for the Wildcats and force a tie with the Rams atop the Shoreline Conference.

"It was a roller coaster," Fairfield-Sonn said of his 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win. "This is the biggest game of the season and I really had to come to play. It was for my coaches and for my teammates. As much as it's an individual sport, everybody was depending on me and I knew I had to be clutch in that situation."

Fairfield-Sonn has played the majority of his matches with classmate Joshua Krasney as the top doubles team for Old Lyme (18-1). The duo played enough matches to qualify for the postseason, so head coach John Pfeiffer moved Fairfield-Sonn into the No. 3 singles position.

"Tennis is tough for me because I need to keep my head and I'm good at that when I'm winning," Fairfield-Sonn said, "but when I start to lose, that's another story.

"I'm used to (Krasney) being the hot-headed one and me calming him down, so I have to take that role. When it's myself, I have to take charge."

Old Saybrook (16-1) won the first match between the teams 4-3 on April 29.

On Wednesday, however, Old Lyme sophomore Ethan Fenton beat Tenzing Kunchok 6-1, 6-4 in the No. 5 singles match.

The teams of Austin Pilgrim and Krasney, and Eric Pan and Jason Feng gave the Wildcats a doubles sweep.

Old Lyme hadn't lost a doubles match all season, so it was confident it would pick up two points there.

Fenton gave the Wildcats a third point, thus putting all the pressure on Fairfield-Sonn.

Fairfield-Sonn already felt enough pressure. Henry was flustering him. The two also lost track of the score during the third set.

Fairfield-Sonn also had to ditch his racket prior to the third and borrow Pan's.

"My racket started getting really slippery because I'm a profuse sweater," Fairfield-Sonn said with a smile. "It was slipping out of my hands on every serve. Usually my first serve, which I'm dependent on, did not go in at all, so I had to second-serve every ball, which led to him smashing it in my face a lot of times. After that I switched rackets and I collected my head."

It worked, as Fairfield-Sonn ground out a win for a team that started five sophomores and just two seniors.

"These kids have come a long way," Pfeiffer said. "It's a tremendous amount of work. A lot of training to make sure they can live through three sets. I've trained for that as long I've been coaching. When we've split over the years, I think we've probably taken 90 percent of third sets. That's important. You've got to have that endurance.

"Mental toughness, that's the hard one. You saw some of that today. We were a little tougher today mentally and I think that was the difference today and I think that was the difference last time."

n.griffen@theday.com

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