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Old Lyme boys take pride in keeping tennis tradition strong

Old Lyme — Want to know all about the Old Lyme High School boys' tennis program, including its history and traditions?

Senior George Danes, the 2019 Shoreline Conference singles champion, recommends checking out a video called the Old Lyme High School Tennis Documentary, which details the 2011-12 school year.

In the 24 minute, two second documentary made by the players on that team, there are scenes from matches, training sessions and pasta parties as well as team haircuts, interviews and words of wisdom from coach John Pfeiffer.

You hear the players regularly mention DOLT — an acronym for Dynasty of Old Lyme Tennis.

DOLT and the program's proud traditions remain alive today.

Old Lyme is still a strong program, improving to 12-1 overall with a 7-0 win over Old Saybrook on Tuesday.

"It's really interesting," Danes said of the documentary. "And we carry on the legacy."

The Wildcats are on track to finish behind leader Westbrook in the Shoreline Conference due to a 5-2 loss in a head-to-head matchup earlier this season. That match happened during school vacation week when a couple Old Lyme players were missing.

They can still improve their status in Class S if they knock off Westbrook on Wednesday in a rematch that won't count as a league match. They're No. 5 in the Class S rankings, with Westbrook holding down the No. 1 spot.

"I think we have a good chance to beat them (Wednesday)," said first-year coach Andrew Tyrol. "If we can come out with a victory, I'm pretty confident going into the state tournament we can make a good push."

Seems fitting that the program is run by Tyrol, a 2013 Old Lyme graduate. He lettered in cross country, basketball and golf but didn't play tennis.

"It's pretty surreal," Tyrol said. "You can't script that you'd come back and be able to coach and guess be like one of those people that coached you and helped you grow. Never thought I'd be coaching tennis, never thought I'd be teaching at Old Lyme, never thought I'd be coaching at Old Lyme. That's just how it happened."

Tyrol, 26, started his own competitive tennis career sort of late, not joining a team until his senior year at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. He was spotted playing racquetball and was asked to join the college team. He ended up winning a couple of matches.

When asked by athletic director Hildie Heck about coaching the high school tennis team, Tyrol, who's a special education teacher, gladly took the job. He just graduated from Quinnipiac on Sunday with a masters in special education.

"Pretty cool leap," said Tyrol of going from playing tennis as a hobby to a tennis coach. "I always thought I'd be coaching basketball, but I'm coaching tennis."

Tyrol is enjoying coaching this group that includes Danes, Charles Hinckley, Griffin McGlinchey, Pat Dagher and Will Danes at singles, and the doubles duos of Regan Kaye-Tim O'Brien and Sam Koenigs- Mike Klier.

George Danes and Kaye, the team captains, are both undefeated this season.

"Great group of kids," Tyrol said. "A lot of personality for just 10 kids. A lot of diversity with their personalities but that's what makes a team cool."

Tyrol has had a positive impact on the players.

"For his first year coaching, it's been good," George Danes said. "It's been really fun. This culture is a lot of fun this year. We have fun on the bus. We have fun at the matches. That's what we do."

With a mix of veterans and underclassmen, the Wildcats took time to jell this season.

They've finally found the proper team chemistry with help from Tyrol and assistant Dan Koenigs. A former Wildcat tennis player, Koenigs helped create the documentary on the 2011-12 season.

The Wildcats take great pride in carrying on DOLT.

It's more than just a team slogan.

"Honestly, it's really like a lifestyle, more like a vibe and a culture," Kaye said.

Danes added the Wildcats are just having fun with the whole DOLT thing.

"We don't mean to be rude to anyone," he said. "It's our culture. We just say it's how we hype our team up. It's how we get our team to work together."

g.keefe@theday.com

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