Photo: Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media
The ball bounced back and forth on the hard blue singles court at Yale, each volley creating an opportunity for a memorable moment for Staples’ junior Evan Felcher.
Then it finally happened.
Notre Dame-West Haven’s Andrew Forchetti’s shot went wide, and Felcher raised his fist in celebration.
He was now the Connecticut Singles Open tournament champion with the 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 victory.
In just one season, Felcher — Staples boys’ tennis No. 1 singles player — cemented himself as one of the best players in the state. Felcher’s stellar season earned him the honor of being named the Hearst Connecticut Media Boys Tennis MVP.
The junior performed at the highest level in his first season playing at the FCIAC tennis powerhouse, as the Wreckers marched through the rest of the field en route to a fourth straight undefeated season and the Class LL state championship.
“(Evan) definitely took the pressure off the whole team,” said Staples senior captain Max Zimmerman. “I think everyone had a boost of confidence.”
Felcher jumped into the No. 1 singles role despite just joining the program this season, but the intensity of high school tennis was the perfect proving grounds for the junior as the storybook first season ended in perfect fashion, with the Connecticut Singles Open tournament crown and another run to the title for the Wreckers.
The ride was a rush from beginning to end, Felcher said.
“I was really thankful to win,” he said. “They’re a lot of kids that play tennis and I feel very lucky.”
But the biggest change that the junior had to make during his first season was adjusting to the team environment of an individual sport like tennis.
After spending nearly the entirety of his career as a solo player, joining the Wreckers squad presented an opportunity to have a support system out on the courts that was unique and memorable, he said.
“It’s a really tight-knit family,” Felcher said. “It’s a special team to be a part of.”
Staples has been a special program while under coach Kris Hrisvoulos.
The undefeated season this year capped a milestone that was four years in the making, with the Wreckers once again standing above the rest of the teams in Class LL as the premier program.
Even when other FCIAC opponents get the chance to dodge the Wreckers, they are usually pretty happy about it.
“We don’t have to play Staples, which is great,” Darien coach Hugh Underhill said before the Class L state playoffs. “We have to worry about New Canaan now, but not having to play (Staples) for a third time is going to be great.”
The Wreckers’ success made for an attractive opportunity for Felcher when he joined the squad, but even from the first day, it was his talent that got his new teammates’ attention.
As a senior, Zimmerman said this year he was slated to be the No. 1 singles player until Felcher joined the team.
But the weight the junior carried through the season made the move to No. 2 singles much easier for Zimmerman — especially when the team was able to grow in skill while adding another personality into the Wreckers’ fold.
“Obviously (Evan) is a world-class player,” Zimmerman said. “Our team is so close we’re a family.”
That environment helped Felcher during the Class LL tournament as he finished with a 6-0 record to help propel the Wreckers to the title.
While being the top player on a dominant team like Staples could make some athletes feel pressure, Felcher is not one of those athletes.
“I think enjoying every moment is really important,” Felcher said. “I like to keep my routines simple and appreciate all the people that give me an opportunity.”
It was those opportunities that resulted in Felcher being named an All-State athlete and also the Connecticut Player of the Year.
“There were matches that could have gone the other way,” Felcher said. “But I overcame. That’s something my coach has really pushes me to do. Just try and enjoy it.”