From the outside looking in, New Canaan boys tennis is the same program it has been for the better part of the last 42 years. The team still stands as an FCIAC contender that competes well against other conference powers like Fairfield Ludlowe, which it topped 4-3 one week ago. The Rams are also known as a team adept at taking care of business against lesser developed programs, two of whom--Stamford and St. Joseph--they swept 7-0 in back-to-back matches.
Yet, there is one, large difference between this year's version of New Canaan boys tennis and all those clubs from the last four decades.
The head coach.
Ben Young, a player at New Canaan from 2001 to 2004 under previous headman Dan Borgman, has taken over following a four-year stint as the JV coach. While the Rams graduated a number of key players last spring, and he has never led a program before, Young says he couldn't be happier.
"I've really, truly been loving it," Young said. "It's a high-character team. They're all very engaged and willing to do almost anything, which makes it fun every day to come out."
After his hiring by New Canaan athletic director Jay Egan, Young became only the third coach in Rams boys tennis history. In Borgman's farewell season, the team finished fourth in the Class L tournament behind co-champions Daniel Hand and Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe. This year, Young has kept a steady focus on developing intangible camraderie, as the Rams simultaneously attempt to match the record book successes of squads past.
Upon visiting any New Canaan's matches either home or away, this closeness becomes immediately apparent; from the constant supportive cheers to the all-white apparel worn by each player, which signifies that despite their individual competitions, the team plays as one. In turn, the first-year coach has told his Rams that they haven't quite earned the school's red and black colors, an honor that will come at some point during the season.
Similarly, over time he aims to keep New Canaan exactly where it has been--at the top.
"(I want) to try to continue what New Canaan tennis means," Young said. "It means a high-level of excellence both on and off the court. It provides great role models, strong academic individuals and the tennis players have always been some of the best in the county. Hopefully we can strive for all three of those."
As told by his successor, the legendary Borgman was, among many things, always known for his passion of tennis and developing young men. Yet despite his departure, there seems to be little doubt that either of those qualities will be leaving the program with Young in charge.
"Sometimes you learn more from a loss," Young said following a tough home loss to Ridgefield Wednesday. "I'm very proud of the boys."