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High School Tennis Preview: Teams Glad to Get Outside

  • From left, Woodstock's Ted Morley cheers on his teammate Alex Sheppard while watching with teammates Dune Mayberger and Kyle Rasmussen during Fair Haven at Woodstock boys tennis at Woodstock Racquet and Fitness Club in Woodstock, Vt., on April 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    From left, Woodstock's Ted Morley cheers on his teammate Alex Sheppard while watching with teammates Dune Mayberger and Kyle Rasmussen during Fair Haven at Woodstock boys tennis at Woodstock Racquet and Fitness Club in Woodstock, Vt., on April 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyle Rasmussen competes in a doubles match with teammate Ted Morley, not pictured, during Fair Haven at Woodstock boys tennis at Woodstock Racquet and Fitness Club in Woodstock, Vt., on April 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Kyle Rasmussen competes in a doubles match with teammate Ted Morley, not pictured, during Fair Haven at Woodstock boys tennis at Woodstock Racquet and Fitness Club in Woodstock, Vt., on April 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • From left, Woodstock's Ted Morley cheers on his teammate Alex Sheppard while watching with teammates Dune Mayberger and Kyle Rasmussen during Fair Haven at Woodstock boys tennis at Woodstock Racquet and Fitness Club in Woodstock, Vt., on April 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
  • Kyle Rasmussen competes in a doubles match with teammate Ted Morley, not pictured, during Fair Haven at Woodstock boys tennis at Woodstock Racquet and Fitness Club in Woodstock, Vt., on April 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

Like all high school sports this spring, area tennis teams have been struggling with a lingering winter limiting practice time. In many cases, matches are beginning with fewer than a handful of days outside on the courts. Many teams now face the prospect of multiple weeks with matches on back-to-back days to ensure the entire spring season fits into the little time remaining in the school year.

The Hanover boys tennis team begins 2014 looking to carry the momentum from last season’s unbeaten 17-0 state championship run into the new year. Kotaro Horiuchi, winner of the state singles title last season as a freshman, did not return to the Marauders this season as he soon heads to France to join a year-round tennis academy. Hanover now looks to sophomores Henry Pletcher and Graham Dickson to hold down the top two singles positions on what looks to be another deep, talented team.

The Lebanon boys team has found little competition the last two seasons outside of their local rivals at Hanover, going 26-0 against the rest of the state but 0-6 against the Marauders. Max Reed, Nabeel Khan and Jeff Purdy will lead the Raiders this season; each has multiple varsity campaigns under his belt.

“We always have great matches with Lebanon,” Hanover coach Mark Lewis said. “We have a lot of new faces in the starting lineup. A lot of the guys are going to be in situations they have not been in before. Right now, I feel the guys are mentally tough and will be able to handle the pressure when the time comes.”

Fifteen-year Woodstock girls coach Tom Hopewell oversees a team which has once again benefitted from its facilities.

“Woodstock Inn has been great for us, supporting us for many years now,” Hopewell noted. “They’re a great supporter of all Woodstock athletics, but I can’t say enough for how they’ve helped the tennis program.”

The Wasps, 9-4 last season, feature three talented seniors in Amelia and Kathleen Sheppard along with Marissa Farbman as they hope to improve on last season’s semifinal playoff loss to eventual state champion Montpelier.

Here’s how the teams shake down this season:

Boys

Hanover

Coach: Mark Lewis (5).

Last Year: 17-0, state champions.

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Jeffry Li (capt.), Isaac Davis (capt.), Miles Campbell. Junior — Richard Qiu. Sophomores: Graham Dickson, Henry Pletcher.

Who’s New: Freshmen — John He, Will Bonner, Benny Gantrish.

Who’s Gone: Kotaro Horiuchi, a freshman on last year’s state title team and the winner of the state singles championship, is taking the spring off and then moving to France to join a year-round tennis academy. Christian Mueller, Brendan Barth and Sandy Yu graduated, while Jackson Greenspan transferred to Kimball Union Academy.

Players to Watch: The sophomore duo of Henry Pletcher and Graham Dickson will be playing No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Each has worked hard at improving his game and should be at the top of the Marauders’ lineup for the next few years. Seniors Jeffry Li, Isaac Davis and Miles Campbell have all made improvements over their high school careers. Junior Richard Qiu will start in singles for the first time after being part of successful doubles pairings for the last two seasons.

Strengths: Experience with the whole team focusing on tennis year-round, competitive drive.

Weaknesses: New faces in starting lineup.

Toughest Foes: Lebanon, Portsmouth, Derryfield.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m excited about this year’s team,” Lewis said. “It’s hard to live up to the 17-0 team from last year, but I feel we still have the ability to go far in the playoffs and if the cards fall just right, (another championship) might not be out of the question. I’m looking forward to watching the seniors play this year; those three guys have put in a lot of hard work over the years to get to the point of starting for Hanover, and I want more than anything for them to have a great year.”

Hartford

Coach: Joe Denny (4).

Last Year: 1-12, did not qualify for postseason.

Leagues: Vermont Division I, Marble Valley League.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Evan Brown (capt.), Inderjit Singh. Junior — Andrew Files.

Who’s New: Juniors — D.J. Clifton, Loriston Fennell. Freshmen — George Spearing, Spencer Rugg.

Who’s Gone: Zach Kent.

Player to Watch: Evan Brown brings experience and leadership for the Hurricanes.

Strengths: Attitude, willingness to learn.

Weaknesses: Inexperience, depth.

Toughest Foes: Rutland, Brattleboro, Burr & Burton, Woodstock.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We’re looking forward to warmer weather and the time and opportunity to get outside and develop our skills and team identity. We have several new players and lots to learn and work on,” Denny said.

Kearsarge

Coaches: Pipere Sailer and Ben Taylor (1).

Last Year: 2-12, did not qualify for postseason.

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Karver Bosela (capt.), Nate Horn. Juniors — Drake vanKannewurff, Charlie Bossi, Will Anderson. Sophomores — Taylor Degroot, Jack Van Etten, Samuel Williamson.

Who’s New: Sophomores — Jeff Wallace, Jonathan Anderson, Silas Allard. Freshmen — Craig Berube, Tyler Valovic, Kasun Kidane, Charlie O’Connor.

Who’s Gone: Tim Berube and Vincent Metrano.

Players to Watch: Senior Karver Bosela will hold down the No. 1 singles spot and will be looked upon as a team leader. Freshman Tyler Valovic will be the No. 2 singles player and has looked very strong thus far. Others to watch are Drake vanKannewurff, Charlie Bossi, Will Anderson and Nate Horn.

Strengths: Fundamentals.

Weaknesses: Consistency.

Toughest Foes: Gilford, Profile, Bow.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have a great group of boys with dedication and desire to improve their games. The team is working hard as a whole. We are excited to see their improvements as the season progresses,” Sailer said.

Lebanon

Coach: Rich Kelly (9).

Last Year: 13-3, lost in semifinals to Hanover.

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Nabeel Khan (capt.), Jeff Purdy. Juniors — Max Reed (capt.), Sam Ryder, Jason Lane.

Who’s New: Senior — Chris Lovejoy. Sophomores — Jacob Armstrong, Bennett Newlove. Freshmen — Eli Weitzman, Terran Campbell, Jacob Peress, Kalen Mullin.

Who’s Gone: Will Sanborn, Wyatt Goodwin, Jacob Ryder, Donncha Coyle, Chris Eisener, Kyle Bellinger.

Players to Watch: Junior Max Reed will be the No. 1 singles player for the third straight year and rides a combined 38-12 record in singles/doubles action over his first two varsity seasons. Senior Nabeel Khan will play No. 2 singles and already holds program records for singles wins (33) and combined wins (58). Jeff Purdy returns following a very strong junior season. Jacob Peress highlights the newcomers as the freshman has impressed with his athleticism in the early going.

Strengths: “We have a great combination of returning experienced, winning players and we have a few really talented newcomers,” Kelly said.

Weaknesses: Lack of depth.

Toughest Foe : Hanover. Lebanon is 26-0 against any team but Hanover over the last two seasons, but is 0-6 against the Marauders, including a pair of playoff losses.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I think I again have a very strong team, and we have a great chance at a playoff spot,” Kelly said. “We’ve had very limited practice time so far due to the lingering winter and with just a couple of crowded courts and late nights at River Valley Club. Despite that, the team already looks pretty sharp. I’m very happy with our veteran leadership and team chemistry. I’m most looking forward to getting to the other side of the April break, having an actual spring, being able to practice every day and feeling like the season is in full swing.”

Woodstock

Coach: Rose Cantlin (1).

Last Year: 5-6, chose not to participate in state tournament.

Leagues: Vermont Division I, Marble Valley League.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Nathan Fegard, Alex Sheppard, Brendan Geiger (capt.), Alek Beaudoin (capt.), Grier Eagan, Ted Morley. Junior — David Reed. Sophomores — Ray Kurek, Bryan Kopf.

Who’s New: Senior — Doug Avellino. Freshmen — Dune Mayberger, Alden Krawczyk, Kyle Rasmussen.

Who’s Gone: Nate Hinson graduated, and Rasmus Eriknauser was an exchange student on last year’s team.

Players to Watch: The Wasps bring a lot of experience with seven seniors on the roster. Brendan Geiger and Alek Beaudoin bring great leadership skills, while Nathan Fegard and Ray Kurek impress with their consistency and strong singles play. Grier Eagan and Bryan Kopf should prove a formidable pairing at No. 1 doubles.

Strengths: Teamwork, experience, work ethic.

Weaknesses: Depth.

Toughest Foes: Rutland.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Because this is my first year coaching this team, I almost feel like a freshman myself,” Cantlin admitted. “I am so excited to spend the season getting to know each player’s personality, his strengths and weaknesses on and off the court, and to most importantly have fun and try to teach each player something new. This is such a great group of guys and I know we will get a lot done because of their willingness to work hard and accomplish their goals. I am most excited to see improvement in each and every player, from the freshmen who have never played to the seniors who have been playing for years, and more importantly to see them all have fun.”

Girls

Hanover

Coach: Glen Eastridge (12).

Last Year: 15-1, lost in semifinals to St. Thomas.

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Camille Hankel (capt.), Kendra McGowan (capt.), Emily Acker. Juniors — Zoe Yu, Liza Goss, Willa Kaufman, Hazuki Horiuchi.

Who’s New: Freshmen ?? Izzi Davis, Rine Uhm, Margaret Werner.

Who’s Gone: Katie Irwin, the No. 4 singles player from last season.

Players to Watch: Senior captains Camille Hankel and Kendra McGowan will lead with experience on and off the courts. The freshman trio of Izzi Davis, Rine Uhm and Margaret Werner look to impress right from the start.

Strengths: Depth. All 10 players can step up into any position, according to coach Eastridge.

Toughest Foes: Bishop Brady, St. Thomas, Portsmouth.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “With three new players ready to step in and play along with our seven solid returners, it should be exciting to see this team develop,” Eastridge said.

Hartford

Coach: Iris Berezin (31).

Last Year: 4-12, lost to Mount Anthony in first round.

Leagues: Vermont Division I, Marble Valley League.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Ashley Fogg, Kali Covell. Junior — Colleen McDermott. Sophomores — Amanda Nelson, Christine Miller.

Who’s New: Seniors — Casey Ostler, Mariah Palmer. Freshmen — Pearl MacLeod, Summer Parkhurst.

Who’s Gone: Jesse Gofberg, Allyse Mullen, Ossia Dwyer, Alex Fogg.

Players to Watch: Seniors Kali Covell and Ashley Fogg bring experience at the varsity level and will be team leaders. Sophomore Christine Miller also figures to have a strong season.

Strengths: Enthusiasm, work ethic.

Weaknesses: Inexperience.

Toughest Foes: Hanover, Burr & Burton, Woodstock, Mount Anthony, Rutland.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “I’m looking forward to watching the players develop and improve their skills with each match,” Berezin said.

Kearsarge

Coach: Laura Joslin-King (2).

Last Year: 1-13, did not qualify for state tournament.

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Kathleen Kowalski, Emily Irick, Sabrina Duquette. Junior — Haley Andersson. Sophomores — Lahtesha Nelson, Gillian Shannon, Renee Hall, Andrew Cutts.

Who’s New: Freshmen — Lydia Schoonmaker, Elise Paquette, Maddie Cook.

Who’s Gone: Brianne Maguire.

Players to Watch: The top three singles players, Kathleen Kowalski, Emily Irick and Sabrina Duquette, all have good varsity experience and will be team leaders.

Strengths: Team spirit, sportsmanship, determination.

Weaknesses: Lack of practice time.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We look at each team as a challenge, no more one than another,” Joslin-King said. “This season’s team is wonderful to work with. They have a great team spirit and a willingness to learn. They give their all and love to play this great sport of tennis.”

Lebanon

Coaches: Hank and Joe Doran (13).

Last Year: 6-8, did not qualify for state tournament.

League: New Hampshire Division II.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Brianna Li (capt.), Megan Mason (capt.). Juniors — Brielle Giaccone, Ashley O’Keefe, Abby Wilkinson.

Who’s New: Juniors — Amber Khatib, Brianna Crear, Samantha Wright. Sophomore — Jasmine Thorpe.

Who’s Gone: Haley Jones and Sara Hagen.

Players to Watch: Brianna Li moves up to No. 1 singles and has worked hard to improve heading into her senior campaign. Li and Megan Mason will be co-captains and will both provide strong leadership for the Raiders.

Strengths: Work ethic.

Toughest Foes: Hanover.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This year we are still rebuilding, and we hope to improve upon last year. All of the girls on this team work very hard and I think by mid-season we should be a solid team and hopefully make the playoffs,” Hank Doran said.

Stevens

Coach: Karen Cullison (6).

Last Year: 2-12, did not qualify for state tournament.

League: New Hampshire Division III.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Cassie Dale, Sammi Vashaw, Allison Lessard, Gabby Keyser, Corrie Holtz. Juniors — Desneige Roy, Carmella Clave. Sophomore — Evelyn Cormier.

Who’s New: Junior — Mariah Carroll. Sophomore — Hannah Scott. Freshman — Cameron Cullison.

Who’s Gone: Kendall Theroux.

Players to Watch: “Cassie Dale, Sammi Vashaw, Gabby Keyser, Allison Lessard and Corrie Holtz are all leaders on and off the courts,” coach Cullison said. Dale will likely be the No. 1 singles player and has a strong service game. Of the newcomers, Hannah Scott is new to tennis but is a good athlete who is learning quickly.

Strengths: Leadership and experience; most of the team has multiple years at the varsity level.

Weaknesses: Agility, power game.

Toughest Foes: Conant, Monadnock, Prospect Mountain, Littleton, Sanborn.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have a huge junior varsity program, so I am feeling really good about the direction of the program,” coach Cullison said. “These particular girls are some of the nicest and most dedicated girls I’ve had. They are excited about growing the team and helping others to be successful. The seniors often put in lots of extra time to work on their game, and this season, I hope it pays off for us.”

Woodstock

Coach: Tom Hopewell (15).

Last Year: 9-4, lost in semifinals to Montpelier.

Leagues: Vermont Division II, Marble Valley League.

Who’s Back: Seniors — Amelia Sheppard, Kathleen Sheppard, Marissa Farbman. Juniors — Emma King, Emma McLiverty, Katie Miller. Sophomores — Haley Usilton, Lauren Ross, Elise Geschardt, Morgan Hartman.

Who’s New: Sophomore — Dana Burrington. Freshmen — Rose O’Brien, Sarah Findeisen.

Who’s Gone: Sophie Leiter, Lizzy Miller.

Players to Watch: The seniors, Amelia and Kathleen Sheppard along with Marissa Farbman, will hold down the top three spots in singles and all have a wealth of varsity experience. Sophomore Morgan Hartman leads a talented group of underclassmen. “These are all experienced players and they’re a very unselfish squad,” Hopewell said.

Strengths: Teamwork, competitive drive.

Weaknesses: Serve and volley game, ability to be aggressive and get to the net.

Toughest Foes: Burr & Burton, Montpelier, Rutland.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Staying healthy will be big, it’s a quick season. Being competitive against those teams that have had our number for a few years will be a goal. I’d like to be able to finish up some of those tough matches with wins, it’ll take mental toughness to finish off more skilled players. I’m confident in these girls. No rain would be nice, too, if Mother Nature would help out,” Hopewell said.