Cards Down, Not Out

Claremont — It wasn’t that many years ago that tennis was a hot sport in Claremont. There were nine courts, and the demand for court time was such that players had to schedule playing time.

Not anymore.

The two courts that were at Barnes Park were converted for basketball, and the two courts at Moody Park are in such need of repair that Stevens girls tennis coach Karen Cullison says they are dangerous. That leaves the five courts at the Coach Parker Sports complex at Monadnock Park, where Stevens had its first match yesterday, a 7-2 loss to Bow.

“I came down yesterday (Thursday) and was picking weeds out of the cracks,” said Cullison who added that Claremont Parks and Recreation workers got the courts ready yesterday as best they could.

Cullison is a survivor in that tennis is a lonesome sport in Claremont. The boys program was abandoned for lack of participation several years ago, and there seems to be no hurry in bringing it back.

“If there was a boys program, it would help,” said Cullison. “If there were some boys playing, there would be more tennis talk around the school and maybe more kids would play.”

Cullison is working with 20 or so kids (her husband, Gary, coaches the junior varsity) and is encouraged that a lot of the players are freshmen. “That can only help,” she said.

Cullison is aware that not many years ago tennis flourished. While she realizes those days will never again surface, she is not totally discouraged. For instance, a Thursday night program seems to be gaining in popularity.

“I’m hopefully optimistic,” she said.

Cullison has a team this year that is not going to chase any titles, and she’s OK with that. She knows it wasn’t always that way. “When Jess Eaton (four years ago) was a junior, we didn’t make the top four to go to the tournament, but we were fourth or fifth,” said Cullison.

Bow came to Claremont yesterday and with the team came Sunday Swett, who not only was in a qualifying event for the U. S. Open last year, but is also the best player in the state, according to her coach. “I’m talking any division,” said Bow coach Jonesey Rainville of her senior. “Not only is she the best player in the state, she is by far the best player in the state, and she is just a wonderful person. She helps all the younger players and treats her opponents with respect. She’s a wonderful kid.”

Stevens got its two points from the doubles teams of Gabby Kenyon and Allison Lessard and Sami Vashaw and Victoria Webster. All the singles matches were one-sided Bow victories.

The Cardinals return to action on Wednesday with a trip to Monadnock. Stevens’ next home match is Friday with Conant.