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Hanover Tennis Doubles Up Lebanon

  • Hanover's Miles Campbell returns the ball during the Lebanon at Hanover boys tennis match at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, N.H., on May 20, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Hanover's Miles Campbell returns the ball during the Lebanon at Hanover boys tennis match at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, N.H., on May 20, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon's Max Reed serves during his match at the Lebanon at Hanover boys tennis meet at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, N.H., on May 20, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Lebanon's Max Reed serves during his match at the Lebanon at Hanover boys tennis meet at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, N.H., on May 20, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover's Miles Campbell returns the ball during the Lebanon at Hanover boys tennis match at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, N.H., on May 20, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Lebanon's Max Reed serves during his match at the Lebanon at Hanover boys tennis meet at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, N.H., on May 20, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Hanover — Not very long ago, Lebanon High boys tennis senior Jeff Purdy and Hanover counterpart Jeffry Li shared more than a similar first name. Neighbors on a cul de sac in Grantham for much of their childhood, the two were classmates from kindergarten through sixth grade as well as soccer teammates for several years on the Firestorm, a Grantham Indoor-based team.

While Purdy went on to play soccer for Lebanon High, Li stopped playing after moving to Hanover prior to seventh grade. The friends had never played against each other in any sport until last month, when they squared off at No. 3 singles in the Marauders’ 5-4 win at the Carter Community Building Association courts. Purdy prevailed, 8-2.

Li reversed things during Tuesday’s rematch at Storrs Pond Recreation Area, using an improved short game to beat Purdy, 8-3, as part of Hanover’s 6-3 win.

The result clinched the No. 3 seed in the upcoming NHIAA Division II tournament for the defending champion Marauders (11-1), who wrap up the regular season Friday with a makeup date at Souhegan. It was the last game before the playoffs for the Raiders (11-3), who have dropped two of three.

Li effectively countered Purdy’s staunch net presence, meeting him head-on at close range to send passing balls by him for points. Li’s improved front-line play was no accident, according to Hanover coach Mark Lewis.

“He made adjustments, stuck to it and led throughout the match,” Lewis said. “It was the best match I’ve seen him play.”

Li also combined with Richard Qiu for an 8-5 win over Lebanon’s Nabeel Khan and Terran Campbell at No. 2 doubles, another match that earned redemption for Li following a doubles loss to the Raiders at CCBA in April.

A varsity player since freshman year, the cerebral Li had previously been buried on the Marauders’ depth chart. He was never higher than their No. 9 player prior to this season, but is now a Hanover captain and one of their most reliable talents.

“He’s really put it together in every aspect of his game, and he’s worked for it,” Lewis said. “He’s a smart kid, so he’s able to look at what’s going on on the court and make adjustments. He can identify opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.”

Hanover sophomore Henry Pletcher didn’t fare any better in his rematch against Lebanon’s No. 1 singles’ player. Max Reed, falling to the junior by a score of 8-1 for the second time this year.

Pletcher did get some revenge at No. 1 doubles, combining with teammate Graham Dickson to rally from deficits of 4-1 and 6-3 to beat Reed and Purdy, 9-7.

It’s been a trying season at times for Pletcher, who was unexpectedly thrust to No. 1 after the departure of Kotaro Horiuchi, a dominating player last year before joining a yearlong tennis academy in France.

“I thought (Horiuchi) was going to play, all the way until the night before tryouts,” Pletcher said following Tuesday’s doubles win. “It’s been very stressful. I’ve felt like I’ve had to put the team on my back, but of course that wasn’t the case today. It was a great team effort.”

It was a disappointing defeat for Lebanon, which had played its arch-rival tightly on a blustery day at home last month. Three of the Raiders’ five match losses that day were by two games or a tiebreaker, giving them plenty of hope to challenge the Marauders once again in the rematch.

“In some ways, it’s a reality check,” Lebanon coach Rich Kelly said.

“We knew we had a legitimate chance to win today, so it will be up to the guys now not to be down on themselves (entering the playoffs).”

Locked into the No. 4 seed, Lebanon will likely be inserted into the same bracket as projected No. 1 Derryfield (13-0), which beat the Raiders 8-1 in Manchester last week.

“There was a lot riding on today, because neither of us wanted to have to (potentially) play Derryfield in the semifinals instead of the final,” Kelly said.

Also Tuesday, Hanover’s Dickson beat Khan at No. 2 singles, 8-3, a more dominant performance than Dickson’s 8-6 win in Lebanon. The Raiders’ Campbell beat Qiu by a score of 8-3 at No. 4, the only other rematch from the teams’ first meeting.

At No. 5 singles, Lebanon sophomore Jacob Peress withstood a furious comeback attempt by the Marauders’ Miles Campbell, hanging on to win 8-6 after Campbell had rallied from being down 6-1 and pulling within 7-6.

Hanover’s Isaac Davis took care of the Raiders’ Jason Lane at No. 6, 8-0, then combined with Benny Gantrish for an 8-1 win over Peress and Lane at No. 3 doubles.

Break Points: The match began 15 minutes early to accommodate the singing commitment of Khan, a bass section leader for Lebanon High’s Superlatives select choir. The group sang Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water as part of the school’s spring concert last night. ... It was Hanover’s 14th straight win over Lebanon, including three playoff wins, dating to early 2009. ... Hanover and Derryfield have both petitioned to join Division I next season, following the lead of former division rival Bedford. The Bulldogs won three straight D-II titles before petitioning up prior to last season.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.