Hanover Sinks Old Rival for D-II Tennis Title
Hanover players celebrate after Zoe Yu's winning set sealed victory for Hanover during the Div. II girls tennis state championship at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., on June 4, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
Hanover's number one Camille Hankel topped St. Thomas Aquinas' Isabelle Leonardi 8-1 during the Div. II girls tennis state championship at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., on June 4, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
Rine Uhm returns a ball during her singles match against Margaret Holland during the Div. II girls tennis state championship at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., on June 4, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
Bedford, n.h. — Though they had clinched their program’s first state championship in seven years following Zoe Yu’s come-from-behind win at No. 3 singles Wednesday, members of the Hanover High girls tennis team subdued their celebration in the name of sportsmanship.
With three doubles matches still to play at Bedford High School, the Marauders elected to keep their emotions contained in the moment. Yet there was no hiding how excited they were at the conclusion of a 7-2 win over old nemesis St. Thomas Aquinas that capped a perfect season.
Senior Camille Hankel improved to 25-0 on the season with wins at singles and doubles, classmate Emily Acker prevailed while filling in for an ill teammate and Yu overcame a 7-4 deficit against the Mary Diharce as the Marauders won their third NHIAA Division II championship and first since 2007.
Unbeaten Hanover (No. 2; 17-0) lost just five singles or doubles matches all year. It was the first loss of the season for top-seeded St. Thomas (16-1), which was in search of its third straight title and fifth in seven years.
The Saints had knocked off Hanover in last year’s semifinals and in the 2012 final, making Wednesday’s Marauder win extra sweet for their veterans.
They did a good job concealing it, with captains Hankel and Kendra McGowan immediately conferring with coach Glen Eastridge to strategize over the upcoming doubles matches — even after Yu’s 9-7 win over Diharce gave them an insurmountable 5-1 match advantage.
“Deep down inside, we were really excited,” said Hankel, who finished her high school career 116-10. “We’ve been here before and lost. We’ve been to the semifinals and lost, and both times were against St. Thomas. So it feels pretty awesome to turn the table.”
Hankel easily took care of Saints sophomore Isabelle Leonardi at No. 1, 8-1. St. Thomas senior Margaret Holland earned the Saints’ lone singles win at No. 2 with an 8-5 decision over Hanover freshman Rine Uhm.
With normal No. 4 singles’ player Izzi Davis out with an illness, senior Kendra McGowan and freshman Margaret Werner each moved up one spot, with Acker coming in to fill the void at No. 6.
Acker and Werner each registered relatively easy 8-2 wins, while McGowan pulled out of a back-and-forth battle against Kelley Corson for an 8-5 win to put Hanover up 4-1.
All eyes shifted to No. 3 singles, where Yu fell behind by three games by gunning for too many angles and misplacing her shots. She changed strategies and battled back, winning five straight games to clinch the title for the Marauders.
“I was playing too fast and sending way too many shots off the court,” Yu said of her early struggles against Diharce. “I started slowing down, got more patient and started waiting for her to make mistakes.”
The ability to recognize her own weaknesses and adjust is one of the major strides Yu made this season, Eastridge said.
“She’s always been a strong tennis player, but her mental game really improved this season,” the coach said. “She’s much more comfortable changing her style and making adjustments when she needs to.”
Hankel and Acker combined for an 8-5 win over Leonardi and Holland at No. 1 doubles, while St. Thomas’ Diharce and Corson rallied to beat McGowan and Liza Goss at No. 2, 8-6.
Hanover’s Hazuki Horiuchi and Willa Kaufman concluded the match with an 8-4 win over the Saints’ Alex Moschetto and Margo Clark as all nine Hanover players present saw action. Uhm, Yu and Werner had originally been slated for doubles matches.
“As soon as Zoe won (to clinch), I wanted to make sure everybody played,” Eastridge said.
As for what put Hanover over the top this season, several of the Marauders’ veterans pointed to an increased work ethic. Eastridge credited Hankel with helping to keep the team focused.
“Everyone was in it 100 percent this year, and Camille did an incredible job encouraging people and helping make sure everyone was ready every match,” the coach said. “I don’t know what would have happened this season without her. She wanted a championship this season and made a lot of sacrifices.”
Hanover carried three freshman starters this season in Uhm, the ill Davis and Werner. They combined to go 60-2 this season (singles and doubles combined), according to Eastridge’s records.
“I expected them to produce, because they all earned the spots they got,” said the coach. “But they all came in and produced even more than expected.”
Break Points: Hanover’s jayvee team carried as many as 32 players at one time this season, Eastridge said. … Hankel is bound for Georgetown University, where she plans to play club tennis as a freshman before considering a walk-on attempt for the Hoyas. … Former Marauders Maddie Dewhirst (Hanover High class of 2012) and Katie Irwin (2013) were on hand. Dewhirst, a Colby College ice hockey player, helped coach while Irwin cheered and offered moral support.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.