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Raiders’ Net Gain Is Victory

Lebanon Shows Off Talent in Opening Season Win Over Brady

  • Lebanon sophomore Max Reed returns a shot from Bishop Brady doubles partners Revanth Damerla and Jack Bryck during their match in Lebanon yesterday. The Raiders took their season opening match by a 6-3 score. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Lebanon sophomore Max Reed returns a shot from Bishop Brady doubles partners Revanth Damerla and Jack Bryck during their match in Lebanon yesterday. The Raiders took their season opening match by a 6-3 score. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon junior Nabeel Khan stretches for a backhand during a doubles match with partner Max Reed, left, in Lebanon. Reed and Khan won their doubles match, 8-2, as the Raiders beat Brady in the season opener, 7-2. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Lebanon junior Nabeel Khan stretches for a backhand during a doubles match with partner Max Reed, left, in Lebanon. Reed and Khan won their doubles match, 8-2, as the Raiders beat Brady in the season opener, 7-2. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeff Purdy of Lebanon, right, meets Brendan Bryck of Bishop Brady over the net after winning the match in Lebanon. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Jeff Purdy of Lebanon, right, meets Brendan Bryck of Bishop Brady over the net after winning the match in Lebanon. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon sophomore Max Reed returns a shot from Bishop Brady doubles partners Revanth Damerla and Jack Bryck during their match in Lebanon yesterday. The Raiders took their season opening match by a 6-3 score. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Lebanon junior Nabeel Khan stretches for a backhand during a doubles match with partner Max Reed, left, in Lebanon. Reed and Khan won their doubles match, 8-2, as the Raiders beat Brady in the season opener, 7-2. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Jeff Purdy of Lebanon, right, meets Brendan Bryck of Bishop Brady over the net after winning the match in Lebanon. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lebanon — As if yesterday’s sunny skies and mild temperatures weren’t indicator enough, Lebanon High boys tennis player Max Reed carried a true sign of spring in his hand during the Raiders’ season-opening, 7-2 win over Bishop Brady.

Popping open a fresh canister of balls on the way to his No. 1 doubles match at the Carter Community Building Association, Reed brought the container to his nose, grabbed a whiff and glanced back at teammate Donncha Coyle while admiring the scent.

“Love that new ball smell,” Reed quipped.

Indeed, new beginnings are in the air for the Raiders. That means trying to follow up the most successful season in their six-year history. Lebanon went 13-3 — losing all three times to crosstown rival Hanover — earning the No. 5 seed and its first-ever playoff win by beating fourth-ranked Windham on the road in the quarterfinals, 6-3.

Last year’s Raiders had remarkable depth, maintaining 26 players through the early part of the season before attrition whittled them down to about 19 in time for the postseason. Ten of them graduated, leaving the Raiders with 11 players this season, including newcomers.

“We’re not going to be as deep as last year, that’s for sure,” said Lebanon coach Rich Kelly, the Raiders’ mentor since they began as a junior varsity program in 2006. “Last year was so fun, to actually win a playoff match. It was really intense. And you saw a lot of guys dig down to win matches they could have lost.

“Not bad for a team who has maybe one player (junior Nabeel Khan) who would call tennis their No. 1 sport.”

The list of those who don’t includes No. 1 singles’ Max Reed, a sophomore ranked 23rd nationally among squash players under 17. Having trained with Dartmouth College coach Hansi Wiens for years, Reed placed second at the Massachusetts Junior Gold Tournament in January, but was ultimately hobbled by hamstring and abductor injuries that forced him to bow out of last month’s U.S. Junior Squash Championships.

“They were (repetitive motion) injuries, basically because I was using those muscles too much and not my glutes and core enough,” Reed said. “It’s a different range of motion in squash (compared to tennis) because you’re always going high-to-low and lunging more in squash.”

Reed carries plenty of squash’s intensity onto the tennis court, where he was 16-3 last year before a 9-7 loss to then-Concord senior Peter Rouvalis in the first round of the individual state tournament. He opened with a n 8-2 win over the Giants’ Ravenh Demerla yesterday.

“He’s such an intense competitor, it really helps him,” Kelly said of Reed. “Sports can be really tough on your ego, but when a couple things don’t go Max’s way, he really digs down and plays harder. I’ve never seen him discouraged.”

For all of Reed’s intensity, he doesn’t rely on power as much as he does speed and placement. Bigger and stronger this season, he hopes to avoid being overpowered as he was on a few instances a year ago

“I want to get my slice lower, my topspin heavier, my serve stronger,” Reed said. “(Rouvalis) overpowered me in that individual (tournament) match a little bit, so I’d like to be a bit stronger. But you can also overcompensate. You really don’t need to hit the ball that hard.”

Khan, the team’s only three-year starter, moves to the No. 2 spot this year after going 11-4 at No. 3 last season. He beat Bishop Brady’s Jack Bryck, 8-1, yesterday.

The Raiders have five newcomers, two of whom have already played their way into starting roles by beating teammates in matches at practice. Junior Jeff Purdy debuted yesterday with an 8-5 win over Brendan Bryck at No. 3 singles before senor Will Sanborn beat Logan Sigua, 5-0 (Sigua retired with an elbow injury). Seniors Wyatt Goodwin (8-3 win at No. 4 singles) and Jacob Ryder (9-8 loss at No. 6 singles) also started yesterday.

Lebanon won two of three doubles matches, with Reed and Khan beating Demerla and Jack Bryck, 8-2, and Sanborn and Ryder combining for an 8-4 win over Tim Garrett (sunning for Sigua) and Thomas McMillen. Purdy and Goodwin lost a 9-8 tiebreaker to Brendan Bryck and Nick Vermette.

Despite a comparable lack of depth, Khan thinks the Raiders are in for another strong season.

“Guys like Purdy and Will Sanborn are going to be huge assets,” Khan said. “I expect us to have a similar year to last year, if everyone plays to their potential.”

Kelly thinks his team might have finally earned the respect of opponents.

“Not a lot of people mention us if someone asks them (their toughest opponents), usually they just mention the Hanovers and the Portsmouths. But we’ve been in the playoffs five of the last six years and we’re always in the mix for the top 8, so I’m sure there are some who don’t take us lightly anymore.”

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