Marauders Handle Raiders, Return to Division II Final
Lebanon’s Max Reed positions himself to serve to Hanover’s Kotaru Horiuchi during their match after his teammate Nabeel Khan, right, retrieves an errant ball for him at the Boss Tennis Center in Hanover yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon's Will Sandborn reacts to a missed shot against Hanover's Henry Pletcher during their match. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover's Brendan Barth returns a serve from Lebanon's Nabeel Khan during their match at the Boss Tennis Center. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — So acquainted are the Lebanon and Hanover High boys tennis teams with one another, they decided to forgo the traditional pre-match introductions before yesterday’s NHIAA Division II semifinal at Dartmouth College’s Boss Tennis Center. The results on the courts were familiar, too.
The Marauders blanked the Raiders for the third time this year, 9-0, sending second-ranked Hanover (16-0) into Tuesday’s final at Bedford High School. It’ll be a battle of unbeatens against No. 1 Portsmouth, also 16-0 after edging No. 5 Oyster River yesterday, 5-4.
No. 3 Lebanon finishes 13-3 for the second straight year — and for the second straight year, all of the Raiders’ losses came against their crosstown rivals. Lebanon, a six-year-old program, also fell to Hanover in last year’s semis after upsetting Windham for its first-ever playoff win.
The Marauders played yesterday’s singles matches without senior starters Christian Mueller and Sandy Yu. Mueller joined classmates for their senior trip to Boston and Yu was engaged in an interview for a college scholarship. The absences didn’t faze the Marauders much, though the 21 individual games Lebanon won were the most surrendered by Hanover all season.
Freshman standout Kotaro Horiuchi stayed undefeated with an 8-1 win over Lebanon sophomore Max Reed, the lone singles bout featuring a rematch from the teams’ regular-season meetings. Everyone else in Hanover’s lineup moved up a spot, with freshman Graham Dickson assuming Yu’s place at No. 6.
Yu arrived in time for doubles play and helped Horiuchi rally for an 8-4 win over Lebanon’s Reed and Nabeel Khan at No. 1. Reed and Khan won the first game of the match.
Horiuchi, who normally partners with Mueller at doubles, perhaps needed a game or two settle in with Yu. Once they began feeding off each other’s cues, the pair enjoyed playing together.
“Christian (converts) a lot of shots, but Sandy is much more energetic and intense,” said Horiuchi, New Hampshire’s No. 1 freshman in the Tennis Recruiting Network rankings. “He hits the ball a lot harder. It was definitely fun playing with him.”
Hanover senior Brendan Barth moved from No. 3 to 2 and knocked off Khan, 8-1, consistently keeping the ball in play so Khan — a senior and the Raiders’ most devoted player — couldn’t thrive off mistakes. Still, the match was closer than the score indicated.
“Nabeel was definitely a big challenge,” Barth said. “There were a lot of close games in there.”
Barth also joined Henry Pletcher at No. 2 doubles, where the senior-freshman duo beat Lebanon’s Will Sanborn and Jeff Purdy for the third time this spring, 8-4.
The same score came during singles matches No. 3-5, with Hanover sophomores Pletcher, Jackson Greenpan and Richard Qiu knocking off the Raiders’ Sanborn, Purdy and Wyatt Goodwin, respectively.
Dickson, the freshman substitute for Yu at No. 6, beat Lebanon senior Jacob Ryder, 8-3.
Greenspan and Qiu combined for an 8-2 win over Goodwin-Ryder at No. 3 doubles.
“It was the most games we’ve lost all year, but given that we had two starters out, I’d say it was a pretty good day,” Hanover coach Mark Lewis said. “Lebanon always plays us hard. I thought we might have to give up (at least one match).”
Lebanon coach Rick Kelly took pride in his team’s progress against the Marauders. The Raiders won 11 games in the teams’ first meeting April 29 in Lebanon, then 15 at the Boss Center in the regular-season finale on May 15 before the 21 wins yesterday.
“That kind of stuff matters,” said Kelly, whose team is 68-23 (.692) since becoming a varsity program six years ago, but just 1-14 against the Marauders. “Every time we play Hanover, I tell the kids to play better against them than we did the last time, and that’s all you can ask.”
The Raiders had another successful season despite losing 11 players to graduation from a much deeper team a year ago. The addition of upperclassmen newcomers Purdy and Sanborn, the latter a baseball convert, bolstered Lebanon.
“This was a really good group to coach,” Kelly said. “They were very focused and competitive. They were intense.”
Hanover is trying to scale back its own intensity and enter Tuesday’s final relaxed. While practices during the regular season can be fervent as individuals jockey for placement in the lineup and try to one-up each other, Lewis has asked the Marauders to tone it down recently.
“We’re trying not take the sport as seriously so that we can play loose,” the coach said. “Once you hit a certain mark of intensity, it can be hard to maintain that. We’ve all seen (instances) where a team has a really good record and then loses in the playoffs. We’re trying to stay even keeled.”
For seniors such as Barth and Yu, it’s hard to contain the excitement. They want to end their high school athletic careers by giving the program its first state title since 2009. Hanover lost to Bedford in the final each of the last two seasons.
“This is something we’ve been working on for years,” Yu said. “This team has great chemistry and we want to finish the job.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.