Saints Stop Marauders
St. Thomas Derails Hanover Girls’ Undefeated Bid
Hanover’s Katie Irwin reaches for a ball from St. Thomas’ Kelly Carson during their NHIAA Division II semifinal match at the Boss Tennis Center in Hanover yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover’s Zoe Yu, right, accepts congratulations from St. Thomas’ Michelle Trainor after her win at the Boss Tennis Center in Hanover yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover’s Camille Hankel celebrates a point scored against St. Thomas’ Isabelle Leonardi during their match at the Boss Center in Hanover. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — It may seem farfetched to call a 14-1 season a rebuilding year, yet that’s how Hanover High girls tennis coach Glen Eastridge summed up this season following yesterday’s 7-2, NHIAA Division II semifinal loss to defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas at Dartmouth College’s Boss Tennis Center.
Having suffered their first loss of the season, the second-ranked Marauders can’t look forward to Tuesday’s state final. They can, however, look ahead optimistically to next year.
Hanover figures to return six of the seven players who suited up versus the Saints and, Eastridge hopes, they’ll be better prepared for a team of St. Thomas’ caliber thanks to yesterday’s experience.
“Strange as it is to say, it was a building year for us,” the coach said after the Saints’ win at No. 3 doubles punched their ticket to Tuesday’s final against top-ranked, unbeaten Portsmouth at Bedford High. “We have so many returning people, a match like this could be the foundation for a great season a year from now.”
Yesterday was a rematch of last year’s final, a 5-4 St. Thomas win, but just three singles players returned for Hanover. There were also plenty of new faces for the Saints, who fielded freshmen at Nos. 1, 5 and 6.
Third-ranked St. Thomas was more battle-tested than the Marauders during the regular season. The Saints squared off against Portsmouth on May 7 and suffered their only setback of the season, a 5-4 loss. They played eight matches against teams that qualified for the postseason, compared with three for Hanover.
The combined regular-season record of Hanover’s foes was 73-124 (.371), with only a pair of contests against teams with winning records and five against opponents who finished the season with four wins or fewer.
The aggregate mark of St. Thomas’ opponents mark was 83-105 (.441) as the Saints took on six teams with winning records.
Eastridge felt those discrepancies played a role in yesterday’s results.
“(The Saints) have seen an opponent the caliber of us before, and we just haven’t seen anyone who makes as few mistakes as them,” said Eastridge, whose team had outscored foes 113-5 in individual games heading into yesterday. “We hit the ball hard and we’re used to a lot of those shots not coming back.
“Now all of a sudden, we’re against a team that sends those balls back to us. ... You can only learn so much as a player on your own without seeing (stiff competition) every day.”
The Saints won four of six singles matches, then swept doubles for the win. It was far from a blowout, with four of St. Thomas’ victories coming by 8-6 decisions and another pair by four games.
Hanover junior and No. 1 Camille Hankel (16-0) finished her undefeated year with an 8-0 trouncing of St. Thomas freshman Isabelle Leonardi, while Marauder senior No. 4 Katie Irwin (16-0) stayed perfect by outlasting Saints sophomore Kelly Corson, 8-6, allowing Hanover to enter doubles play with a chance.
St. Thomas senior Michelle Trainor beat sophomore Zoe Yu, 8-4 at No. 2, and Maggie Holland bettered the Marauders’ Kendra McGowan in an all-junior No. 3 match, 8-2. Holland improved to 16-0 with the win.
Saints freshmen No. 5 Mary Diharce and No. 6 Casey Ford beat Hanover’s Hazuki Horiuchi and Liza Goss, 8-1 and 8-6, respectively, both handing the Marauder sophomores their first losses of the year.
At No. 3 doubles, Hanover’s Emily Acker and Horiuchi kept it close early on against St. Thomas’ Diharce-Ford tandem, trailing by one game through seven before the visitors pulled away for an 8-4 win to clinch the match for STA.
The Saints completed the doubles sweep with taut, 8-6 wins at No. 1 (Leonardi-Trainor over Hankel-Yu) and No. 2 (Holland-Corson over McGowan-Irwin).
The Saints will vie for their fourth title in six years on Tuesday, while the Clippers go for their first crown since 2009. On May 7, Portsmouth won at St. Thomas, 5-4, sparking a sense of urgency for the stretch run for St. Thomas.
“It was a wakeup call for us,” said first-year Saints coach Rusty Whitehouse. “Portsmouth was the better team that day, but we’ve been much better, ourselves, since then.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.