Hanover boys tennis falls short in title defense

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-01-2023 10:32 AM

Valley News Staff Writer

MANCHESTER — The new-look Hanover High boys tennis team, coming off an undefeated season and a first NHIAA Division I state title, was still good enough to overcome all opposition this spring. All, that is, except an old adversary hungry for a return to dominance.

The No. 2 seed Bears were thoroughly dismantled in Wednesday’s title match at Southern New Hampshire University, falling 8-1 to top-seeded Bedford, with a victory at No. 3 doubles by sophomores Ryder Wilson and Alex Orsino saving them from a shutout.

“Coming into it, we knew it was going to be hard,” said Hanover first-year coach Kelly Finn, a Dartmouth College postdoctoral fellow who took over the program following Jarrod Shaheen’s eight seasons in charge. “I don’t think we’ve been overly confident throughout any of it. We had some optimism.”

A young Bears lineup, consisting entirely of sophomores and juniors, was playing from behind at every position on the singles ladder. Sophomore Sam Ames, at No. 1, and junior Henry Werner, at No. 5, played their opponents closest, but both ended up falling 8-4. Junior Nick Pais (No. 2), Wilson (No. 4) and sophomore Ian Holmes (No. 6) each won just one game, while junior Zach Pearson (No. 3) took two in his defeat.

Hanover had defeated the Bulldogs, 6-3, in last year’s title match to not only win its first championship since moving up to Division I but also snap Bedford’s run of eight straight crowns. While the Bears lost four of their top six players to graduation, though, the Bulldogs lost just one.

Bedford’s 7-2 win over Hanover on April 14 was one of just two occasions this year in which the Bulldogs dropped multiple matches, with the other coming in a 7-2 win against a Derryfield team that the Bears just got past in the semifinals.

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“(Bedford) just played really well,” Finn said. “There were a lot of matches where they just started really strong. They have more experience. We put up a good fight. I didn’t see anyone play poorly or anything.”

Ames and Pearson, at No. 1 doubles, were blanked by the Bulldogs’ top duo of Lucas and Logan Mack, and Pais and Holmes dropped their match 8-2 at No. 2. Wilson and Orsino, however, pulled away late as Hanover salvaged the final point of the day.

With no seniors on the roster, the Bears’ full team should be back next year, and a third consecutive Hanover-Bedford championship clash seems well within the realm of possibility.

“It was a young team, and we did really well getting this far,” Finn said. “Our team goal at the beginning of the year was to make it to the playoff finals, and we did that, so anything on top of that is icing. They’ve grown a lot as a team and as players.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.