H.S. tennis teams’ courts increasingly not in session

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2023 8:45:18 PM
Modified: 4/18/2023 8:45:07 PM

The Hanover High girls tennis team was supposed to open the home portion of its 2023 schedule with a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s NHIAA Division I quarterfinal against Bedford on last Friday. But because the Bears’ home courts at Storrs Pond Recreation Area were not yet ready for the spring high school season, the match was relocated to Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction.

“It wasn’t that we had an unusual amount of snow; it just stayed late and it was colder longer,” said Billy Pontious, the director of tennis at Storrs Pond and Hanover’s junior varsity coach. “So the teams have had to practice off-site and play off-site for the past couple weeks.”

Due to the snowstorms the Upper Valley received in March, local outdoor tennis courts throughout the area took longer than usual to return to playing condition — and several are in less-than-ideal condition to begin with.

The courts at the Carter Community Building Association, where Lebanon High plays its home matches, were last resurfaced 30 years ago and have developed cracks over time due to snow and ice accumulation. Both the boys’ and girls’ teams at Lebanon were forced to postpone home matches during the first week of April while the courts were being cleaned up and the cracks filled.

“We just have cracks in the surface because of winter damage,” CCBA executive director Kerry Artman said. “They’re outdoor courts. They need repairs every year.”

While the CCBA courts may be among the oldest in the region, Storrs Pond, which Pontious estimated was last resurfaced in 2016, is a special case because of its location in a narrow valley surrounded by trees. Melting snow frequently runs off onto the courts, leaving behind debris.

To get the courts ready for play each year, the Storrs Pond team rakes the leaves and debris away from the fencing, then power-washes the courts if needed to remove any mildew that has built up. Once that process is complete, the nets and windscreens are put up.

Pontious said the courts in Norwich, where Hanover’s JV teams have traditionally played, are also in poor shape and overdue for renovation.

“Other teams can get on the fields and play, but tennis, historically, has just had a hard time getting on the courts early, just because of the conditions and the snow staying so long,” Pontious said. “There’s a limited number of courts the teams have to choose from.”

Local high school teams are often able to practice indoors at the River Valley Club — where Lebanon boys’ co-head coaches Tammy and Chad Arado work — and at Dartmouth College’s Boss Tennis Center, but neither of those venues hosts any high school matches. The Hanover girls’ first match last season was moved to the outdoor courts at Dartmouth because of standing water at Storrs Pond.

Woodstock High has access to both indoor and outdoor courts at the Woodstock Athletic Club, but Wasps girls’ coach Rob Parker said the team was able to practice outside earlier last year than this season. Neither of Woodstock’s varsity teams are scheduled to host a match before April 25.

“Usually we were on the courts in some way, shape or form at the end of March,” Parker said. “This year it’s been much later. We should be fine going forward.”

Hartford High typically has some of the first courts to be ready for spring — both Hanover and Lebanon have even hosted early-season matches there, Hurricanes athletic director Jeff Moreno said. But Hartford’s campus courts are now “in dire need of rehabilitation,” according to Moreno, with cracks growing and the surfaces due for replacement this year.

The Hurricanes plan to play their home matches at nearby Maxfield, where the courts are in much better shape.

Kelly Finn, in her first year coaching the Hanover boys, said the real issue is simply not enough local suitable courts in general. Some of the courts at Maxfield and the CCBA are also used for pickleball, further limiting the space high school teams have to practice and compete.

“There’s generally a court shortage in the Upper Valley,” Finn said. “It’s surprising because there are a lot of adult tennis players here. There’s a tennis community, but there’s not necessarily the infrastructure to support junior tennis at places people can access for free or are public.”

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

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