Boys Varsity Tennis
Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- May 29, 2018
- FALCONS: 7
GILFORD HIGH SCHOOL: 2
MANCHESTER – They had already beaten Gilford once this season, snapping the Golden Eagles’ 97-match winning streak. Still, winning the Division III boys’ tennis title on Tuesday meant more to the Bow players because they did it against Gilford, the five-time defending champs.
“It’s awesome,” Bow junior Caleb Olson said. “Gilford, I feel like I was 8 years old or something the last time they lost. So it was good to beat them, especially before doubles.”
The second-ranked Falcons (15-2) won five of the six singles matches, making doubles irrelevant, on their way to a 7-2 win and the program’s first championship since 2002. Bow won three straight titles between 2001-02, but the Falcons had lost in five of the last seven D-III finals before Tuesday. That stretch included a 6-3 loss to Gilford last year, which marked the third time in four years that Bow’s season ended at the hands of the Golden Eagles.
“Honestly, I’ve waited four years for this,” said Brayden Binder, the No. 1 player and only senior on the Falcons’ roster. “The first day I was here as a freshman it was, Gilford, Gilford, Gilford. The first match I watched (when he was in middle school) was between Bow and Gilford. I’m just really happy that I was the lucky one to be number one on the team that finally got the win.”
As much as it meant to the Falcons to win against Gilford, and as much as the Golden Eagles wanted some revenge for Bow breaking their winning streak with a 5-2 decision on May 19, the atmosphere at The Derryfield School courts never crossed the line to contentious.
“We are certainly big rivals, but the sportsmanship is outstanding,” Gilford coach Terry Wilson said. “That’s so nice to see where you both get fired up to play each other and yet it’s always a positive atmosphere.”
The regular-season win against the Golden Eagles provided the Falcons with some confidence on Tuesday, but Bow coach Drew Groves emphasized how different the final would be. The regular-season match was played indoors without the pressure of a trophy on the line or a crowd on the fence.
Gilford was certainly hoping this rematch would be different, and the team worked on some new tactics to try and make it that way.
“In the loss to them we were playing too passively, especially on short balls,” Wilson said. “So the last week and a half we worked on coming in on short balls, being more aggressive, staying at the net, not back pedaling unless it was a lob, and I think that helped us today. Not enough, obviously, to get over the hump. I thought they did it, just not enough.”
Tuesday’s singles matchups, and results, were all the same as the regular-season matchups and results, except for one – after losing to Gilford’s Donny Searle in a tiebreaker at No. 5 during the regular season, Bow’s Jon Cook beat Searle on Tuesday, 8-5. Cook outlasted Searle in the heat, patiently waiting for his opponent to make mistakes. When that result came in along with Daniel Silva’s 8-4 win at No. 6, Groves was feeling good about his team’s chances.
“Winning on five and six was an amazing blessing and gift, if you will, I don’t know how else to describe it, to think they would win those as they did,” Groves said. “Once I started to see those scores going up, that momentum felt pretty solid.”
Olson started the momentum for Bow, grinding out an 8-6 win at No. 2 against Tyler Hanf to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
“The heat was brutal,” Olson said. “I’ve never been really tired during a tennis match, but today I was. My water was warming up in two minutes, it was tough. And I could feel my shots getting slower as the match went on.”
Gilford got on the board with a 9-7 win from Mikey Eisenmann at No. 3 against Zach Mullen, cutting Bow’s lead to 3-1. The Golden Eagles never got to enjoy momentum from that win because moments after Eisenmann and Mullen shook hands over the net, Binder finished off his 8-4 win at No. 1 against Christian Workman.
“My serve went in more than it normally does, it was more consistent,” said Binder, who has been Bow’s No. 1 for the last three years after playing No. 2 as a freshman. “And I attacked his second serve with good ball placement, better than I did in the first match indoors.”
That left just the No. 4 match on the court, where Bow’s Dillan D’Allesandro was battling nerves and Gilford’s Colton Workman. D’Allesandro had a 6-3 lead, but Workman came back to make it 7-7.
“I was pretty nervous when it got to 7-7, there was so much going through my head,” D’Allesandro said, “but he also had stepped up his game.”
The Bow junior stepped up his game, and focus, at the end, attacking Workman’s backhand with heavy topspin. The strategy worked, and D’Allesandro pulled out a 9-7 win that clinched the title and sent his team rushing on to the court.
“I knew we were in good position, but I didn’t really know the team score,” D’Allesandro said. “But when I finally won that last point and they stormed the court, I knew.”
The coaches mixed up their lineups for doubles. Gilford’s Eisenmann and Colton Workman won, 8-6, at first doubles. Bow’s Matt Ferland and Seamus O’Reilly claimed an 8-1 win at second doubles and the Falcons team of Dustin Wells and Aiden Munro won, 8-2, at third doubles.
“I can’t say enough about Terry and his Gilford program,” Groves said. “We’re moving to D-II next year and I’m going to miss that rivalry, and now I can actually say it’s a rivalry because we won. It’s a class act.”