High Schools: Concord boys’ tennis team makes strides in sweep of Nashua South
Justin Toler returns to the top rung on the Concord boys' tennis team's ladder.
(Monitor file photo)
Concord's Evan Hewey hits the ball during the match against South in Concord on Friday, April 11, 2014.
(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
The scores from this opening week of the tennis season seem to tell a clear story for the Concord boys’ team. The Crimson Tide posted 8-1 road wins on Monday and Wednesday and followed those up with yesterday’s 9-0 victory at home against Nashua South (0-3). But there’s another story behind those numbers.
“We’re playing exponentially better every match,” Concord senior captain Josh Pifer said. “If you watched our match at Dover on Monday and you watched today, you would think that it was months and months of practice that we had in between the two.”
Pifer isn’t the only one who noticed the improvements.
“I see progress in the kids in both singles and doubles,” Tide Coach Dave Page said. “I think we’re playing smarter tactical tennis, we’re making fewer unforced errors than we did earlier in the week, and we’re having more teamwork in doubles.”
The Tide had plenty of room to improve because it had very limited practice time during the preseason, and all that time was spent on indoor courts.
“Not getting on outdoor courts is huge, that’s definitely an adjustment,” Pifer said. “But in these early matches we’re playing teams that usually aren’t in the playoff conversation, so that’s been good for us as we get used to it.”
It took Pifer some time to adjust to his match yesterday against Nashua South’s Brian Barrows at No. 4.
Barrows took an early 2-1 lead before Pifer made some changes and reeled off seven straight games for an 8-2 win.
“I was trying to kill every shot and he was playing me like a backboard. I just got frustrated and kept hitting it harder and harder, but that wasn’t working,” Pifer said. “So I talked to coach and he told me to put more spin on it, just loop it over the net. I started to do that, started working the point a little bit and picking the sports where I really wanted to come in and crank it.”
There were similar dynamics in the No. 1 match where Concord sophomore Justin Toler was supplying all the power and Nashua South’s Kaushil Patel was content blocking everything back. But Toler patiently constructed points as he rolled to a 5-0 lead. He then lost some of that focus and Patel took advantage to make it 5-2, but Toler responded loudly, dropping just two points in the next two games on his way to an 8-2 win.
The power was flowing from both sides in the No. 2 singles match between Concord’s Evan Hewey and South’s Brandon Stempler. The two went back and forth for the first half of the match and wound up in a 4-4 deadlock before Hewey took control and pulled out an 8-4 decision.
“He was a tough opponent, good strokes, good serve,” Hewey said. “I thought it was a good win overall.”
It was a nice follow up to Hewey’s 8-4 win on Wednesday against Manchester Central’s Max Larocque, a player who beat Hewey last season.
“That match (on Wednesday) gave me more motivation to play well throughout this year,” Hewey said. “Now I know I can beat anybody that comes up in front of me.”
The Tide’s Thomas Bengtson posted his third impressive result of the week, this one an 8-0 decision against Sam McIntyre at No. 3. Bengtson simply had too much power and ball control for McIntyre, and the Concord junior showed a smooth consistency that he lacked last year.
“I think if (Bengtson) practices hard he could be a surprise player this year around the state,” Page said.
Liam Healy played his best tennis of the week and claimed an 8-2 win at No. 5 singles over South’s Kuhal Shah. After Healy jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Shah came back to make it 3-2, but Healy won two of the next three games at love and rolled to the victory from there. The Tide’s Adi Gandhi found himself down 0-3 to Craig Freeman at No. 6, but Gandhi turned things around with his big serve and an improving return of serve to complete the singles sweep with an 8-4 win.
Concord didn’t let up when it came time for doubles. Toler and Bengtson claimed an 8-3 win at first doubles, Hewey and Gandhi won 8-3 at second doubles, and Pifer and Healy finished things off with an 8-1 decision at third doubles.
“I’m definitely happy with the way we’re playing,” Hewey said. “There’s still room to improve, we’re not in midseason form yet, but we’re getting there.”
(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)
Hollis Brookline 5, Coe-Brown 4
The Bears (1-1) were tied, 3-3, after their singles matches against the Cavaliers (1-0), but rainy weather shifted the momentum in Hollis-Brookline’s favor when the teams were forced to move their doubles matches inside to Hampshire Hills, the Cavaliers indoor practice courts.
No. 1 Alex Wimsatt won his match decisively, 8-2. Brian Gordon won at No. 2 singles, 8-4, and No. 3 Garrett Kunz won his match, 8-2.
Gordon was also able to win his doubles match with partner Jeremy Fenerty, 8-2, on the second court.
Bishop Brady 6, PLymouth 3
The Green Giants (1-2) and Bobcats (0-1) were tied, 3-3, through singles, but Brady swept the doubles matches to claim its first win of the season.
Jack Bryck, playing No. 1 singles in place of usual starter Raventh Damerla, won, 8-5, and Danny Bryck won a close 8-6 contest at No. 6 singles. No. 3 Nick Vermette, who normally plays in the fifth spot, was trailing 5-2 before pulling off a come-from-behind 8-6 victory.
“That was a key win for us,” Coach Rick Skarinka said. “(Vermette) was definitely our star of the day.”
Vermette also won his doubles match, teaming up with Thomas MacMullin for an 8-2 victory at second doubles. Jack and Brendon Bryck won first doubles (8-5), and Danny Bryck and Jake Davis (8-2) won the third doubles match.
Bow 8, Portsmouth Christian 1
The Falcons (3-0) kept up their hot streak, winning another decisive match, this time on the road against the Eagles (1-1).
No. 1 Zach Zbehlik and No. 4 Nate Louf both won their singles matches, 8-0, before teaming up for an 8-1 win at No. 1 doubles. No. 2 Tim Bradley and No. 6 Josh DeYoung had decisive 8-1 victories, and Ben Maurer won, 8-2, in the No. 3 singles position. No. 5 David Anderson-Nelson won a match filled with long rallies in a marathon 8-5 victory.
In doubles, John Holmes and Louis Miyara won the No. 2 match, 8-4. The lone victory for Portsmouth Christian came at No. 3 doubles.
Hollis-Brookline 6, Coe-Brown 3
The Bears (0-2) fell in a home match to a tough Cavaliers team (2-0). All three of Coe-Brown’s victories came at singles, with No. 1 Emily Blad and No. 5 Holly Roman winning 8-5 decisions. No. 6 Jessica Miles won, 8-6.
The Bears face another tough opponent when they travel to Portsmouth on Monday.
Bishop Brady 8, Plymouth 1
The Green Giants swept all six singles matches to open their season with a victory over the Bobcats (0-1).
No. 1 Shelby Herrington, No. 3 Lynn Yoon, No. 4 Aliza Gray and No. 5 Jenny Zhuang all blanked their opponents, 8-0. No. 2 Katie MacMullin won, 8-2, and No. 6 Brianna Puleo won, 8-1.
In doubles, the No. 1 tandem of Herrington and MacMullin and No. 2 duo of Yoon and Gray had 8-1 victories. Zhuang and Liz Caldesi lost a close 8-6 match at No. 3 doubles for the lone Brady loss.
Bow 6, Stevens 3
The Falcons did well at the top of the ladder, winning the Nos. 1-4 singles matches and the Nos. 1 and 2 doubles matches to remained undefeated (3-0) in a match against Stevens (1-2).
Laura Zbehlik (8-1), freshman Claire Mulvaney (8-3) and Kristen Duval (8-2) won the first, second and third singles matches, respectively. Freshman Nandita Kasireddy, playing No. 4 singles in place of the usual starter, had an especially good day, winning her match, 8-2, and teaming up with Zbehlik to win No. 1 doubles, 8-1.
Duval and Mulvaney won the No. 2 doubles match, 8-3.
TRACK AND FIELD
Hopkinton at Winnisquam
Hopkinton opened its season with a non-scoring meet at Winnisquam on Thursday. For the girls, Sabrey Montore won four events: the 100, 400, 4x100 and 4x400. Maddie Clark won the 1,600, with Sarah Nadeau finishing second.
On the boys’ side, Nick Fleury did well in the sprints, winning the 200 and finishing second in the 100. Dom Repucci was second in the 1,600.