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Bow girls’ tennis team gets its revenge in finals against Profile

  • Bow's Nisha Naik serves during her match against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013. <br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Nisha Naik serves during her match against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013.
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Sunday Swett competes for Bow against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013. <br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Sunday Swett competes for Bow against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013.
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski (43) and New York Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan (24) grapple along the boards during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinal hockey playoff series in Boston, Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski (43) and New York Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan (24) grapple along the boards during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinal hockey playoff series in Boston, Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bow's Nisha Naik serves during her match against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013. <br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Sunday Swett competes for Bow against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013. <br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski (43) and New York Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan (24) grapple along the boards during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinal hockey playoff series in Boston, Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

MANCHESTER – Top-seeded, undefeated teams don’t usually feel like underdogs, but that was the case with the Bow girls’ tennis team heading into yesterday’s Division III championship against Profile.

“We were the underdogs this year because we lost to them last year,” Bow senior Kristie Smith said. “So we wanted revenge.”

The No. 1 Falcons (16-0) earned that revenge with a 6-3 win over No. 2 Profile (15-1). The Patriots won last year’s crown with a 5-4 win over Bow, denying the Falcons a bid at three straight titles (they won the 2011 championship against Berlin).

“We were extremely motivated by last year, we wanted to take back what we thought was rightfully ours,” said Bow’s top player, Sunday Swett, who completed an undefeated regular season yesterday. “And more importantly, we kept saying do it for Arun, do it for the boys. That was a big thing for us, too, because obviously there are more important things in life. This is just one little thing, but it was kind of like fighting for them, fighting for Arun.”

Swett was referring to Arun Luckoor, who played in Tuesday’s D-III boys’ championship for Bow (the Falcons lost to Gilford) even though his father, Ravi, passed away on Monday.

With all that motivation behind them, the Falcons stormed out to a 4-0 lead and eventually clinched the title during singles play. Swett was first off the court, as usual, powering through Profile’s Isabelle Eyman for an 8-2 win. Five minutes later, Smith claimed an 8-2 win at No. 5 over Anna Bolton. Smith found winning angles by taking balls early, a good strategy that had its roots in nerves and parental advice.

“Well, before the match I was really nervous, so I was just trying to get the points over with,” Smith said. “And yesterday my dad told me not to hit it straight at the girl, but to hit it away from her, and make her run, so I tried to do that.”

Next off was Laura Zbehlik, an 8-4 winner at No. 4 over Meg Dowling. Zbehlik, a freshman, is the only non-senior among Bow’s top six, and the only one who didn’t play in last year’s final. Adding her to the mix this year provided the Falcons a boost all season, and that didn’t change yesterday against Profile, which also had five of its top six back from 2012.

“I was saying in practice earlier this week that our secret weapon was Laura,” Swett said. “Having one more person who is so strong makes us so much deeper, and depth is a big part of this game when it’s a team game.”

Zbehlik actually fell behind, 2-1, against Dowling before taking control.

“Laura usually takes a game or two games to figure out her opponent,” said Bow Coach Jonesy Rainville, who also led the Falcons to a state title in 2004 before taking nine years off and then coming back to win another one this season. “But as soon as she figured it out, she put her away.”

Bow’s Alex Lust followed that up with an 8-3 win at No. 6 against Profile’s Kate Hesler. The match was closer than the score suggested as most of the games found their way to deuce. But Lust stayed steady enough from the baseline and found enough energy in the heat to earn the comfortable win.

“I was kind of dying a bit out there it was so hot, and she was too, I could tell,” Lust sad. “But my coach got me a Cliff Bar, and I kept the water running.”

Those four quick wins seemed to take most of the drama out of the match, even after Nisha Naik lost to Profile’s Cher Christnacht, 8-5 at No. 2. After all, Swett and Naik, undefeated in doubles play this year, were ready to earn the clinching point at first doubles. But Bow’s Jessica Torres provided plenty of drama at third singles.

Torres fell behind, 6-1, against Rachel Johnson, but she made a miracle comeback to win seven of the next nine games and eventually earned a 9-8 (7-1) title-clinching win.

“I just wanted to end the season in a way that I would be proud of a few years down the road,” Torres said.

Torres was overhitting to start the match, trying to force pace where there was none. But once she settled into the rhythm of the match, she found the perfect groove and carried it all the way into the tiebreaker, which she dominated.

“I felt good about going into the tiebreak because I had seen how I could come back, and I could just keep that momentum,” Torres said. “And I knew I could just let the ball come to me.”

Swett and Niak continued their doubles mastery with an 8-1 win against Christnacht and Johnson, but Profile won the other two doubles as Eyman and Bolton beat Torres and Smith, 8-1, and Dowling and Hesler defeated Zbehlik and Lust, 8-6. But it hardly mattered to the Falcons, especially all those seniors who got to finish their career with a crown.

“There was a mix of emotions before the match,” Rainville said. “There were some nerves, but they knew they could do it. And there are so many seniors, they just wanted it so badly.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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