Previews of local schools’ NHIAA playoff matchups
Division I semifinals
No. 3 Exeter (13-2) at
No. 2 Concord (14-1), 4 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Crimson Tide beat Exeter, 5-4, on May 7
Previous tournament matches: Concord beat No. 7 Pinkerton, 5-1. The Blue Hawks blanked No. 6 Timberlane, 9-0.
Notes: These teams know each other well, having played just two weeks ago and in last year’s semifinals, a match Exeter won at home, 6-3.
During the regular season match this year, the Tide got singles wins from No. 1 Greg Cistulli, No. 2 Justin Toler, No. 3 Evan Hewey and No. 5 Josh Pifer, who has since moved up to No. 4 on Concord’s ladder. Toler had to come back from 5-7 down to take a 9-8 (7-3) win over Exeter’s Ryan Posternak. That win proved to be crucial as Exeter claimed two of three doubles matches – 8-4 at second doubles and 8-3 at third, while Cistulli and Toler clinched the team match with an 8-5 win at first doubles. And Blue Hawks Coach Justin Tardif certainly thinks winning one extra singles match could be the key again today.
“You have to expect that it’s going to be a 5-4 match,” Tardif told the Portsmouth Herald after Exeter’s semifinal win against Timberlane. “We feel real good with our second and third doubles, and I think the goal is, can we find three singles victories? If we find three singles victories we’re going to like our chances going into doubles.”
Concord will come into the match with plenty of its own confidence, as it should. The Tide has made significant improvements this spring, as Hewey showed against Pinkerton with his 8-6 win against Josh Gaudette, a player he lost to during the regular season, 8-0. And Concord is led by one of the top players in the state in Cistulli.
“We’ve improved a lot since the season began,” Cistulli said. “And we’re excited to have another chance in the semifinals.”
Division III semifinals
No. 3 Kinsgwood (12-3) at
No. 2 Bow (13-1), 4 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The two teams did not play during the regular season.
Previous tournament matches: Kingswood beat No. 6 Moultonborough, 7-2. Bow received a quarterfinal bye.
Notes: While the Falcons will be the favorites coming into this one, especially playing at home, Kingswood will be no easy task. Two of the Knights’ three losses came against Kennett, which went 11-3 in Division II, and the other was against undefeated Gilford, 7-2, on May 6. Bow’s only loss of the season came against Gilford, 5-4, on May 7.
After that loss to Gilford, the Falcons bounced back with three convincing wins (8-1, 8-1 and 7-2), but those kind of scores were nothing new for Bow, which claimed four of its 13 wins by 9-0 scores, six at 8-1 and three at 7-2. While Kingswood does have a playoff win under its belt to help with some confidence and momentum, the top four Falcons gained valuable postseason experience on the way to last year’s D-III title match – No. 1 Zach Zbehlik, No. 2 Evan Maccani, No. 3 Arun Luckoor and No. 4 Harrison Beck.