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Bow girls’ tennis team cruises into third straight finals

BOW – Since it was the tournament semifinals, there were some nerves. But there was a lot more confidence than anxiety for the top-ranked and undefeated Bow girls’ tennis team heading into yesterday’s Division III match against No. 4 Gilford.

“We were pretty confident. It’s one thing if we had beaten Gilford 5-4 (in the regular season), but we beat them pretty decisively, so it was just keep doing what we’re doing,” Bow’s Sunday Swett said. “You don’t want to change a winning strategy, and I think everyone just brought their game the same way they brought it last time, and it was kind of routine for us.”

It certainly was. Not only did the Falcons beat the Golden Eagles (12-4) by the same score, 8-1, that they did in the regular season, they did it the same way. Swett led the way with an 8-0 win at No. 1 and Bow (15-0) clinched the match in singles with victories on courts 3-6 before sweeping the doubles for the final total.

“I want to say that I knew we could do it in singles, but it’s the tournament, so you never know,” Bow Coach Jonesy Rainville said. “But I am thrilled we won it in singles.”

The win puts the Falcons in their third straight final, an impressive achievement that was also a motivating force.

“We were all kind of pumped up before the match because we were trying to get to the finals three years in a row,” said Bow’s Kristie Smith, who claimed an 8-5 win at No. 5. “And in the past Gilford has been a tough opponent, so we were pretty excited to be playing them, and playing them on our home courts. It seems like we were always going up there to play.”

Last year the Falcons traveled to Gilford for the semifinals and squeaked out a 5-4 win to reach the championship against Profile. The Patriots turned out to be Bow’s toughest opponent as they took a 5-4 win in the final. The Falcons will get another shot at Profile (15-0) in this year’s finals, scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. at The Derryfield School, and that’s just the way Bow wants it.

“That’s the team we want to see and it’s exciting because they beat Gilford, 8-1, too,” Swett said. “We’re not overly confident, but we believe in ourselves. We believe that we’re going to win it, and half the battle is believing you can win.”

In last year’s semifinal against Gilford, Swett had to come back from a 6-5 deficit to claim an 8-6 win over Cherylin Corsack. But Swett beat Corsack 8-0 in the regular season meeting this year and did it again yesterday, giving Bow a quick 1-0 lead.

“I know what I want to do, but oftentimes I’m overplaying it, I’m overaggressive,” said Swett, who does possess a powerful all-around game. “So, especially against (Corsack), she’s one of the better opponents I’ve played, it’s more about keeping my composure and letting the point come to me, and it’s not about just trying to pound it at her.”

About 10 minutes after Swett was off the court, No. 6 Alex Lust (8-4 over Emily Curtis) and No. 5 Smith (8-2 over Kayla Vieten) finished their matches to put Bow up, 3-0.

“My forehand was working today, and my slice, too,” Smith said. “(Vieten) definitely made me run a lot. That was probably the toughest win I had all year.”

And just a few minutes later, the Falcons clinched the decision when No. 3 Jess Torres and No. 4 Laura Zbehlik both walked off with 8-3 wins. Torres finished her win over Lindsey Corsack by showing good hands and instincts at the net in an entertaining final point that told a big part of the match’s story.

“Reliability at the net is my biggest strength, and she was strong on the baseline, so that’s what I tried to do,” Torres said.

Zbehlik, a freshman, fell behind early against Emily Hanf (3-2), but she reeled off six straight games for the win. Zbehlik used her crosscourt backhand to attack Hanf’s backhand and turn the match around. The Bow freshman also got some help from Coach Rainville.

“I got a little pep talk from Jonesy and that kind of helped me push through,” Zbehlik said. “It got me kind of excited and pumped up.”

Gilford’s only win came at No. 2 as Charlene Panner beat Nisha Naik, 8-3. But it wasn’t a total loss for Naik, who fell behind 5-0 before fighting back at the end.

“Even though Nisha lost, and she lost to (Panner in the regular-season match, too), she played much better this time and got a couple more games off her,” Rainville said. “(Panner) would be a number one player almost anywhere else, so Nisha played well.”

Naik did get a win in doubles play as she and Swett teamed up for an 8-6 decision against Cherylin Corsack and Panner. Torres and Smith beat Lindsey Corsack and Hanf, 8-3, at second doubles, and Zbehlik and Lust combined for an 8-0 win against Vieten and Curtis at third doubles to complete the scoring.

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