High school boys: Concord tennis turns the tables, upsets Exeter, 5-4
The Concord boys’ tennis team didn’t have to look hard for some extra motivation for its Division I quarterfinal match yesterday.
The Crimson Tide could have looked at the fact that its opponent, Exeter, had made four straight final appearances in a division Concord used to dominate. Or that the third-seeded Blue Hawks knocked the Tide out of the semifinals the last two years. Or that they got the best of Concord, 5-4, in their lone regular-season matchup.
Or, as Coach Dave Page suggested, there was time to think of all of it.
“I think maybe our guys had a little extra motivation, because of that, to dig deep,” he said.
The sixth-seeded Tide had to dig deep often, but each time, it found an answer. Concord won the last two singles matches to go into doubles tied, then took two of the three matches there to come away with a 5-4 victory that sent it on to a semifinal matchup with No. 2 Keene.
“I think we respect Exeter a lot, the way they play and the way they compete, the coaching they have,” Page said. “That really inspired our guys to try to match that level, and today, we were successful.”
The match started ominously for Concord (11-4), which dropped three of the first four singles matches. Josh Pifer, in third singles, and Liam Healy, at No. 6, were still playing, and Page knew the team needed them both to prevail to have a realistic shot at doubles.
“It definitely was not going our way early in the match,” Page said. “It’s so difficult to sweep doubles, in that scenario. We really needed three points.”
Pifer led 7-5 before falling to 7-7, but pulled himself together to win, 9-7. The match was swinging on Healy’s outcome, and the senior bounced back from a 4-1 deficit to grab a 9-8 win, with a 7-5 win in the tiebreaker.
“Our guys, instead of getting down, got up again,” Page said. “It was like we had a new lease on life, and we were able to take advantage.”
In doubles, the Tide completed the rally – with the results from the regular-season match flipped. Justin Toler and Thomas Bengtson (No. 1, 8-5) and Evan Hewey and Healy (No. 3, 8-4) won after losing in their earlier encounter with the Blue Hawks, clinching the win for Concord.
“It almost never happens that way,” said Page, whose team also got an 8-5 victory in No. 1 singles from Toler. “It just shows how even both teams are.”
There’s more tennis left for the semifinal-bound Tide, but beating its nemesis was enough cause for celebration for one afternoon.
“I told our guys that Exeter had wanted the regular-season match more than we did, and that we had to play with more hunger and deal with adversity better than we did that day,” Page said. “We were able to come through with an emotional win against a terrific Exeter program.”
DIVISION II TENNIS
No. 3 Hanover 8, No. 6 Bishop Brady 1
Thomas MacMullin won, 8-6, at No. 6 singles for the lone win for the Green Giants, whose season finished up at 9-6 with the quarterfinal loss.
MacMullin’s win made the score 4-1 with Brendon Bryck battling back to tie his No. 3 singles match at 7 after a 7-2 deficit, but he fell, 9-7, to seal the match for the Marauders.
The doubles teams of Raventh Damerla and Bryck (No. 1), Jack Bryck and Logan Sigua (No. 2) and Nick Vermette and MacMullin (No. 3) all lost close matches, 8-5.
Concord 7, Salem 5
The Crimson Tide (11-5) put the Blue Devils in a hole with a four-run first inning, then scored three in the bottom of the sixth for insurance that paid off when Salem (8-11) rallied for three in the seventh.
Ben Bengtson led off the bottom of the first with a double, then came home on Mike Manoogian’s single. Nick Comeau and Rob Law added RBI singles in the frame for Concord, and Seimou Smith scored on a balk to round out the scoring.
Bengtson finished 2-for-3 with a double, triple, run and RBI, while Manoogian (2-for-3, run, RBI), Comeau (2-for-4, run, two RBI), Connor Ferns (two hits) and Smith (two runs, RBI) also had good days at the plate for the Tide.
Jon Lewis improved to 5-1 by pitching six innings of five-hit ball, allowing two runs (none of which were earned) and striking out eight. Bengtson pitched the seventh for Concord.
Pembroke 11, Merrimack Valley 10
In a back-and-forth game, Pembroke (5-10) pushed three runs across the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a victory against MV (5-9).
Vinny Dustin (2-for-4, double, triple, walk, three steals, three runs, two RBI) triple and scored on a throwing error to start the inning. Jeremy Caruso (steal, three runs) then reached on one of his three walks and advanced all the way home on passed balls to tie the game. Chris Gauss (3-for-5, two runs, RBI) hit his second double of the game and scored the winning run on Liam Wright’s (two walks) RBI singled to left.
Dustin pitched two inning in relief to earn his first win.
For MV – which took a 10-8 lead with a seven-run fourth – JT Driscoll went 2-for-3 with three RBI and Brady Wentworth reached base safely three times.
Hanover 9, John Stark 2
John Stark 2, Hanover 1
The Generals (7-7) split their doubleheader with the Marauders (5-9) to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in more than a decade.
In the first game, Hanover scored two runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings while Stark scored two in the third. Ryan Thompson (2-for-4, run, stolen base) and Callahan Loos (2-for-4) led the offense for the Generals and Brock Bergeron struck out the only two batters he faced in the sixth.
In Game 2, the Generals put a run on the board in both the first and fifth innings while holding Hanover to one unearned run. David Nelson doubled and scored on a Tyler Keim (3-for-3, RBI, run, stolen base) single for the game’s first run. In the fifth, Keim singled, stole second and scored when Loos singled. Egan Nickerson threw a complete game, striking out five, walking two and allowing just four hits. Third baseman Thompson made a diving play down the line, Nelson was solid behind the plate, and the Stark defense turned a double play to end the game.
Bishop Brady 14, Franklin 4
Poor defense put the Green Giants (8-6) behind 4-1 early, but the bats came alive to tie the game with three runs in the bottom of the third before putting up 10 runs in the bottom of the fifth to both take the lead and end the game.
Thomas Blandini had a triple among his two hits, three RBI and three runs, and Martin Hecka had a two-run double with the bases loaded to spark the 10-run inning. JP Nemkovich had two hits and scored three runs, and Kyle Jalbert also scored three runs.
Thomas Pelchat had the defensive highlight for the Giants, turning a 5-3 double play in the fourth inning to get Brady out of a no-out, two-on jam. Adam Gamache struck out four in five innings while allowing four runs (two earned) and six hits.
Garrett Flemming had two hits, an RBI and a run for the Golden Tornadoes (1-13).
Bow 5, Raymond 2
Evan Vulgamore and Chris Fournier picked up RBI singles in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie and put the Falcons (8-6) up for good.
Fournier also drove in Vulgamore and Sam Morrow for insurance runs in the seventh. Fournier finished 4-for-4 with a run and three RBI, while Vulgamore (two runs, RBI) and Sebastian Strong (run) went 2-for-3.
Jeff Bell started for the Falcons and went 5.2 innings, allowing two runs, two walks and eight hits to pick up the win. Vulgamore relieved and struck out two in 1.1 innings to get the save.
Stevens 8, Hillsboro-Deering 1
Max Parenteau had the Hillcats’ lone hit, but on the bright side, sophomore Dominic Downs pitched great in relief, firing 4.1 innings of four-hit ball, yielding just one run.
Johnny White backed the pitching effort by turning two unassisted double plays.
Winnisquam 3, Laconia 1
Winnisquam snapped a two-game losing streak with “a solid win against a solid ball club,” said Coach Fred Caruso, whose team was able to secure a victory on just two hits.
The Bears (12-3) took a 1-0 lead when Ben Wentworth hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning to score Tucker Normand, who had reached base on a walk. An unconventional play in the sixth provided the two insurance runs. With the bases loaded and one out, Dakota Tyno hit a pop-up about halfway down the third base line where the Laconia pitcher made a solid defensive play. When he tried to throw home to catch Winnisquam’s Dominic DeBlasie, the ball tipped off the catcher’s glove and skidded to the backstop, allowing Jack Decormier to score, as well.
Laconia (8-7) scored its only run in the fifth, when the Sachems’ leadoff batter reached on an error and was plated by an infield hit. Tim Harmon went the distance on the mound for the Bears, striking out five, walking one and allowing six hits, all singles. Decormier and Normand anchored the defense.
Bow 9, Winnacunnet 5
Bow (9-4) set the tone early, taking a 5-1 lead after the first quarter, but when the Falcons struggled to gain possession in the second quarter, Winnacunnet (6-7) pulled within two by halftime, 5-3.
The Falcons regrouped to control the second half, limiting the Warriors to just seven shots on goal. Derrick LaBranche scored his first career goal and led a strong defense along with Alex Reitze, Tucker Johnson and Aidan Koornneef. In goal, Chase Chamberlin made 12 saves in the first half with Travis Beauchain stopping five shots in the second half.
Offensively, Matt Sanford led the way with three goals and an assist, Devin Calkins added two goals and two assists, Dylan Labranche scored one and assisted on one, and Labranche, Ben Podis and Trevor Garrett scored one each. Colin Buck had a very good day battling at the faceoff X.
Merrimack Valley 11, Bishop Brady 8
Cole Martin and Tanner Carter recorded hat tricks to lift the Pride (9-4) to victory.
Martin added three assists for the Pride, while Chase Mercier had two goals and an assist and Warren Campbell had two goals. MV went up 4-0 early, thanks in large part to the faceoff work of Blake Gaboriault, who won nine of his 14 draws in the first half and 14 of 21 overall while also contributing a team-high 11 groundballs, a goal and two assists.
Alain Authier made 11 saves in net for the Pride, while Ben Reed and Taylor Blanchette led the defensive effort.
John Stark 19, Stevens 0
John Stark improved to 10-3 and in the process handed Stevens (0-14) its third straight shutout.
Fourteen players joined in a balanced offensive attack, led by Matt Richard with three goals and three assists. Brody Fredericks (one assist), Adam King and Jacob Fitts each scored two goals, while Daniel Medvetz, Terry Zervos, Jake Blanchette, Drew McQuarrie, James Smugereski, Keith Filleul, Ryan Gordon, Cam Williams, Zac Leuci and Garritt Aucoin added single goals.
Kingswood 7, Hopkinton 5
Hawks goalie Matt French had his best game of the year, stopping 31 of 38 shots under heavy pressure from Kingswood (10-4). Unfortunately, Hopkinton couldn’t quite keep pace offensively to fall to 6-7.
James McCluskey scored twice and had six groundballs, while Joe Cullian, Colin Noonan (three groundballs) and Robbie Ferguson also scored.
Thomas Knight led the team in groundballs with eight, with Evan Ruderman scooping up seven groundballs.
John Stark 3, Keene 1
The Generals (6-8) picked up their third straight victory, topping the 5-8 Blackbirds, 25-13, 25-19, 16-25, 25-18.
Stark had a strong game at the net, led by Brandon Dugay (two aces, 12 kills), Carson Dunn (11 kills, one stuff), Serge Boucher (three aces, seven kills, one stuff) and Ryan Compagna (two aces, seven kills). Setter Ryan Sandmann directed the offense with 39 assists to go with one ace and one kill.