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Emotions run high, but Bow boys’ tennis team falls in championship

  • Bow's Evan Maccani reacts before losing the match to Gilford in the boys' division III tennis championships on Tuesday afternoon, May 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Evan Maccani reacts before losing the match to Gilford in the boys' division III tennis championships on Tuesday afternoon, May 28, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Bow's Arun Luckoor serves during his match against Gilford in the boys' division III tennis championships on Tuesday afternoon, May 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Arun Luckoor serves during his match against Gilford in the boys' division III tennis championships on Tuesday afternoon, May 28, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Bow's Evan Maccani reacts before losing the match to Gilford in the boys' division III tennis championships on Tuesday afternoon, May 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Bow's Arun Luckoor serves during his match against Gilford in the boys' division III tennis championships on Tuesday afternoon, May 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

MANCHESTER – They didn’t know if their senior co-captain would be there. But when the Bow boys’ tennis team heard that Arun Luckoor was on his way to yesterday’s Division III boys’ tennis championship, the Falcons rejoiced.

“I felt amped that he even showed up,” senior Harrison Beck said. “Less than 24 hours later, that’s amazing. I have no clue what he’s going through, but that’s just amazing.”

What Luckoor had gone through was the loss of his father, Ravi, who lost his two-year battle with cancer. When the match began, it looked like Luckoor’s arrival, and play, would help the No. 2 Falcons claim the title that’s eluded them the last two years. But top-ranked and undefeated Gilford (16-0) was too tenacious on too many courts, and came away with a 6-3 win and the D-III crown, the third in four years for the Golden Eagles. Still, it was a remarkable performance from Luckoor, one that he, his teammates and everyone else at The Derryfield School courts won’t soon forget.

“I really think my dad would have wanted me to play, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to give up on things I really care about, like this team,” Luckoor said. “I just really wanted to play my heart out and I really wanted to make him proud, and despite my losses today, I think he will be proud.”

Somehow, Luckoor seemed focused to start his match against Alex Simoneau at No. 3 singles. The Bow senior used a big forehand and well-timed forays to the net to take a 7-4 lead. But Simoneau held to make it 7-5, fought off a match point on Luckoor’s serve in the next game, and eventually clawed his way to a 9-7 win.

“I was really pumped up at the beginning, but toward the end I got a little distracted, I guess, and started thinking about other things,” Luckoor said. “But overall it was a great match, and he fought really hard for every point, I think we both did. And in the end, we both had match points, but he came out stronger, so congratulations to him.”

It was a critical loss for Bow (14-2), but in the grand scheme, Luckoor’s presence outweighed that single point.

“He gave us strength by him coming here and playing the way he did,” Bow Coach Drew Groves said. “Think about that, in his time of sorrow, he gave us a lift. He showed us what it means to have strength.”

That match gave Gilford a 3-2 team lead, but Bow had a chance to even things up at 3-3 with the last singles match still on the court and No. 2 Evan Maccani holding a 7-5 advantage. Maccani, Bow’s other senior co-captain, had two match points against Gilford’s Matt Saulnier, but Saulnier refused to buckle under pressure, fought off both match points, and eventually used his tireless feet and relentless consistency to pull off a 9-7 win and put the Golden Eagles firmly in control heading into doubles.

“Evan had those two match points that he didn’t close out, and (Saulnier) made him pay, basically,” Groves said. “You just have to credit him for that. It’s hard not to applaud that kind of effort.”

After losing those two tight and emotional matches, the Falcons knew they needed to sweep the three doubles matches to avoid losing their third straight final (Bow fell to Gilford in 2011, 5-4, and Profile in 2012, 5-4). They also knew a doubles sweep would be a monumental task against a talented Gilford team that had already beaten the Falcons in the regular season, 5-4, the only loss Bow suffered until yesterday.

“You could just feel the air come out of the team when that last singles match went,” Groves said.

Gilford’s first doubles team of Andrew Caulfied and Saulnier made sure there was no time for drama in doubles as they rolled to a quick 8-0 win over Zach Zbehlik and Luckoor to clinch the title. It was the second win of the day for Caulfield, who beat Zbehlik, 8-3, at No. 1 singles.

“Andrew is really, really good,” Luckoor said. “His forehand and serve are some of the hardest I’ve ever seen. That’s why he’s one of the best players in the state.”

Gilford’s Keaton Quigley and Nolan Dwyer then beat Tim Bradley and Nathan Louf, 8-2, at third doubles. It was also the second win of the day for Dwyer, who beat Ben Maurer, 8-4, at No. 6. Maccani and Beck completed the scoring with an 8-3 win at second doubles. Beck won his singles match as well, downing Quigley, 8-2, at No. 4.

“I came to the net a lot, which definitely helped me close out points more,” Beck said of the singles decision.

Bow’s other win came at No. 5 as Bradley beat Erich Berghahn, 8-2. Bradley had lost to Berghahn during the regular season, but the Bow junior had learned his lesson.

“When we played in the regular season, I was up a couple games, but then I let off,” Bradley said. “Today I was in the mindset to not give him any points he didn’t earn.”

That was true for the match in general, as the Falcons, inspired by Luckoor, made Gilford earn its crown.

“You have to credit the Gilford kids, they would never quit,” Groves said. “They didn’t quit in the middle of a point, they didn’t say quit in the middle of a set when they got down, they just kept coming back. That’s a good lesson for life, just keep coming back. And I think that’s what Arun will take from all this, just keep coming back.”

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

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