D-III tennis tournament: Bow gets past Conant; Gilford awaits in title match

  • Brayden Binder, Bow’s No. 1 singles player, reaches for a shot during the Division III semifinals against Conant on Thursday in Bow. JAY McAREE / Monitor staff

  • Bow’s Caleb Olson gets ready for a forehand strike during Thursday’s Division III semifinal match against Conant. The Falcons are back in the title match for the second straight season. JAY McAREE / Monitor staff

  • Bow senior Brayden Binder stretches for a backhand shot during Thursday’s Division III semifinal match against Conant in Bow. The Falcons won, 5-4, to advance to the championship match against Gilford. JAY McAREE / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/25/2018 12:41:09 AM

BOW – Drew Groves couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed to mix things up. So with a little ingenuity and some influence from Conant during the regular season, the longtime Bow boys’ tennis coach shuffled up his double pairings late in the year.

“The inspiration for the change kind of came from (Conant),” Groves said. “They had mixed in and put their No. 1 at No. 2 doubles and backed him with their No. 4 player. We started to think maybe that’s something we need to try because what we had been doing wasn’t working.”

Groves and the Falcons made the change. The result: Bow snapped Gilford’s 97-match win streak in the regular-season finale, breezed past Inter-Lakes on Wednesday in the Division III quarterfinals and then really put its new pairings to the test in its third meeting against Conant on Thursday, sweeping all three doubles matches to defeat the Orioles, 7-2, for a spot in the D-III championship.

“We split up our No. 1 and No. 2 that played together (in doubles) for most of the season and found some really nice continuity and a nice gelling together of both teams,” Groves said. “But particularly at No. 1, they’ve played so well since we’ve done this.”

That was the case again during Thursday’s semifinal when Bow, which hadn’t been able to handle Conant’s top two doubles pairings all season, pulled off victories at both.

With No. 2 on the ladder Caleb Olson pairing with Dillan D’Allesandro for an 8-6 win over Evan Bennett and Chris Newton at No. 1 doubles, and the No. 2 doubles pairing of top player Brayden Binder and Zach Mullen pulling off an 8-4 win on the adjacent court, the Falcons propelled themselves back into the state title match for the second straight season.

Daniel Silva and Neeraj Naik accounted for the final doubles win, an 8-4 decision at No. 3.

“It’s just been fun to watch them work together, communicate and enjoy playing with each other,” Groves said. “That’s really the fun part of this.”

Bow managed to build up a 4-2 lead after singles despite Binder falling to eighth-grader and Conant’s unbeaten top player Sigmund Woniecki, 8-2. Conant also won at No. 3 singles with Newton topping Mullen, 8-3, but the rest of the ladder for the Falcons proved to be too deep.

Silva won at No. 6 singles, 8-1, over Blake Ferguson, Jon Cook and D’Allesandro both picked up 8-1 wins at Nos. 5 and 4, respectively, and Olson blanked Bennett, 8-0, at No. 2.

“I just try to get the balls back. None of our kids really hit much winners and the kid I played has much harder shot than I do, but the more I get it back the more likely he is to make a mistake, which is kind of what I play off of,” Olson said.

The victory sets up another clash against Gilford in the state championship scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday at Derryfield School in Manchester. It will be a rematch of last year’s final won by the Golden Eagles, 6-3.

“Being in the finals last year, we pretty much got embarrassed by Gilford,” Olson said. “We were out by singles and it was very tough going into doubles knowing we already lost the match. So it’s very nice to be a real contender this year.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)


Division III semifinals

No. 1 Gilford 7, No. 5 Littleton 2

Key players: Gilford – Christian Workman (8-0 win in singles), Tyler Hanf (8-0 win in singles), Mikey Eisenmann (8-0 win in singles), Colton Workman (8-1 win in singles), Adam Donnelly (8-4 win in singles)

Highlights/key moments: Christian Workman and Tyler Hanf worked for an 8-3 win in doubles. Colton Workman and Adam Donnelly also won their doubles match, 9-7. Gilford squares off with No. 2 Bow at Derryfield School on Tuesday at 4 p.m. for the Division III title. It will be Gilford’s eighth trip to the finals in nine years.

Records: Gilford 15-1; Littleton 11-5

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