Young Kearsarge team wins first boys tennis championship since 70s

  • A young Kearsarge Cougars team won the boys Division III state championship Saturday over Trinity High. From left, Coach Lynn Miller, Liam Miller, Jared Roberts, Davis West, Thomas Shepherd, Kaden Schusler, Tony MacLeod, Kaelen Lundberg, Bryce Wilmer and Graham West. Jeff Adie / Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 6/6/2021 2:57:35 PM

It all came down to a tactical switch in the second doubles match of the state championship tournament against Trinity when Jared Roberts and Liam Miller were going back and forth against their opponents.

Kearsarge had already won singles matches by freshman Kaelen Lundberg (8-6) , Davis West (8-5), Thomas Shepherd (8-0) and Miller (8-3). The Division III state title would be decided by the doubles matches during sweltering heat on Saturday.

Roberts and Miller, unprompted by their coach, decided to try something they had been working on throughout the season – switch to an Australian doubles format in the middle of the match. Instead of standing on opposite sides of the court during their serve, Roberts, the only senior on the team, stood at the baseline, with Miller lined up directly in front of him at the net. The switch gives the opposing players a different look and forces them to make a tough shot up the sideline to hit a winner. The strategy worked as Roberts and Miller were down in the game, but flipped the momentum, and eventually won the match to bring the first tennis championship to Kearsarge since the 1970s, coach Lynn Miller said.

It was a difficult season with a young team, plus school shutdowns and interruptions from COVID made consistency tricky. Plus, multiple members of the team play club soccer, which occasionally interfered with practices or matches.

“I had to keep them on track with their tennis to keep them focused,” coach Miller said.

On the way to the finals Kearsarge defeated Plymouth and Profile high schools but hadn’t faced Trinity at all this year. 

Strong singles matches, led by No. 1 seed Lundberg, paved the way for the win.

Kaelen’s singles match could have gone either way,” Miller said. “It was all him. He really dug down.”

But that’s something he’s done all season, as he continued to improve his play.

“You got to give him a lot of credit. He’s a ninth grader-playing at No. 1 and doing a good job,” Miller said. “He got better during the year. He just started playing smarter.”

During his singles match, Liam Miller started from behind, but settled in and eventually pulled away.

“Liam probably played his best match of the year,” coach Miller said. “He saved it.”

The first doubles match by Lundberg and Toby MacLeoud was suspended by rain and never completed. Trinity was ahead 7-5, but the outcome didn’t matter as Kearsarge already had enough points to seal the championship. Brothers Davis and Graham West won the third singles match.

Coach Miller never took any thing for granted even when her team pulled ahead.

“When you’re dealing with a young team, you can be up 5-1 and it can just flip flop,” she said.

On the bus ride home, the coach took the boys out to dinner at Five Guys burgers and fries in Concord, where they savored their new title – State Champions.

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