Sabers, Cavs set for Divison III boys tennis title bout

Staff photo by TOM KING Souhegan's Matt Lapsley is looking to go out as a champion with the Sabers in Tuesday's match against Hollis Brookline in Bedford.

High school sports are certainly hard to predict, but this forecast made back in early April by local tennis experts held true.

As expected, it’s the Hollis Brookline and Souhegan boys tennis teams tangling on Tuesday in the Division II finals at 4 p.m. at Bedford High School.

“This is the finals I’ve been expecting since the very beginning,” Souhegan coach John Kilgore, whose top seeded team is hoping for an unbeaten season, 15-0 going in.

HB has never won a state boys tennis title. The Sabers as a program will be gunning for their seventh title, but first since 2003. Both teams lost in the semis last year, fueling speculation they’d be primed for a finals matchup this spring.

“The Sabers have obviously played well,” Hollis Brookline coach James McCann said. “John does a great job with them but we feel confident about our chances. I told our guys we have a business trip to Bedford.”

The Sabers have two regular season wins over the Cavs (No. 3, 13-2) already, 5-4 and 6-3. In the first match, back in mid-April indoors at Nashua Swim & Tennis, the Sabers took four of six singles and got the clincher with the unbeaten No. 1 doubles team of Matt Lapsley and Sam Goddard downing HB’s Nic Vahe and David Cherkassky. Also, Kyle Gibson’s wins over Cherkassky at No. 3 singles have been key, and Souhegan took five of six singles to win the rematch outdoors in Amherst early this month. The Sabers usually own the top two spots on the ladder with perhaps the state’s best player, the senior Lapsley at No. 1 and the sophomore Goddard having a super year at No. 2.

The key either way?

“Good singles matches,” Kilgore said. “It depends on 4, 5 and 6 to make it easier.”

The Cavs have gotten a boost at that end, just like the Sabers have. It’ll be Souhegan’s Dale Estes, Josh Lacaillade (unbeaten until the semis) and and Mike Dodge vs. HB’s Ben Zielinksi, Max Burns, and Alex Anghel. Anghel has won twice at No. 6, Lacaillade twice for the Sabers at No. 5, and Estes-Zielinski have split.

“Last year, I had rotating players at (Nos.) 5 and 6,” Kilgore said. “A bit of a lack of commitment. At the end of last year, I gave a commitment speech, and told everybody if they’e committed this season, we’ll be state champs. All they need to do is to be here. We had just two absences this year. … otherwise my No. 1 lineup played every point of every match. That makes a huge difference. I can’t ask for more than that.

“They (the Cavs) have a good bottom end. It’s where it meets in the middle.”

And they’ll meet in Bedford to figure that all out.