Sabers earn decisive Division II tennis title win over Hollis Brookline

Staff photo by TOM KING Souhegan boys tennis captain Matt Lapsley holds up the Divsion II trophy to his teammates after the Sabers downed Hollis Brookline 7-2 in the finals on Tuesday.

BEDFORD – Hollis Brookline’s No. 1 singles player, Nic Vahe, had played an intense match on Tuesday in a losing cause when he blurted out the relief that many are probably thinking when it comes to Souhegan’s Matt Lapsley.

“He’s gone next year,” Vahe said.

Indeed he is. You had to figure the Souhegan High School Sabers were going to win a Division II championship while they had one of the top players in the state – and New England – ruling their ladder.

Well, Tuesday was their last chance, and Lapsley & Co. came through, beating area rival Vahe’s Hollis Brookline team 7-2 to claim the crown.

“We’ve been after it for three years,” Sabers coach John Kilgore, whose team finishes the year 17-0. “It’s nice to finally do it.

“Last year we thought we had it and we lost 5-4 (to Lebanon) in the semis. They deserved it this year. They were serious players this year.”

This is Souhegan’s seventh boys tennis crown, but first since 2003. It’s really step one for the University of Illinois Springfield-bound Lapsley, who is pursuing the triple crown of a state team title, a singles title, and a doubles title (with partner Sam Goddard).

“This is amazing,” he said. “I feel like we meshed really well as a team. It wasn’t just one or two guys at the top, and that was awesome to see. If you look at all three of the rounds, we won it in singles.”

Including Lapsley’s intense 8-5 win over Vahe which drew a crowd cheering on just about every point. Down 7-5, Vahe had a break point but wasn’t able to take advantage of it.

“It was a really good match, I almost came back,” Vahe said. “It came down to a few crucial points at the end but he was in better shape than me.

“I’m really proud of all of us. We’re a real young team and I think we have a bright future.”

The No. 3, 14-3 Cavs do, as all three of their losses came at the hands of the Sabers. They likely will be the favorites going into next year, but Tuesday belonged to the Sabers as they took five of six singles to clinch it before doubles. Josh Lacaillade at No. 5 bested HB’s Max Burns 8-3 for the clincher as fans gathered around that one as well, being the only singles match left.

“There was a huge crowd around,” Kilgore said. “Josh isn’t the best crowd player but he did the job today.”

Saber Dale Estes was the first winner at No. 4, 8-1 over Ben Zielinski. Lapsley was next, followed by Mike Dodge at No. 6, who beat Alex Anghel 8-5. Saber Kyle Gibson suffered his first loss of the year, 8-5 at the hands of the Cavs’ David Cherkassky, but Sam Goddard got that back with a decisive 8-2 win over Darius Paradie at No. 2. Then it was up to Lacaillade to get the fifth point.

“Tough matches, some close matches out there,” Cavs coach Jim McCann said. “Nic battled Matt right to the end there. David played well at No. 3 and came through for us. At 5 and 6, we pull out one of those we have to sweep (doubles) but at least we’d have a chance. They’re good.

“It’s the first time we’ve been to the finals. We’re building momentum and we have most of the team back for two more years.”

Yes, the bottom of the ladder did the trick for the Sabers.

“That hasn’t been the pattern all season, but today it was,” Kilgore said.

Doubles was a formality, as Lapsley/Goddard remained unbeaten with an 8-1 win over Vahe/Cherkassky and Gibson/Estes beat Paradie/Anghel 8-5 at No. 2. Hollis Brookline’s tandem of Zielinski/Burns topped Dodge/Lacaillade 8-5 at No.3.

But all that was left was the trophy presentation and, well, what little shouting there was.

“We had commitment,” said Kilgore, who had two players miss one match each. “Other than that, these six guys were here for every single event. These guys, once they played the whole season, they just got better.”