- Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Bishop Guertin's Jennifer Dai returns a serve from Nashua South's Hannah Drake in the first set of action of the NHIAA Girls Quarterfinals at the BG courts on Wednesday in Nashua.
- Photo by Jodie Andruskevich - Nashua High School South's Hannah Drake charges the net to get a shot hit by her opponent Jennifer Dai of Bishop Guertin during Wednesday's Quarterfinal round of action at the BG courts in Nashua.
BG girls are cream of Division I crop
With its No. 1, 3 and 4 players returning to action this spring, the defending champion Bishop Guertin girls tennis team was hands down the team to beat according to Division I coaches.
That just wasn’t good enough for the Cardinals and fourth-year head coach Debbie Lloyd. Enter Westford Academy transfer student Briana Leonard. The high school junior beat out returning junior and Telegraph Girls Tennis Player of the Year Jennifer Dai for No. 1 during preseason workouts setting up a top four other coaches in any division would envy.
Leonard and Dai start the BG lineup in the top two spots – more like 1a and 1b – followed by returning sophomore Lauren Hayward in teh three hole and returning junior Liz DiCesare at cleanup. And it’s not like returning juniors Allison Murphy and Mary Cunningham in the last two slots are anything to scoff at.
All those weapons and Lloyd did her best to avoid boasting. With two of the best players statewide at the top of her lineup, she refused to acknowledge what other coaches in the area are thinking.
“Every girl is an equally valuable member of the team,” Lloyd said, “and these girls know.”
For Lloyd the focus is on how her players act while competing. Winning is icing on the cake.
“We want to show the utmost in sportsmanship,” said Lloyd, whose Cardinals last loss came in the 2009 semifinals to eventual champion Manchester Central. “Whether we win or lose we stress sportsmanship and team values.”
The Cardinals, who opened the season with a 9-0 win over Manchester Memorial Wednesday, have an early-season clash with the other Division I team coaches think their respective team’s are chasing. Derryfield School of Manchester visits Nashua Monday at 4 p.m.
Also looking to be in the hunt with BG and Derryfield come tournament time are Manchester Central with returning senior Casey Geddes, a Nashua High School South team led by senior Hannah Drake, as well as Salem and Londonderry.
In Division II, defending champion Bedford leads the pack, followed closely by Hollis Brookline, Hanover, St. Thomas, Oyster River and Portsmouth.
Wilton-Lyndeborough is coming off a tough season in Division III, but a young Warriors squad hopes a fresh approach full of enthusiasm, good attitudes and determination can spark something.
In boys tennis circles, defending champion BG is in a rebuilding phase according to first-year coach Tom Lizotte. Still, the return of senior Andrew Xiao gives the Cardinals a solid top of the lineup player other teams already respect.
“The keys to my team’s success this year is helping all my players improve their fundamental skills and developing confidence in themselves in order to bring out their best during matches,” Lizotte said.
Exeter and Londonderry appear to be the frontrunners in the minds of coaches, but local teams – even some not considered tournament contenders – have high hopes.
Merrimack is on a mission under fifth-year coach Jeff Marvelle. With just one returning player in senior Anders Dahl, the Tomahawks coach is expecting a lot out of his newcomers.
“We hope to have our first winning season in recent history,” Marvelle said. “The boys are making progress due to their hard work. They are a fine group of boys with very positive attitudes.”
Coming off a 5-9 season of a year ago, Nashua South coach David Santerre sees something special in his squad, too.
“We are a talented team,” the fourth-year Panthers coach said. “If we stay together and most importantly mature as a team, we are playoff bound.”
According to coaches, Division II is defending champion Bedford’s to lose, while last year’s runner-up Hanover is still in the hunt along with Goffstown and Portsmouth. Don’t count out Souhegan and senior Nick Poulack, who is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.
Defending champion Gilford and runner-up Bow are the teams to beat in Division III, and W-L’s fifth-year coach Bill Fox hopes an athletic team translates into a title contending team.
“We have a lot of athletes on this team,” Fox said. “If we can convert them to tennis players we should be able to make a run at the playoffs once again.”
COACH: Betsy Oswalt (1st season)
LAST YEAR: N/A
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Lahari Venuthurupalli, sr.; Yashaswani Moparthi, sr.; Briannah Bellot, sr.; Heather Gibson, sr.; Ashley Croan, jr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Lauren Weber, so.; Hanna Bate, so.; Devon LaBonte, so.; Dominique Kaempf, fr.
COACH: Debbie Lloyd (4th season)
LAST YEAR: 17-0; Division I champions
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Jen Dai, jr.; Lauren Hayward, so.; Liz DiCesare, jr.; Allison Murphy, jr.; Mary Cunningham, jr.; Allie Fahey, jr.; Daniela Sierra, jr.; Sucheta Tamragouri, so.; Amelia Fallon, so.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Briana Leonard, jr.; Rachel Clarke-Pounder, so.; Hailee Bonino, so.
COACH: Susan Cloutier (1st season)
LAST YEAR: 11-7; lost in quarterfinals
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Amanda Goddard, sr.; Erica Setrin, sr.; Stephanie Reynolds, sr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Samantha Holder, so.; Alyssa Hobbs, so.; Zoe Lanier, so.; Mia Mitchell, jr.
COACH: Emily Vandeventer (1st season)
LAST YEAR: N/A
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Annika Kossayda, so.; Monique Duchesne, so.; Ashley Hilgarth, so.; Jessica Phelps, jr.; Tina Xu, sr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Victoria Lizotte, fr.; Abby Jones, fr.; Jessica Schuyler, fr.
COACH: Virginia Ferris (4th season)
LAST YEAR: 8-6; lost in quarterfinals
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Hannah Drake, sr.; Ashley Chen, sr.; Ruth Wendell, sr.; Nora Eskin, sr.; Micaela Baney, so.; Katelyn Griswold, so.; Sara Haque, jr.; Miriam Lewis, jr.; Jackie Marshall, jr.; Meghan Trahan, jr.; Meghan Mcloon, jr.; Liz Valeri, sr.; Bhavana Kaki, jr.; Annie Boghigian, jr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Victoria Ziolek, fr.; Tina Ta, fr.; Lauren Flanagan, fr.; Sarah Allison, fr.
COACH: Marie Salamone (3rd season)
LAST YEAR: 10-4; lost in quarterfinals
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Laura Cercel, sr.; Taylor Owens, sr.; Meghan Graves, sr.; Kelsey Tulley, jr.; Colleen Plesac, jr.; Sarah Ericson, jr.; Lauren Guetling, jr.; Lian Thomas, so.
COACH: Rick Katzenberg (10th season)
LAST YEAR: 8-8
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Lindsay Moss, so.; Maeve Morgan, so.; Katie Casper, sr.; Sara Noble, jr.; Lizzie Callahan, sr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Annie Protzmann, fr.
COACH: Betsie Sullivan (21st season)
LAST YEAR: 0-14
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Sarah Higgins, jr.; Casey Montefusco, jr.; Etta Popek, fr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Taylor Webb, fr.; Kassie Dumont, fr.; Beka Floyd, so.; Kyla Ray, so.; Valari Kregos, fr.; Rachel Carder, fr.
COACH: Mike Coulter (1st season)
LAST YEAR: Lost in first round
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Matt O’Brien, so.; Mike Meli, sr.; Travis Terrio, sr.; Tyler Lambert, sr.; P.J. Martineau, jr.; Kasyap Venuthurupalli, so.; Alec Boucher, jr.; Siddhardha Moparthi, jr.; Jim Tomaswick, sr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Tyler Lambert, fr.; Jake Arnold, so.
COACH: Tom Lizotte (1st season)
LAST YEAR: Division I champions
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Andrew Xiao, sr., Austin McAndrew, jr., Danny Morrison, jr., Chris Zuercher, jr., Jared Bernson, so.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Sam Fordin, jr.; Roshan Tadi, jr.; David Grossman, so.; Allen Chen, jr.; Tom Flanagan, jr.; Rishi Yemme, fr.; Jason Lutcza, fr.; Rishi Tadi, sr.; Alex Johnson, so.; Andrew Brown, sr.; Ryan Ierardi, jr.
COACH: Jeff Marvelle (5th season)
LAST YEAR: N/A
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Anders Dahl, sr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Sean Demers, jr.; Jeremy Gruber, jr.; Justin Harrington, jr.; Elias Kim, sr.; Chris Lore, jr.; Johnny McElwain, jr.; John Pipen, fr.
COACH: David Santerre (4th season)
LAST YEAR: 5-9
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Eathan Karbassi, sr.; Sean Stempler, sr.; Ben Stewart, sr.; Mayank Dubey, sr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Cameron Wang, jr.; Aaron Wang, jr.
COACH: Nancy McManus (3rd season)
LAST YEAR: 0-14
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Josh Clemens, jr.; Trevor Frost, sr.; Ben Lambert, jr.; Nick Poplar, sr.; Mitch Carr, sr.; Kent Maggelet, sr.; Mark Kobzik, jr.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Kyle Leach, fr.; Mathias Christensen, jr.; Andrew Fuhs, fr.
COACH: John Kilgore (4th season)
LAST YEAR: didn’t make
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Nick Poulack, sr.; Matt Protsmann, jr.; Jason Emmond, so.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Dan O’Dowd, so.; Anthony Zeollie, so.; Parker Desborough, so.; Pat Casper, jr.; Alex Fogelgrem, jr.
COACH: Bill Fox (5th season)
LAST YEAR: 9-5, missed playoffs
RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Stephen Taliadoros, sr.; Kyle Magoon, jr.; James Edmunds, so.; Connor Holt, so.; Michael Thibault, so.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Marshal Davidson, sr.; John Lemire, so.; Ryan Christino, fr.; Skye Williams, fr.
NOTE: Despite repeated attempts, Milford girls, as well as, Hollis Brookline and Nashua North boys capsules were unavailable at press time.