Tennis: Kearsarge boys fall to veteran Plymouth team in championship rematch

Kearsarge’s Graham West returns a shot against Plymouth in the NHIAA Division III championship at Memorial Field on Thursday. West lost, 8-6, at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, and Plymouth claimed the team title with a 6-3 victory.

Kearsarge’s Graham West returns a shot against Plymouth in the NHIAA Division III championship at Memorial Field on Thursday. West lost, 8-6, at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, and Plymouth claimed the team title with a 6-3 victory. JOSHUA SPAULDING / Salmon Press

Kearsarge’s Graham West returns a shot against Plymouth in the NHIAA Division III championship at Memorial Field on Thursday. West lost, 8-6, at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, and Plymouth claimed the team title with a 6-3 victory.

Kearsarge’s Graham West returns a shot against Plymouth in the NHIAA Division III championship at Memorial Field on Thursday. West lost, 8-6, at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, and Plymouth claimed the team title with a 6-3 victory. JOSHUA SPAULDING / Salmon Press

Kearsarge’s Liam Miller returns a shot against Plymouth in the NHIAA Division III championship at Memorial Field on Thursday. Miller won, 8-5, at No. 1 singles, but lost 8-6 at No. 1 doubles as Plymouth claimed the team title with a 6-3 victory.

Kearsarge’s Liam Miller returns a shot against Plymouth in the NHIAA Division III championship at Memorial Field on Thursday. Miller won, 8-5, at No. 1 singles, but lost 8-6 at No. 1 doubles as Plymouth claimed the team title with a 6-3 victory. JOSHUA SPAULDING / Salmon Press

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 05-31-2024 2:18 AM

The Cougars knew that fate of the championship would likely come down to doubles. But the senior-laden top-seeded Plymouth Bobcats (17-0) were a little more aggressive and a little more confident, and used that experience to sweep the doubles matches, claiming the NHIAA Division III boys’ tennis team championship with a 6-3 victory over No. 2 Kearsarge (15-2) on Thursday at Concord’s Memorial Field.

“The thing that Plymouth did better than us in all three doubles matches was that they were moving at the net better,” Kearsarge head coach Lynn Miller said. “They were able to cut (hits) off more than we were. Not that we never talk about it or work on it in practice, but you need to be able to do it in a match and know when to do it.”

Junior Liam Miller won 8-5 at No. 2 singles, freshman Eli Whipple won 8-4 at No. 3 and senior Thomas Shepherd won 8-3 at No. 4 for Kearsarge’s three victories. 

Billy Reid and Andrew Huff, and Whipple and Shepherd, both lost 8-4 at No. 3 and No. 2 doubles, respectively, to give Plymouth the victory.

Miller and fellow junior Graham West (No. 1) played out their doubles match to a narrow 8-6 loss despite the Bobcats having already clinched the title with a 5-3 lead. 

Plymouth also won the 2022 final by a 6-3 score over Kearsarge. The Cougars defeated the Bobcats, 5-4, in the 2023 final.

Kearsarge has played in the last four D-III championship finals, the last three of them to Plymouth, but coach Miller isn’t taking anything for granted. Shepherd and No. 6 singles player Andrew Zielinksi are the only two seniors who played for Kearsarge in Thursday’s final, and most of the Cougars’ roster is projected to return next season.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but it was a good season,” Miller said. “ (Plymouth) outplayed us. You have to give them credit. I think it’s a little bit of a wake up call (for Kearsarge) in terms of, we spent a lot of time on doubles, but, I don't know if it’s because (Plymouth’s players) were seniors and we are a little bit younger, but you have to play well in the matches.”

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Liam Miller and West will represent Kearsarge in the state singles and doubles tournaments that open this weekend.