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Eagles capture fourth title in five years

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

The Gilford boys' tennis team shows off its NHIAA Division III state championship after defeating second-seeded Bow, 5-4, on June 3 at The Derryfield School. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
June 09, 2014
MANCHESTER After a stressful couple of minutes, a shot into the net caused a huge sigh of relief on June 3.

Needing just one win in doubles play to secure the match, top-seeded Gilford High School got that victory in the number one spot from the tandem of Andrew Caulfield and Grant Workman. After a rally from second-seeded Bow High School had Caulfield and Workman on the ropes, the pair settled in and forced an unforced error on match point to grab an 8-6 win that vaulted the Eagles to a 5-4 team victory in the NHIAA Division III state championship match at The Derryfield School.

The title was the second in a row for Gilford, which beat Bow by a 6-3 score in the 2013 title tilt. It was the fourth championship in five years for an Eagles squad that has turned into quite a dynasty.

"It's gratifying," said Gilford head coach Terry Wilson. "Just to see the kids achieve their goals after all the hard work they've put in this season running stairs for conditioning in March and all of that."

The turning point of the match came late in singles action. With the teams tied at 2-2, Bow had leads in the final two matches at third and fifth singles. But freshman Grant Workman dug deep at number three, and he ultimately broke serve to take a lead and served it out for an 8-6 victory.

That set up junior Nolan Dwyer at fifth singles in a match that shifted momentum wildly. Dwyer stormed out to a 4-0 lead at number five, only to watch Bow's Jacob Huppe rattle off seven games in a row to take a 7-4 advantage. Down but not out, Dwyer said he heeded some advice from Gilford girls' coach Hermann Defregger, who was on the court assisting Wilson all afternoon. He ultimately won four of the next five games to force a tiebreaker, and in that extra session he didn't relinquish a point in a 9-8 (7-0) victory. The win gave the Eagles a 4-2 advantage heading into doubles action, needing just one win out of three to earn the championship.

"It meant a lot to me," said Dwyer, who finished the entire season undefeated in singles play, of the win. "I know it was a big win for the team. I definitely got more focused late in the match and knew that I had to buckle down."

Dwyer's win was certainly a big moment in the scheme of things, and it was something not lost on Wilson.

"I didn't get over to his match until after Grant's win but that was one of the key moments of the day," the coach explained. "When (Bow) had to then sweep doubles, that's a lot of pressure on a team."

In double play, Caulfield and Grant Workman jumped out to a 4-1 lead, only to watch Bow claw back to tie things at 5-5. Gilford finished the job however, breaking the Falcons in the final frame for an 8-6 lead that gave the Eagles a 5-2 team advantage to secure the title.

"I think Nolan's win was huge," said Caulfield, who also won the opening match of the day at first singles, 8-2. "Going into doubles up 4-2 gave us a boost."

While Caulfield and Grant Workman were battling late on court one, second and third doubles matches were also extremely tight. Caulfield said he tried his best to just focus on the task at hand as Bow looked to come all the way back for the win.

"I was just worried about what was going on in my court to be honest," said Caulfield. "I knew it wasn't over and that Bow would keep fighting. They have all seniors in their top six and they weren't going to give up."

The Falcons, which lost in the championship match for the fourth straight year and haven't won a title since 2002, won tiebreakers at both number two and three doubles to close the final gap to 5-4.

"Bow played three great doubles matches," lauded Wilson, whose team edged the Falcons by the same 5-4 margin during a regular season matchup in April.

Caulfield's win at first singles indeed put the Eagles up 1-0, though a win at number six singles from Bow's Josh DeYoung over Brad Bergman tied it at 1-1. Junior Keaton Quigley put Gilford up 2-1 when he earned a solid 8-3 win over Nate Louf before Bow's Tim Bradley knocked off Bryce Workman (8-5) to make it a 2-2 match.

NOTES: It was a matchup of two very different teams, as Bow's lineup featured all six seniors, while the Eagles have no seniors on their roster... The win was the 33rd in a row for the program, as Gilford went 16-0 last year and 17-0 this season. The last loss came in the 2012 semifinals to eventual champion Profile... The aggregate game score for the entire match was 65-60 in favor of Gilford... There were three total tiebreakers played, with Bow capturing two of them.

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