Gilford's Andrew Caulfield graduates from GHS as one of the top players in the history of the program, dropping just three singles matches in his four-year varsity career. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 29, 2015GILFORD — When he was 12 years old, Andrew Caulfield took his tennis talents to the tournament circuit for the first time. Some six years later, he's graduating as one of the best players in the history of Gilford High School.
The recent GHS grad was downright dominant over the course of a brilliant four-year varsity tennis career. Since bursting onto the scene as the team's number one player as a freshman in 2012, Caulfield lost just three times as a singles player. It took all the way until his senior year to lose for the first time, as he ran the table during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
Caulfield and the Eagles won three straight Division III state titles to close out his career, and the squad won 50 consecutive matches during that incredible run, capped off with the 2015 title this spring.
"I think that's pretty cool to leave high school like that," explained Caulfield. "A three-peat and 50 wins in a row. That's something that'll always be there and be remembered."
Caulfield's tennis days began as an eight year old. He took lessons with his older brother Tyler, and after a few years began competing in USTA events in the southern part of New Hampshire and into Massachusetts. He admits that success didn't come right away.
"I'd say it took a year before I was even consistently winning some matches, much less winning tournaments," he recalled.
While he was spreading his time playing sports like football, basketball, ski racing and baseball, Caulfield began to focus on tournament tennis in seventh grade. He slowly dropped the other sports, devoting more and more time to polishing his skills on the court.
Now enjoying some success on the USTA circuit, he entered the high school ranks as a promising newcomer in 2012. Gilford head coach Terry Wilson was certainly excited about his arrival.
"Andrew is probably the best freshman I've ever had as a first-year player," admitted Wilson back before the 2012 season. "He's looked very, very sharp so far and I expect him to be one of the keys for us this year."
That would be an understatement. Caulfield immediately slid into the top singles spot, and he responded by not dropping a single match all year. The Eagles reached the semifinals before falling to Profile.
"I knew I would win my matches but I was kind of nervous to see how (my opponents) would take it... losing to a freshman," he admitted. "Especially some bigger kids from other towns. My freshman year there were some insults thrown out. I just ignored them because I didn't want to start anything. But I was excited to do move right in and play number one as a freshman. I was looking forward to the challenge and showing what I could do."
After winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, the Eagles graduated a huge senior class before Caulfield's freshman year. Still, the run to the semifinals was a promising step towards what would ultimately become a three-peat.
"Coming in, I knew the whole team had changed from the year before," said Caulfield of his freshman year. "As a team, I didn't have any expectations. I didn't know what to expect or how far we could get as a team. I was pretty satisfied with semifinals though based on all the new players we had."
From there it was smooth sailing for the Eagles. They wouldn't lose a team match again during Caulfield's career, running off 50 straight wins and three state championships during that span.
"It's been fun," said Caulfield. "Obviously it's nice to never get on the bus hanging your heads because we lost. We had some shaky wins but it was nice at the end of the day to come home every time winning the match and feeling pretty good about yourself."
Not to say that it was easy for Caulfield. At the beginning of his junior year, he tore the labrum in his right shoulder and was forced to sit out and rest for a few months. The injury ultimately forced him to tail back his tournament schedule.
"Freshman and sophomore year I was playing really competitively, going down to play tournaments at least twice a month," he said. "But since that shoulder injury, I toned it down quite a bit. Everything feels good but still to this day, I'm not fully confident in my serve. In my head I think I'm worried about hurting it again."
Caulfield's string of singles victories finally came to an end this spring, when Moultonborough Academy's Aaron Diamond beat him twice in three meetings. Diamond wound up being the top-seeded player in the state individual singles tournament.
"I wouldn't say it was weird," said Caulfield of his first loss. "I knew Aaron and we've played a ton. It wasn't out of the blue. I knew going in it would be a tough match either way. It's nice to get someone like him playing Division III. He's out here doing the same thing I've done – tournaments and practicing a ton."
Caulfield's season, of course, ended in positive fashion, with the Eagles winning another state title behind his wins at first singles and first doubles. While he might have had some chances to play collegiate tennis based on his success at the USTA and high school levels, Caulfield has decided to simply enjoy his time in college. He'll head west to attend the University of San Diego, a decision he said has been a long time coming.
"I had thought about (playing in college) but I knew I wanted to go to school out west and playing out there would be difficult with the level of competitiveness out there," he explained. "I'd probably have to stay on the east coast if I wanted to keep playing. But I really liked the people on campus, the atmosphere. All the kids were out walking around and having a good time. So it's a little bit of weather, a little bit of getting away."
Until he leaves for California at the end of the summer, Caulfield will spend his time teaching and giving tennis lessons, something he said he's enjoyed quite a bit. It'll be tough, but who knows, maybe he'll be grooming the next Andrew Caulfield.