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Senior class tough to replace for Gilford boys' tennis

An impressive class of 10 players closed out their careers with another state title

Senior Michael Workman is one of 10 Gilford boys’ tennis graduates. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 11, 2011
GILFORD – What a way for the 'Big 7' to go out.

Over a month after the Gilford High School boys' tennis team captured its second consecutive state championship after beating Bow in the finals, the Golden Eagles are still flying high.

"At the championship banquet, we had a parent put together a slideshow and one of the headlines was Gilford's Big 7," said GHS coach Terry Wilson. "And that's really how I felt about those guys. They've done it all year and they did it all of last year so it was really rewarding to see them go out on top."

Led by seniors Curt Chapin and Andrew Kwist at 1-2, Gilford dropped its first match of the season to Kearsarge before rebounding and beating every opponent the rest of the way. Classmates Parker Raus and Stefan Defregger were unbeatable as a doubles tandem and filled out the 3-4 slots in the roster while Michael Workman (five), Max Fisher (six) and Tyler Caulfield (seven) represented arguably the best depth in Division III.

"They're a very special group," Wilson said. "When Curt talked at the banquet, he said how this meant so much to him, to go out with back-to-back titles was something he'd always remember. And it was just like, 'Wow,' it dawns on you how important a run like this can be."

All told, 10 of the 18 players on the Gilford roster were seniors, as Cameron Graaskamp, Tim Zimmermann and Hendrik Lindemann round out the Class of 2011.

"As freshmen, really only Andrew and Curt played," explained Wilson. "The other kids were just learning the program. I felt I'd have pretty competitive teams when they got older and then entering their junior years, that's when I said, 'Ok, they've had two years under their belts I think we're about ready.'

Last year's run to dethrone seven-time defending champion Derryfield put the Eagles over the top, and they finished out the title run with a victory over Inter-Lakes in the finals.

"Last year we were the hunters, hunting Derryfield," said Wilson. "And then we finally beat them and it was emotional beating Derryfield, that's on the same shelf as the championships. No one had been able to do that in seven years in the tournament."

After that title run, Gilford returned its entire starting lineup this spring, and Wilson had different problems to worry about when practice opened in March.

"This year turns around, and you're worried about overconfidence," he said. "The feeling can sometimes be, 'Oh, we've got everyone back so the result should be the same.' But we guarded against that and after losing that first match of the year, the guys really understood what it meant to take it one match at a time."

The run into the postseason also played into Gilford's hands, as the experience of being in those pressure situations wasn't foreign to the Eagles.

"You're now seniors, you're experienced and this is where you show that," Wilson stated. "The guys are handling the pressure of being there for the second year in a row and that's something you can't teach."

But with 10 players graduating, Wilson will send a much different Gilford squad to the court when next year rolls around.

"It's obviously going to be a very different team," he said. "This time last year, I'm telling myself I'll stay with my top seven as long as things don't change. Well that's certainly not the case for next season."

Gilford will likely look for players like James Curtis, Matt Saulnier, Alex Simoneau and Connor Veazey to step up and fill the slots vacated by the Gilford seniors, but a lot can change between now and next spring.

"Where people are going to play, I think that'll change quite a bit," Wilson said. "It's going to be a very different preseason trying to figure out where these guys fit in. Then you add in the new players that I expect will come out for the team and you're basically starting with a clean slate. "

Without a set lineup, expect things to change quite often, as Chapin started his career as the number six player in the lineup as a freshman before working up to number three as a sophomore. He anchored the lineup from the top spot the last two seasons.

"Thank god we're not graduating 18 seniors so we have a few guys with some familiarity but that jump up quite a few spots can really be tough," said Wilson. "With Curt moving up the way he did, those are considerable jumps. Now we're going to ask these guys to move all the way up the lineup after not being in there at all really this year."

Despite the uncertainty surrounding next spring, Wilson can take comfort in watching his troops put together such successful careers before their time in Gilford came to an end.

"It's been a real nice four-year ride with these guys," he said. "It was a nice way to go out and now they're onto the next stage of their life. I made them promise to come back and visit us though and so I'm looking forward to seeing them again."

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