Souhegan tennis reaches semifinal

Staff photo by TOM KING Souhegan’s Matt Lapsley fires a return during the Sabers’ quarterfinal match versus Coe-Brown on Tuesday in Amherst. Lapsley, unbeaten this year at No. 1, won easily 8-2 as the Sabers advanced to the semis with an 8-1 win in Amherst.

AMHERST – Everything was all too familiar for the Souhegan High School boys tennis team on Tuesday, in a good way.

The Sabers were seeing in the Division II quarterfinals at Jasper Valley the same team they vanquished a year ago, Coe-Brown Northwood. And the result was the same, this time in the form of an 8-1 victory that puts them in the semifinals for the third straight year.

The Sabers will have to make the trip up to Lebanon to face the No. 1 seeded Raiders on Thursday. Lebanon posted a 9-0 win over Goffstown in its quarterfinal matchup.

Third seed Hollis Brookline will be visiting No. 2 Portsmouth (14-1) in the other semifinal as the Cavs squeaked out a 5-4 victory over No. 6 Oyster River.

The Sabers were led in their win by No. 1 Matt Lapsley, who is unbeaten on the year and bested Coe-Brown’s Owen Garrett 8-2. The Sabers took five of the six singles to sew up the match before doubles.

“He’s the strongest player I’ve seen in high school, basically,” Sabers coach John Kilgore said. “He’s a smart player, doesn’t try to overpower you but really smart. When he figures things out, it’s lights out. He never lets down.”

Lapsley says this is the best he’s played at the high school level.

“I’d say so,” he said. “Growing, getting bigger, that’s obviously helped. Hopefully we can get past Lebanon, they’re going to be a tough team, obviously.”

“I was really hoping singles was going to be a lot closer,” Coe-Brown coach Sam Stuthers said, his team’s season ended at 11-4. “We kind of knew we’d need three, four, five, six to do well and get it to doubles. Souhegan’s a good team. I was really hoping we could split or at least get it to doubles.”

Didn’t happen. Besides Lapsley’s win, Dale Estes topped Todd Holman 8-2 at No. 4 and Josh Lacaillade walked off an 8-2 Saber winner over Don McCallum at No. 6, and the Sabers were on their way.

Jordan Lau Quan triumphed 8-5 at No. 5 over Dnovan Corless, and then Souhegan No. 3 singles player Kyle Gibson gutted out an 8-6 win over Nick Sanderson at No. 3 to provide the clincher. Gibson was dealing with tennis elbow and had jumped to a 5-2 lead but then found himself down 6-5 before rallying.

Souhegan’s only loss came when Sam Goddard lost 8-5 to Nate Griffiths at No. 2 singles.

The Sabers are hoping they can finally get over that semifinal hump, but it won’t be easy.

“Yeah we want to,” Kilgore said. “We played a great match against Portsmouth we lost 5-4 without our No. 4. So we really want to get through Lebanon.”

The Raiders beat Souhegan 7-2 here but the matches were mostly close, “so we’re competitive with them,” Kilgore said, adding that the top players have to win “and our bottom of the lineup has to do a little bit better.”

The two teams played doubles to account for the final tally with Lapsley and Estes winning 8-5 to go to 14-1 on the year; Goddard and Gibson as well as La Quan/Nick Durling won their matches 8-1.