MANCHESTER, NH – One team has championship aspirations. The other is certainly trending in a positive direction.
Thursday afternoon, the Derryfield School varsity boys tennis squad hosted cross-town foe Manchester Memorial and battled to a 9-0 victory, but the final score was far from indicative of the competition on the courts.
“The scores didn’t tell the story. These were great matches out there,” said Derryfield head coach Mike Leary. “(Memorial) is a great growing program. I’m really impressed. I mean, all their guys can play … and I’m happy that Manchester teams are producing this type of tennis, which is always great to see.”
The marquee matchup of the afternoon took place on the No. 1 singles court where Memorial junior Tiago Mendes pushed Derryfield top-dog Jack Schroeder to the limit before the latter dug his heals in late to earn a 9-7 win.
On the second and third court, Davey Schroder and Jack Krasnof defeated Memorial’s Sean McCaffrey and Cam Brown by identical 8-1 margins; while Billy Gardner edged Tyler Telge on the fourth court. On the fifth and sixth rungs of the Derryfield ladder, Logan Goldberg and Tucker Rozen took care of business, dispatching Daniel Betancur and David Ruge, 8-1 and 8-2, respectively.
“The final scores are definitely not reflective of how well (the Crusaders) played,” said Memorial head coach Shannon Moloney. “I mean, our No. 3 went to to deuce every single game in his set and our No. 1 competed with one of the best players in the state and Tiago held his own against him.
“They didn’t come out here like they were going to lose, they came out here to play,” she said. “They came here to win. They’ve been very competitive, so I’m very happy.”
Likewise, Leary was impressed with his players’ effort.
“All my guys played solid in singles,” said Leary. “Jack, at No. 1, had a little trouble getting started, but he finished really strong. But we’ve been working on putting our opponents away quickly and I think we did a good job today against a team that is better than a lot of other teams we have played before, so I’m really happy, and in doubles we did the same thing.”
Indeed, Jack and Davey Schroeder made quick workMendes and Brown, 8-0, on the first doubles court, while Krasnof and Gardner took down McCaffrey and Telge, 8-0, and Goldberg and Rozen blanked Betancur and Ruge.
Now, 10-2, with two matches remaining on the regular season docket, Leary said his squad is working to head into the playoffs in peak form.
Derryfield travels to Nashua North on Monday and then hosts Winnacunnet in the regular season finale Wednesday with the playoffs scheduled to begin on May 24.
Once in the Division I tournament, Derryfield will likely have to get past at least one of Nashua South and Hanover, both of which defeated the Cougars earlier the season (6-3 and 5-4, respectively), they’ll also likely have to dethrone 8-time defending state champ Bedford, which beat the Cougars for the state crown in both the 2016 and 2017 Division I title tilts.
“I think (Bedford) is still the best team in the state, they and Hanover are definitely the teams to beat,” said Leary. “But .. we’re right there. I mean, we had close matches with Nashua South and Hanover and lost them, but we are right there, firmly in the top four.”
Meanwhile, Memorial, which currently sits seventh in the Division I standings, appears headed to the postseason as well.
The Crusaders, 6-4, close the regular season with trips to Dover and Concord tonight and May 18, respectively, while hosting Exeter in between on the 18th and then welcoming Hanover to town on the 20th.
“We should make playoffs and we’re looking forward to continuing a good season,” said Moloney, who noted the best may be yet to come for her upstart squad.
“We have some good juniors who are carrying our team … and honestly, our whole top six has been playing really well,” she said. “I’ve been very impressed with them. They’ve all improved so much since last season.
In addition to Mendes standout performance this season, his co-captain, McCaffery, a senior, is 6-2 in doubles action with Telge, a junior. And Brown, the team’s No. 3 singles player, is now 6-4 on the season.
And competing against a team like Derryfield, said Moloney, will only boost her players’ future performance.
“It’s always good to play teams that are better than you because you can always learn from it,” said Moloney. “There’s nothing wrong with losing to a good team, as long as we’re not beating ourselves … so this really brings them up to (Derryfield’s) level and show’s them they are capable of competing with some of the best in the state.”