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For 3rd time in 4 years, Gilford boys are state tennis champs

GILFORD — Terry Wilson had a problem. Believing that every student at Gilford High School deserved the chance to learn the life-long sport of tennis, he vowed never to cut a player from his team, even if they seemed unlikely to ever play in a varsity match. As a result, his team grew to such a size – he currently has 19 players – that it seemed impossible to give every player court time and a coach's attention at practice.
Coming home from practice one day, shaking his head in frustration, Wilson received a suggestion from his wife: "Why don't you split the practices?" A simple solution, one that seems obvious in hindsight, became a turning point in his coaching career. Wilson made the change several years ago, holding an early practice for players that needed fundamental training, followed by a later practice for the skilled players. Soon, Gilford started winning the NHIAA Division III state championship.
The Golden Eagles won their latest title on Tuesday, beating Bow 6-3. It was Wilson's third championship, all won over a four-year span. Wilson said the championship match was a dramatic finale to the season. "It was one of the most emotional matches in my 15 years of coaching," he said.
Since splitting the practices, Wilson has been able to accomodate developing players, those who might not be ready this season to play in either the six singles or three doubles slots of every match. With a practice dedicated to them, the players new to the game were more likely to remain interested and keep improving. After a few years of such development, Wilson found himself with teams that featured not just a few strong players at the top of the seeding, but with competitive players in every singles and doubles slot and capable backups in reserve.
Going into the post-season this year, Wilson knew he had depth on his team. Although nearly every player had lost at least once throughout the year – the exception being top seed Andrew Caulfield, who hasn't lost since joining the team two years ago – the team as a whole has pulled together for a perfect 16-0 season. However, said Wilson, most of those wins were fairly decisive. His team hadn't been really tested, not until the title match.
In the singles play of the championship match, Caulfield cruised to victory, as did Nolan Dwyer in the sixth seed. The fourth and fifth singles for Gilford, Keaton Quigley and Erich Berghahn, lost their matches. That left the team's co-captains and second and third seeds, Matt Saulnier and Alex Simoneau, still playing. Things weren't looking good, either, as both players had their backs against the wall and were one game away from defeat. They were behind, but not losing. "They both said to me, I'm not losing this match," Wilson recalled. 
Saulnier and Simoneau rallied, each coming from behind to win 9-7. Wilson said their play affected more than their individual matches – it took the wind out of Bow's sails, knowing that they now had to sweep doubles matches to win, and it inspired the rest of the Gilford team, the coach said. "The kids are looking to them as leaders of this team to hang in there, to gut it out. Matt and Alex took it upon themselves not to lose."
Wilson knew his team had depth. He learned, during the championship, that they also have character. He said, "I'm certainly enjoying it now, especially for the seniors who wanted to go out this way."
He's losing five seniors to graduation this year, and expects the remaining 14 to return. Of those, only one will be a senior next year. Most of the rest, including the undefeated top seed Caulnier, will be juniors with championship experience. 
"I see a bright, bright future next year," said Wilson.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:42

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Gilford starts softball playoffs in 3rd spot

Gilford's finished with a regular season record of 15-1 which seeded them in 3rd place going into the NHIAA Division III tournament. Gilford will host the winner of the Laconia versus Prospect Mountain matchup, scheduled to be played last night, at 4 p.m. on Friday.
Gilford won the last 15 games of the season after losing their game opener to Franklin 3-2 in 10. Gilford later in the season avenged that loss with a 4-1 victory. Gilford has outscored opponents 109-15 including 8 shutouts, 6 of those shutouts in the last 7 games. Gilford has allowed opponents to score only 5 runs in the month of May and only 1 in the last 7 games. A major reason for the stingy defense is 4 year veteran lefty pitcher Sydney Strout. Strout has broken the 619 school career strikeout record and currently has 631 with 198 this season. Strout averages 12.4 strikeouts, 2.9 hits, .9 walks per game and has an ERA of .438. Catcher Paige Laliberte has been Strout's catcher for 10 years and is solid behind the plate, picking off 2 players at 1st base.
Gilford's infield starters are 1st baseman senior Abby Harris, 2nd baseman sophomore Caitlin Houston, 3rd baseman junior Lisa Osborne, shortstop junior Mollie Dignan. The outfield starters are right fielder junior Kelsey Buckley, centerfielder senior Hannah Chase and leftfielder is split between senior Alyssa Wilson and junior Mikaela Mattice. Courtesy runner Kristina Hayden and pinch hitter Sarah Lachapelle also will get tournament play time.
The Gilford offense was led by Lisa Osborne with a .517 batting average and 17 RBIs. The batting averages have improved since the April vacation break. The latter part of the season averages bring 8 players over .300 mark: Osborne .553, Mikaela Mattice .500, Sydney Strout .433, Mollie Dignan .357 (14 runs), Abby Harris .344 (12 RBIs & 6 doubles), Sara Lachapelle .333 and Paige Laliberte (9 stolen bases) and Caitlin Houston.304 (10 RBIs).

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:33

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Gilford softball defeats Belmont 3-0

The Gilford High School softball team finished its season by winning 15 in a row and recording its eighth shutout, but it wasn't easy, according to coach Joan Forge. "Belmont has improved tremendously since our 9-0 win over them a few weeks ago. We were making contact on offense, but Belmont made some great defensive plays today". Belmont pitcher Megan Prescott had a no-hitter until the top of the 6th when Caitlin Houston singled. Gilford had two chances to score late in the game, but were denied by the tough Belmont defense. The first chance came in the 6th inning when Caitlin Houston led of with a single, advanced to 2nd base on a Alyssa Wilson sacrifice bunt, she got to 3rd on an error, Mollie Dignan was up to bat and laid down a bunt for a suicide squeeze play, but the Belmont defense made the play at the plate to get Houston out. Gilford had another opportunity in the 7th when Lisa Osborne led off with a single, went to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt by Abby Harris, Osborne advanced to 3rd on a Paige Laliberte hit. With Osborne on 3rd, Sarah Lachapelle hit a hard shot to Belmont's 2nd baseman, Megan Bailey, who fired home and got Osborne out at the plate. Belmont came up in the bottom of the 7th and for the 1st time of the game threatened the Gilford defense. Cassie Contigiani led off with a single, Mary Kate Russo laid down a bunt which was misplayed by the Gilford defense, resulting in runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Makayla Donovan hit a short fly ball between short stop, centerfield and leftfield, but Gilford leftfielder Mikaela Mattice made a spectacular catch to save the winning run from scoring. With one out Sydney Strout struck out the next batter, then walked the next batter( only walk of the game) to load the bases, only to strikeout the next batter for the third out. After Belmont applied pressure on the Gilford defense the Gilford offense exploded for three runs on four hits and a sacrifice bunt in the top of the 8th inning. Mikalea Mattice, after making the game saving catch in the outfield, led off with a single to rightfield and advanced to 2nd on a Hannah Chase sacrifice bunt, Mollie Dignan singled to rightfield and drove in Mattice for Gilford's first run. Sydney Strout then delivered a double deep to center field to drive in Dignan. Sydney Strout's courtesy runner, Kristina Hayden, scored on a Lisa Osborne single to centerfield to make the score 3-0. Strout struck out 2 of the final 3 batters and Mikaela Mattice caught a fly ball to leftfield for the last out and the victory.
Sydney Strout had 14 strikeouts, gave up 4 hits and 1 walk.
The Gilford offense was led by Lisa Osborne 2/4 (1 RBI), Sydney Strout 1 double (1 RBI), singles by Mollie Dignan (1 RBI & 1 run scored), Paige Laliberte, Caitlin Houston and Miakela Mattice (1 run scored)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:17

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Gilford boys advance to tennis finals

The Gilford High School boys' tennis team defeated Prospect Mountain Friday in the Division III semi-finals, 5-2.  The match was played inside Gilford Hills and the numbers 2 and 3 doubles did not finish due to time.  In singles, Andrew Caulfield won, 8-1, Matt Saulnier won, 8-1, Alex Smoneau won, 8-4, Keaton Quigley won 8-6 (after falling behind, 1-5), Erich Berghahn lost, 6-8, and Nolan Dwyer lost in a tiebreaker, 8-9 (7-5).  Caulfield/Saulnier won the #1 doubles, 5-2.
The 15-0 Eagles face Bow on Tuesday at 4 p.m., at the Derryfield School, for the Division III championship.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:14

Hits: 412

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