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Girls Tennis

Orioles make history

Conant earns No. 3 seed in D-III tournament, will host Berlin on Wednesday

  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls tennis team defeated Monadnock 5-4 in the final home match of the regular season on Thursday, May 16, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

After combining for just 10 wins over the last two years, Conant girls tennis coach Jody Baker set her 2013 goals with one eye on next season.

With just one senior, three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman in the top six, Baker just wanted this year’s group to have a strong season, and if they got close to making the playoffs then it would be an added bonus. But in early May, Baker’s thought process began to change. Despite a pair of early season losses, the Orioles really started to climb the Division III standings once they got into a playing routine.

“I just wanted to have a winning season and make the playoffs next year,” said Baker.

After a 9-0 win at White Mountains on May 1 — the team’s third straight sweep — Conant stood at 7-2 and within striking distance of the top six and a playoff spot. But Baker knew the Orioles would have to finish strong, especially with four other teams bunched together, battling for the final two postseason berths.

Baker would have been happy just making it in and having this group experience a tournament match. But the longtime Conant coach got more than that. Needing two wins in the final three matches to secure a playoff position, the Orioles did one better. They swept the final week, including a crucial 5-4 win over Monadnock on Thursday, to run their win streak to nine straight and earn the first home playoff match in program history.

“It was a very impressive finish,” said Baker. “No Conant team, boys or girls, has finished No. 3 and hosted a playoff match.”

Conant finished 12-2 overall and will be the No. 3 seed in the Division III tournament, which begins on Wednesday. The Orioles will host sixth seed Berlin, a team they did not face during the regular season.

“It’s hard to know how we’ll do against Berlin because we haven’t played them,” said Baker. “But looking at their schedule, we had some similar scores against similar opponents.”

Not only did Thursday’s victory over Monadnock avenge a season-opening 7-2 loss to the Huskies, which was Conant’s first day outside of the season, but it also helped the team leapfrog both Monadnock and Gilford for third.

And on Friday, Conant cemented its position with a 9-0 win at Sanborn for the seventh sweep of the season.

Against the Huskies, No. 2 Courtney Dillon, No. 5 Ashley Rogers and No. 6 Hannah Clark won their singles matches to send the match tied into doubles play. Vickie Roach and Clark won 8-1 at No. 3 doubles and it all came down to the second doubles pairing following an 8-0 loss by Allina Bennett and Dillon in the first doubles match. And the team of Shannon Bennett and Rogers came through with an 8-3 victory to seal the win.

Wednesday will mark the fourth trip to the playoffs for a Conant girls tennis team and the first match at home.

“We still have some work to do if they want to go any further,” said Baker. “But it would be fun to get through the quarterfinals for once.”

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