LEBANON – If there’s one thing the Lebanon High boys tennis program has made clear in recent years, it’s that the Raiders don’t rebuild. They reload.
The defending NHIAA Division II state champions sure had their work cut out for them this season, having lost seven seniors from an undefeated squad. But as anyone with the last name Arado can attest, Lebanon is right back where it wants to be as the postseason approaches.
Wife and husband Tammy and Chad Arado are in their second year as the Raiders’ co-head coaches, and their two sons, senior Mason and sophomore Nolan, occupy Lebanon’s No. 1 and No. 2 singles slots, respectively, and also form the top doubles pairing.
“As a mom, as a coach, it just means everything,” Tammy Arado said. “We get to spend a lot of time together; I get to see the boys compete. I would probably be sitting on the sidelines if I wasn’t a coach anyway. Between my husband and me, we have over 30 years of experience teaching tennis, so we can provide a lot to the boys. ”
Last year, the Raiders were limited to a more local schedule in the pandemic-shortened season, playing Division III schools like Plymouth and Kearsarge, but this season, they’re back to the typical D-II slate. And they were cruising through it for the first month-plus, including a signature road win over Bow, heading into a home showdown with Oyster River last Friday.
The still-unbeaten Bobcats got the better of Lebanon that day with a 5-4 result. Tennis tends to have fewer upsets than most sports, so although it is still a long way off, the Raiders are already looking forward to an Oyster River rematch with the state championship on the line. The Bobcats will likely be the top seed in the playoffs, with Lebanon at No. 2.
“It could have gone either way,” Arado said. “We’re not kicking ourselves that we lost. We’re really motivated to change the status when and if we see them again. ”
Of course, avenging a loss to Oyster River in a state title game is nothing new for the Raiders this school year – it’s exactly the path the boys soccer team took to their first championship in 30 years last fall. Rob Johnstone’s team won each of its first seven games before falling to the Bobcats in late September but outlasted Oyster River in an epic title game on penalty kicks on Nov. 5.
Senior Seth Carl and junior Finn Ericson were on that title-winning soccer team and are now trying to win another championship on the tennis courts. Ericson missed last week’s match against Oyster River with COVID-19 and was also out for Wednesday’s shutout victory over Windham, but Lebanon expects to be fully healthy come playoff time. The Raiders recently welcomed Mason Arado back from his own bout with COVID.
“It feels like the same exact plot line as soccer,” Carl said. “We lost to Oyster River, but we’re going to play them in the championship. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to get there. That’s what we were feeling in soccer, too. It’s like, ‘What can we do do beat them?’ because that’s our main competition. ”
Carl said Lebanon’s players were focusing too much on what was happening in their teammates’ matches against Oyster River and getting overly worried about how their own match would affect the overall outcome. The Arado brothers both won handily in singles, and freshman Kyle Hines pulled out an 8-6 win at No. 6 singles to even the score at three apiece. But the Bobcats won two of the three doubles matches, including a close one at No. 3 to clinch the victory.
That match was Mason Arado’s first since returning from COVID. He had missed the previous four matches, which led the rest of the singles players to each move up a spot, but the Raiders dropped no more than two points in a match while he was on the shelf.
“I’m glad to see the team came through. They all stepped up to their responsibilities, ”Mason Arado said. “I didn’t think we were going to be too intense (this season), but after the first two or three matches, I was like, ‘Wow, we have a big shot at this.’ I realized that we can go far. ”
Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3302.