Bedford's HoSang, St. Thomas' Keenan roll to tennis titles
MANCHESTER — In a tournament that was becoming unusually predictable, Mark HoSang of Bedford found a way to shake up the NHIAA state individual tennis tournament Tuesday at the Derryfield School.
The second-seeded junior not only upended top-seeded Alex Burbine of Londonderry in a late afternoon championship match, 6-2, 6-0, he did it with a relative ease that no one saw coming.
“I knew I had to play my best to win and I did play my best,” HoSang said.
Form held true on the girls' side of the draw as top-seeded Julia Keenan of St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover overpowered second-seeded Casey Geddes of Manchester Central, 6-0, 6-0, to become the first three-time winner since Cinny Clausen of Kennett of Conway won three titles in the late 90's.
“Everyone wants a go at her, but everyone realizes she's an amazing player,” Geddes said. “Julia is in a league of her own.”
Keenan, a junior, can make that official next year when she tries to become the first four-time state individual champion. She was nothing less than dominating as she swept through the tournament losing just five games in five matches.
“I knew if I played my best, I could have a good run at it,” Keenan said. “I was in the zone. I was on a mission.”
The top eight seeds among the boys and girls all advanced to the quarterfinals and the top two seeds made it to the championship match on each side. That's when HoSang made things interesting.
The junior lost to Burbine in last year's semifinal round, but said he worked hard this summer to re-tool his game, traveling to California to work with Sylvano Simone, in addition to working at home with Peter Paltsios and his father, David HoSang.
HoSang dispatched teammate Myles Utell in the semifinals, 6-4, 6-2. The two helped Bedford win the state team title last week and will return to Derryfield to play in the semifinals of the state doubles tournament Thursday.
“It was comfortable playing Myles, but I didn't like it,” HoSang said.
In the championship match, HoSang said he needed to return Burbine's first serve 90 percent of the time if he was to win. He did even better, breaking Burbine's serve all seven times. And, instead of trying to match Burbine's power game, he was content to let stay in rallies and use a variety of shots to frustrate Burbine, a senior and two-time tournament runner-up.
“I said I wasn't going to miss shots, and I tried to mix it up,” HoSang said.
“Mark played really well,” Burbine said. “He came out firing and my consistency wasn't there.”
HoSang was the first win a game off his own serve, giving him a 4-2 lead in the first set.
“Once he held, everything seemed to fall apart,” Burbine said.
There was no suspense on the girls' side as Keenan rolled through the afternoon matches, beating Hannah Rodin of Littleton, 6-1, 6-2, in the semifinals before shutting out Geddes, her doubles partner this summer with the Bustoff Tennis Academy's Cool Runnings team. “I knew going in she was a very good player,” Geddes said. “You can't give her anything sure because she puts it away every time.”