Cards set to take on Bedford for Division I girls tennis title

Staff photo by TOM KING Bishop Guertin's Amy Maalouf reaches up to hit a backhand during her No. 2 singles win in the Cardinals' 7-2 Divison I semis triumph over Derryfield in Manchester on Friday.

Two programs that have been associated with Division I high school girls tennis success are colliding at Pinkerton Academy on Wednesday.

The top seeded, 16-0 Bedford Bulldogs will take on No. 3 Bishop Guertin (15-1) at 4 p.m. in the Division I finals, and both programs are no stranger to hardware.

The Cardinals have a little more history, as they’ve amassed nine titles, the last one coming in 2013, when it beat the Bulldogs, new to Division I. But Bedford, which picked up a Class I crown in 2011, captured the 2015 and ’16 Division I titles after moving up.

So, with another power, defending champion Derryfield, out of the picture after Guertin’s semis win last Friday, it’s fitting these are the two teams left.

They played a two-part match earlier this month. The teams split singles before weather washed out the doubles. When things resumed about 10 days later, the Bulldogs swept doubles to stay unbeaten and hand BG its only loss of the season.

“They’re a tough team, good players all across,” Guertin coach Barry Ndinya said of Bedford. “They’re fighters, too. It’s just going to be a great match between the two teams. We’re going to have to play our best.”

Youth has served Guertin well. In fact, their three singles wins over the ‘Dogs were by freshmen Amy Maalouf at No. 2, Katelyn Nichols at No. 3 and Hannah Gilbertson at No. 4. Ironically, Bedford has four freshman and seven sophomores on its roster.

A key could be at No. 1, as Guertin’s Claire Reynolds will be hoping to avenge an 8-2 loss to perhaps the division’s best player, Bedford freshman Carley Citron.

“Claire has to play really well,” Ndinya said. “We’ll have to alter our strategy a bit at No. 1 and see if we can turn the tables around.”

The other two losses came at the same bottom end of the singles ladder that helped propel the Cards past Derryfield in the semis. But they weren’t routs; BG’s Liz Janiak lost 8-6 and Natalie Sheehy 8-4.

“That’s our strategy,” Ndinya said. “We have a few things we have planned to see who has to win what, at what numbers.”

Ndinya knows what needs to be done at doubles in the rematch. Reynolds and Maalouf lost close, 9-7, but Guertin won just six games combined in the other two matches.

“We have to play better at the net,” Ndinya said. “We’re good with the ground strokes, but we need to get better at the net and finish volleys. And maybe do some better second serves as well.”

At the start of the season, Ndinya felt he had something special with this group, and his players did too.

“The girls were talking pretty much championship,” Ndinya said. “So here we are, at the championship. We’ve got one more match to go. We know we’re not going to be the favorites. That may be better for us, a little less pressure. We’ll see.”