Bulldogs ferocious in surprisingly easy Division I title win over BG

Staff photo by TOM KING Bishop Guertin's Amy Maalouf towels off after a tough loss at No. 2 singles during the Cards' 7-2 Division I title match defeat at the hands of Bedford in Derry on Wednesday.

DERRY – Advantage, Bedford.

In a big way.

The Bishop Guertin and Bedford High School girls tennis teams should be vying for hardware often in the next few years, and the Bulldogs easily took the first Division I title match meeting on Wednesday, 7-2.

Shockingly easy, one might add.

“It was pretty surprising the way it all turned out,” Cardinals coach Barry Ndinya said, his No. 3 Cards finishing at a still impressive 15-2. “We thought it was going to be close. We thought the doubles were going to decide it.

“Kudos to Bedford, they played well, it was just a few points here and there, and they won all the important points. But I’m proud of my team. It was just not our day.”

No, it wasn’t. In the regular season meeting, the teams split singles and the No. 1, 17-0 Bulldogs swept doubles. But on Wednesday, things never got that far as five Bedford players walked off the singles courts victorious before Guertin could manage a win, clinching the ‘Dogs’ third title in four years.

“I think we were just more prepared mentally for this match today,” Bedford coach Chris Bouressa said. “Their goal was to stay focused and try and control the point and they did it. … The eb and flow of the game, you never know.”

The Cards’ singles losses weren’t all that close, the match decided when No. 1 Claire Reynolds fell to Bedford’s Carley Citron, 8-4. Before that, Bedford handled the lower part of the ladder, as Sophia Dimos topped Liz Janiak 8-4 at No. 5 and Alba Iturriagagoitia handled BG’s Natalie Sheehy 8-3 at No. 6. Bedford’s Taylor Suozzo beat Guertin’s Katelyn Nichols 8-3 at No. 3, and after leading 2-1 the Cards’ Amy Maalouf fell 8-4 to Bedford’s Caroline Herz at No. 2.

It was over. The last singles match was Guertin’s only win before doubles, with Hannah Gilbertson grinding to a 9-7 win over Bedford’s Abby Tjie at No. 4.

“I knew they were going to start out relaxed, which was where we wanted them to be,” Bouressa said. “My fear was their nerves, but they handled that beautifully.”

Reynolds, like Maalouf, had an early 2-1 lead but that disappeared quickly.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go today because Bedford’s a really good team,” Reynolds said. “They played really well, they had a great season.

“We’ll practice in the off-season and come back and hopefully be ready to play them again and do better next year.”

With everything decided, the Cards played a little better at doubles than in the teams’ first meeting, as Reynolds and Maalouf cruised past Citron/Herz, 8-1 at No. 1. Bedford took the other two, however, with Tjie/ Iturriagagoitia blanking Sheehy/Margo Liakos, 8-0 at No. 3 and Nichols/Gilbertson losing to Suozzo/Katelyn Hirnak, 8-6 after leading 5-2 at one point at No. 2.

Ndinya didn’t have an inkling that this would happen judging from how his players were feeling on the way over to Pinkerton Academy.

“They were upbeat, they were confident,” Ndinya said. “A little nervous at the beginning, but that was expected. Once the matches started, they played well. Bedford played better. But saying that still, losing five matches in singles was surprising. … We knew Bedford was going to be the team to beat right from the get-go. But we thought we were going to give them more than we did.”

With a team mainly composed of underclassmen, including three freshmen in the ladder lineup, the Cards are looking to get back to this point next season.

“Freshmen, sophomores, we’ll be back,” Ndinya said. “They’re going to play with a chip on their shoulder. We can’t wait.”