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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bishop Guertin’s Leonard leaves court due to ‘hostile environment’

MANCHESTER – The last singles match of Bishop Guertin senior Briana Leonard’s high school career will go down as one of the most dramatic finishes that never happened.

Trailing 1-0 in the best-of-three set final, Leonard walked off the court before Set 2 even began. ...

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MANCHESTER – The last singles match of Bishop Guertin senior Briana Leonard’s high school career will go down as one of the most dramatic finishes that never happened.

Trailing 1-0 in the best-of-three set final, Leonard walked off the court before Set 2 even began.

The decision to retire from the match – which her parents Tim and Kristen Leonard claim was due to a “hostile environment” that NHIAA officials not only “didn’t control,” but also “created” – gave the girls singles title to second-seeded Sunday Swett, of Bow.

“This has been going on for the last two years,” said Kristen Leonard after walking her daughter to the car. “This is an 18-year-old girl who fell and got hurt and people are cheering. They were bullying her. This has been going on for two years. They’ve wanted her out for two years because she’s not a New Hampshire girl. Because we live in Massachusetts.”

Leonard’s father was also upset over a pre-match altercation with NHIAA officials regarding his family being caught in a traffic jam and Leonard being docked a point and loss of serve for being one minute late for the 3:30 start time.

“This is a hostile environment,” Tim Leonard said. “They are cheering for people to lose rather than win. I don’t want to take anything away from Sunday. She deserves it. She’s an amazing tennis player. This is nothing against her. It’s about the environment created here and hopefully they learn from it.

“We are not going to file anything. The other girl won the match and she should be congratulated for her hard work. That’s the story.”

The two battled in the first set. Leonard opened with a 3-1 lead before Swett rallied for three straight games to pull ahead 4-3.

With a 5-4 edge, Swett was trailing love-40 before regrouping and serving herself back for the game and set.

“We really didn’t talk during the match,” Swett said. “At one point we were switching sides. I was up 4-3, and as we were passing each other she said, ‘shut your crowd up.’ At that point I was thinking I have to do it for the fans.”

Swett and Leonard have history despite Bow being in Division III and BG in Division I. Between USTA events and the NHIAA singles tournaments, Leonard owned a 4-0 record against Swett heading into Tuesday’s match – including a 6-0, 6-1 quarterfinal win in this same event last season.

“I’ve wanted this for so long. I was fired up,” Swett said. “It was her choice. I’m not going to let it dampen my happiness.”

With one set in the books, tournament director Steve Laro was shifting the girls match to another court for more sunlight.

But before the match restarted Leonard’s mom approached the fence gate and the two left the court area for their car.

“I thought it was a bathroom break,” Swett said. “Everyone started cheering, and I thought they were cheering for me for that first set win.

“Then I hear someone scream ‘you deserve it,’ and I realized I won.”

NHIAA Executive Director R. Patrick Corbin was on hand for the event. He was about to move to a new venue when things unraveled.

“We had an unfortunate experience,” he said. “I’ve never seen something like this at a tennis match.”

As for the question of Leonard being bullied because she’s a Massachusetts girl attending BG, Corbin was taken aback.

“I’ve never heard that before,” Corbin said. “Most of the kids that go to BG are probably from Massachusetts. It makes no difference.

“I have a great relationship with Linda Brodeur, BG’s principal, and their new AD, Peter Paladino.

“All I can say is that a volunteer like Steve or any other doesn’t deserve to be yelled at. They are volunteers.”

Bow coach Jonsey Rainville was both proud of her player and disappointed there wasn’t more tennis.

“I wish it could have gone the extra set,” she said. “I know it would have ended the same way, Sunday was the better player out there today. But they are both such extremely talented players and it’s just unfortunate for it to end like that.”

BG head coach Barry Ndynia was just as upset.

“Bri was heavily not the crowd favorite today,” the first-year Cardinals coach said. “But in sports that’s something you have to deal with. Some people will not cheer for you. They’ll cheer for your opponent.”

On the boys side of the ledger second-seeded Kotaro Horiuchi, of Hanover, beat top-seeded McKinley Grimes, of Bedford, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 for the boys title.

Grimes beat fourth-seeded Harrison Max, of Londonderry, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals.

Horiuchi won his semifinal 6-2, 6-1 over third-seeded Greg Cistulli, of Concord.