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March 31. 2013 8:07PM

Bishop Guertin girls the team to beat

It looks like the deck is stacked heavily on the side of the Cardinals in Division I girls' tennis this season.

Bishop Guertin of Nashua has won eight state titles since 2000, including the last three in Division I. They enter this season on a 51-match winning streak and return three New Hampshire Union Leader All-State selections, Briana Leonard, Jennifer Dai and Lauren Hayward.

Leonard was a junior transfer from Westford (Mass.) Academy. She reached the semifinals of the NHIAA singles' tournament last season. Dai finished the Division I season 17-0 in both singles and doubles as the team's No. 2 player behind Leonard last season. She also reached the semifinals of the NHIAA singles tournament, losing to eventual four-time state champion Julia Keenan of St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover.

Hayward owns a career singles record of 33-1 and last season was a finalist in the New Hampshire NHIAA doubles' tournament with Leonard. They lost in the finals to the St. Thomas duo of Keenan and Anna Hayes.

Concord, Manchester Central, Londonderry and Derryfield School of Manchester, the last four runner-up teams, figure to be the teams capable of preventing the Cardinals of attaining a fourth straight title. BG did win four straight from 2000 to 2003.

"Anyone who follows girls' tennis in the state has to be excited about the talent we have across the state," said 10-year Profile of Bethlehem coach Cheryl Bianchi.

In Division II, Bishop Brady of Concord, Portsmouth, defending state champion St. Thomas and Hanover will be among the top contenders for this year's crown.

"All it takes is for one team to get hot at the right time," said Hanover head coach Glen Eastridge. The Marauders lost in the finals last season, 5-4 to St. Thomas.

Hanover returns junior standout Camille Hankel, who was selected to the New Hampshire Union Leader's All-State team. She earned a No. 4 seed as a sophomore in the NHIAA singles tournament and reached the quarterfinals before losing to Dai in the quarterfinals. Hankel owns a 35-3 overall singles record and is 27-0 during the regular season.

Kendra McGowan, Zoe Yu and Liza Goss along with Hankel give Hanover a legitimate chance of winning the title this season, said Eastride.

In Division III, Berlin, Bow, Gilford and Moultonborough will challenge defending state champion Profile.

The Patriots have a veteran team back with Isabelle Eyman, Cher Christnacht, Rachel Johnson, Anna Bolton, Meg Dowling and Kate Hessler leading the way. "We're similar to last year and if everyone is able to play, we have an excellent team," said Bianchi.


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