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March 31. 2013 7:56PM

Max, Grimes, Cistulli lead talented group of boys


Bedford High School senior McKinley Grimes, during practice in Bedford on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
One can ask head coaches Shawna Morley of Bedford, Bill Knee of Londonderry and Mark Lewis of Hanover and none of them will disagree that, in no particular order, seniors Harrison Max of Londonderry, McKinley Grimes of Bedford and Greg Cistulli of Concord are the top three boys' tennis players in the state this season.

"I wouldn't disagree," said Morley. "Those three players are very good competitors."

Max, nicknamed "The Mayor" by NHIAA officials because of his wonderful smile, enters this season with a 47-3 career singles record and a 40-6 career doubles record. Max was a key player in Londonderry's Division I title season last year.

Cistulli is 40-4 in singles play and 32-2 in doubles for his career. Grimes owns a 49-0 career singles regular-season record. Grimes teamed with Mark HoSang (now at the University of Connecticut) to win the 2012 NHIAA state doubles tournament and is a member of the last three Division II state team titles with Bedford.

Lewis said if there's room for a top-four pick, it's freshman Kotaro Horiuchi of Australia. "He's a very mature player for a freshman and he's a complete player," said Lewis.

The biggest regular-season match of the season will take place on April 24 when host and defending Division I champion Londonderry greets Bedford, which joins the Division I ranks after capturing the last three Division II state titles.

"We're looking forward to playing Bedford," said coach Knee, entering his 27th season. "Bedford coming to Division I brings more competition at a higher level."

Londonderry brings the same six players back from last year's state title team - Max, Tim Court, Matt McKinney, Ryan Broderick, Mike Paquette and Nick Beaton. "We're in great shape in singles, but I'm focused on solidifying our play from our doubles team. We're strong there, but we can be stronger."

Morley said she has a lot of young talent with the team's top three players of Grimes, Jim Delahunty (recently accepted to West Point Academy) and Dan Soucy.

"We are excited about competing in Division I and we are approaching the season as a new challenge," said Morley, whose roster also includes Zach Anderson, Matt Weeks, Ian Horne and Gurudeep Machupalli.

Exeter, which has reached the Division I state finals for four straight seasons, Manchester Central, Concord, Bishop Guertin of Nashua and Keene all figure to be top contenders.

Lewis said Bedford leaving Division II "split up the two best teams in the state. I'm entering my fourth season and it's been us and Bedford every year. This year Portsmouth has everyone back and I wouldn't count out Oyster River (of Durham), Souhegan (of Amherst), Lebanon or us."

Hanover's lineup will include Horiuchi, Christian Mueller, Brendan Barth (will play for Dartmouth College soccer this fall), Jackson Greenspan and Henry Fletcher, Hanover has depth as Sandy Yu, Richard Qiu, Graham Dickinson, Jeff Li, Chi Zhang, Miles Campbell and Isaac Davis also are talented players.

Hanover has reached the finals seven times in nine years, winning five state championships and the last two runner-up titles.

"There's some unfinished business we need to address from the last two seasons," said Lewis. "I'd like to see this team win it."

Derryfield of Manchester is now in Division II, transferring down from Division I.

Profile of Bethlehem returns as the Division III state champion, coming off a 5-4 win against Bow.

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