State girls final tennis match gains attention for the wrong reason
It was championship week, the shining moment of the spring season, and a couple of individual tennis titles, one for girls and another for boys, were being contested on the courts at the Derryfield School.
The problem was with how the match ended.
Swett was declared the champion after her opponent, Bishop Guertin of Nashua senior Briana Leonard, encouraged by her parents, walked off the court at the conclusion of the first set.
Swett had rallied to win the first set by a score of 6-4 and needed one more set to clinch her first state championship in her last shot at the title.
At first, she thought Leonard had taken a bathroom break.
In the meantime, Leonard was back in the family's car, and her parents had begun to tell any who would listen that their daughter was leaving because she had been had been bullied and harassed. They said fans had cheered when she made mistakes, which is considered bad form in tennis, and were over the top in their encouragement for Swett.
He quickly added, and repeated a couple of times, that he didn't want to take anything away from Swett.
But the damage was done. The champion's moment was not what it could - and should - have been.
"It was her choice," Swett said. "I'm not going to let it dampen my happiness."
The Leonards, according to the family and officials, arrived at the tournament a little bit later than the appointed starting time or the event.
Swett and Leonard each won their semifinal matches and after a rest break started their championship match.
Leonard had what appeared to be a testy exchange with tournament director Steve Laro, and a trainer came onto the court to check her for injuries before the match resumed.
That's how the match ended.
According to an observer, Leonard's mother, Kristin, approached the fence surrounding the court and told her daughter she did not have to take this any longer and could leave if she wanted.
Soon, the parents were complaining and noting that they were also worried about their daughter's health after the fall.
"They thought the crowd was over the top, cheering for their daughter's faults and things like that," first-year Bishop Guertin coach Barry Ndinya said. "The mother felt her daughter was being harassed and the atmosphere was not good for her daughter."
"That's sports, right?" Ndinya said. "You can have the crowd cheering for you or against you. You have to deal with that . . . (Leonard) was heavily not the crowd favorite today. You have to block that out. I was trying to get her to focus on that."
The fallout from Leonard's departure was far-reaching as Internet websites and headlines picked up on it, with much of the commentary ill-informed and inflammatory, some of it critical of both finalists.
Leonard is excited about going on to Bryant University in Rhode Island and the chance to play NCAA Division I tennis there.
Swett plans to take a year off and then attend Yale and also compete in Division I.
"It was unfortunate for everyone," he said. "I've never seen anything like this before.