It may be the strangest way yet to win a state title. After taking the first set in the best-of-three New Hampshire girls tennis singles final, Bow (N.H.) High senior Sunday Swett was told that she had won the title. Yet it wasn’t an injury that befell her opponent, Nashua (N.H.) Bishop Guertin senior Briana Leonard. Rather, Leonard unilaterally decided to end the match because she was being heckled by the crowd.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a crowd-induced state champion. This may be a first.
“We had an unfortunate experience,” New Hampshire Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director R. Patrick Corbin told the Nashua Telegrah. “I’ve never seen something like this at a tennis match.”
The forfeit occurred when Corbin attempted to shift the girls singles final to a different court at the conclusion of the first set, which Swett won 6-4. Yet, instead of heading to the new court, Leonard left the scene entirely, retreating to her car with her parents and driving home.
The elder Leonards told the Telegraph that their daughter was being persecuted by the crowd because she lives in Massachusetts and attends high school in New Hampshire.
“They were bullying her,” Karen Leonard told the Telegraph. “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.”
Regardless of where the family lives, Leonard’s own coach acknowledged that dealing with hostile crowds is an integral part of sports, even if he did feel that his athlete was facing a number of challenges in the final match of her prep career.
“Bri was heavily not the crowd favorite today,” Bishop Guertin coach Barry Ndynia told the Telegraph.
“But in sports that’s something you have to deal with. Some people will not cheer for you. They’ll cheer for your opponent. That’s why I was trying to keep her focused.”
As for Swett, the senior celebrated a title in her final match and told the Concord Monitor that the stunning forfeit would not take away from her contentment with the achievement.
“I thought it was a bathroom break and when everyone started cheering I thought it was more like, ‘First Set! Keep it going!’ And I was kind of like, thank you, but I’ve got to stay focused here,” Swett told the Monitor. “But she just picked up her stuff and left.
“I’ve played her before [including a 6-0, 6-1 loss to Leonard in the 2012 quarterfinals], and, not to be mean, but I know she has an attitude, and I was ready to put up with it. But this brought it to a whole new level.”