MANCHESTER — Two years ago, as a sophomore, McKinley Grimes of Bedford spoke with his dad about the possibility of finishing his high school career with four state team tennis championships.
“I always thought about how cool it would be to be part of a dynasty,” said McKinley. “Now that we’ve done it, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Behind Grimes and Jim Delahunty, the top-ranked Bulldogs completed an undefeated season with a 6-3 decision against third-seeded Exeter on Tuesday for the Division I boys’ tennis championship at Manchester West.
Grimes, Delahunty, Matt Weeks, Alex Standard, Dean Drukker and Jake Leberman will graduate this season as members of four straight championship seasons. In 2010 the Bulldogs won the Class I title and captured the Division II crown in 2011 and 2012. Over the last four seasons, Bedford has posted a 67-1 team record including three 17-0 seasons: this year, 2010 and 2011.
“We knew Division I was going to be competitive and strong,” said Bedford head coach Shawna Morley. “I said all year there were at least six teams who could win the whole thing. Our depth and discipline carried us this year.”
There were some anxious moments during singles play. Exeter had a chance to tie the match at 3-3 when Ryan Posternak took a 5-4 lead on Delahunty at the No. 2 court. But then, Morley said, Delahunty took his game to another level.
“He’s going to attend the United States Military Academy this fall and today we saw some of that West Point toughness from him,” said Morley. “He’s a true counter-puncher and, after being down in his match, he made the adjustments needed to come back.”
Delahunty pulled out an 8-6 win, giving Bedford a 4-2 lead. That made the task of winning the state title easier for the Bulldogs, who clinched the win when Grimes and Dan Soucy teamed up in doubles to beat Corey Guen and Posternak, 8-0.
“Posternak fought a great match, gave it all he could and more,” said Exeter coach Justin Tardif. “As a team we came into this match saying we’re going to win as a team and we’re going to lose as a team. We played hard today and Bedford turned out to be the better team.”
Delahunty, Grimes, Soucy and Ian Horne won their singles matches for Bedford. Delahunty and Horne won their doubles match. Exeter received singles wins from Chip McNaughton and Ty Cloyd while Chris Lietz and Tyler Russ combined to win a doubles match. While he didn’t win his singles or doubles match, Zach Anderson of Bedford was a strong No. 4 player for Bedford all season.
Tardif called Grimes, who will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this fall, a “talented player who doesn’t always get the praise he deserves. By that I mean, top players like him are always expected to win 8-1 or 8-0. There’s a lot of pressure being a top player, but he has shown he can handle it. In my book, he’s a winner.’
Exeter (14-3) has finished runner-up four straight seasons in Division I after winning the title in 2009. “They’re a quality program with quality players,” said Morley. “To get to the finals five straight seasons says a lot about their program.”
As for Bedford, they returned home ready to contribute another state title plaque to the school’s trophy case.
“It’s a wonderful group to coach,” said Morley. “My kids just want to hit tennis balls. Their love and respect for the game is special.”