NHIAA Golf: Bedford shoots for the top
This much is certain regarding Division I golf in the NHIAA this year: There will be a new individual champion crowned.
Whether there is a changeover at the top among teams remains to be seen.
Bedford edged Keene by five shots for its first Division I title — it won championships in Division II in 2009 and 2010 before taking a step up — and lost five starters from its lineup.
The Bulldogs plan to rebuild quickly.
"We always hope that we'll be contenders at the end," said Bedford coach Joel St. Laurent. "We're probably in a little bit of a rebuilding year. We have some nice players, but we don't have the depth we've had. We're not as strong as we've been at this point in the past, but some of our kids have really stepped it up since last year."
Senior Justin Clutter, Bedford's top player, is one of the leaders. Junior Ryan Brown and sophomores Connor Lee, Tim Weeks and Mike Soucy are playing well, too.
On the individual side, Keene's Chelso Barrett, who won the last three Division I titles, has taken his game to Texas Christian University.
St. Laurent expects Exeter, Bishop Guertin of Nashua and Concord to be among those in the mix for the Division I championship.
"I really think it will be wide open," St. Laurent said. "We'll try to stay with those guys and see if we can hang with them. We just want a chance when it comes to tournament time."
Hanover held off Windham for the Division II title each of the last two seasons. The Marauders lost a couple of key players from last year's team and coach John Donnelly thinks Windham, which beat his team during the regular season each of those years, should be considered the favorite this time.
Seniors Nathan Roth, Mattson Rosenbaum and Conor Nagle, along with junior Chris Lehman and sophomore Patrick Dyroff, will try to bring a third straight title back to Hanover.
Senior Connor Greenleaf, who won the Division II individual title a year ago, is back to lead a veteran Windham group. Fellow seniors Adam Dolan and Matt Howard, juniors Pat Higgins and Eric Butler and freshman James McKee join Greenleaf.
Bow beat Mascenic of New Ipswich by five strokes to win the Division III championship last year and may have a better team this time around. The Falcons must contend with teams such as Pelham and Gilford as well.
"People would probably look at it like we're the favorite," said coach Mike Seraikis. "But I don't want to say that."
The Falcons have seniors Jake Rand and Josh Lacasse and junior Jeremy Duhamel back and also add a couple of talented freshmen in Doug Champagne and Colin Plumb.
Mascenic leads off with Roman Ojala, who won the Division III individual title last year as a freshman, and also has junior Shane Rautiola and senior Jordan Kinnunen and sophomores Adrian Somero and Ian Honkala.
"I think we should be right up there in the mix," said Mascenic coach Kevin Rines.
Derryfield, which won six titles from 1998-2005, held off Newport for the Division IV crown last year and has five of its top seven back. Junior Patrick McGinley, who was runnerup in the individual tournament in the class, leads the way.
Molly Fitzpatrick, a two-year captain, and fellow seniors Roger Larrivee and Bennett Doherty return to lead the Cougars, along with junior Peter Thompson and freshman Corey McGinley.
The girls' individual title is also up for grabs this year with the graduation of champion Jocelyn Ojala of Mascenic and runnerup Colette Schmidt of Lebanon.
Kaitlyn Lutinski of Pinkerton Academy in Derry was third last year and returns. So, too, do sophomore Sara Feith of St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover, who was fourth, and senior Indiana Jones of Prospect Mountain of Alton, who was fifth.