EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 5, 2010

Class L boys tennis: Max-imum effort: Londonderry win first title in unforgettable fashion

By Jeff Hamrick
sports@eagletribune.com

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Late yesterday afternoon, it was looking as if Londonderry boys tennis title drought would continue for at least one more year.

Especially since the Lancers' last match of the day featured a limping junior and a freshman not much taller than his racket.

But with his partner hampered by a severe leg cramp, the freshman, Harrison Max, not only gave Londonderry a chance, but a forehand down the line boosted the Lancers to a 5-4 victory over defending Class L state champion Exeter at the Derryfield School.

It was the Blue Hawks' first loss since dropping a decision to Londonderry in the first round of the 2008 tournament.

Trailing 4-2 after singles action, Max and partner Mike Rubin capped off a three-team doubles sweep with an 8-5 victory over Steve Bouzianis and Carter Plimpton.

"This stuff only happens in movies," said Max, who looks like he needs a couple bricks to stand on to reach the 5-foot-2 his father said he is. "I mean my partner goes down with an injury and he can barely move. It's just how unbelievable how we won that."

In singles play, Max rallied from a 7-5 deficit and two match points to force a tiebreaker against Alden Sewell, who held on for a 7-5 victory in the extra-frame.

"I was like, 'Whatever happens, happens,' " Max said about heading into doubles. "I was going to play my best no matter what and put all my heart into it because this was the end of the year."

In doubles, Max and Rubin, who lost a grueling 9-7 two-hour match in singles, held a 2-1 lead when Rubin went down with a cramp.

His gracious opponent not only gave him time to return, but helped him work out the cramp sufficiently to limp his way to the end.

The other doubles winners for Londonderry were Alex Burbine and Kevin Greene, who blazed to an 8-4 win, and Dave Biondo and Joe Creed, who won their match 8-6.

"What we've been working on all year is doubles," said Burbine, a junior who shut out Jack Tisdale in an 8-0 victory at No. 1 singles. "Coach (Bill Knee) and my dad (Skip) know that high school tennis comes down to doubles. Ever since I was a freshman they've pounded it into my head and pounded it about doubles, doubles, doubles. So many times, matches are won in the doubles."

But with Burbine and No. 6 Creed the only Lancers to take care of their singles matches, Londonderry (16-1) had a difficult road to avenge its only regular-season loss of the season in a 5-4 decision to Exeter on May 12.

"In the best-case scenario, we thought we had to split in singles," Knee said. "This is the pinnacle. Actually, to be honest, two years ago (Skip) Burbine and I were talking together and we thought we'd have a chance at the state title this year. And we had the good fortune of getting Harrison Max this year to help fill a spot."

But the season didn't go quite like the freshman thought.

"At the start of the year, I was like 'OK, Harrison, let's get a winning record,' " said Max, who finished the season with a 14-1 mark. "I thought 8-7 would be good because it was my first year. I had no idea the team or me would be this amazing."

Londonderry 5, Exeter 4

Class L Final

Singles: 1. Alex Burbine (L) def. Jack Tisdale 8-0; 2. Alden Sewell (E) def. Harrison Max 9-8 (7-5); 3. Dan Driscoll (E) def. Dave Biondo 8-4; 4. Andrew Bridges (E) def. Mike Rubin 9-7; 5. Steve Bouzianis (E) def. Kevin Greene 8-4; 6. Joe Creed (L) Carter Plimpton 8-2

Doubles: 1. Burbine-Greene (L) def. Tisdale-Bridges 8-4; 2. Biondo-Creed (L) def. Sewell-Driscoll 8-6; 3. Max-Rubin (L) def. Bouzianis-Plimpton.

Records: Exeter 16-1, Londonderry 16-1

Lancers make history

The boys tourney began in 1957 and the only other local boys team to win a title (any division) was Salem in 2008. It was a 5-4 win over Londonderry, which was making its first ever appearance in the finals.

No local team has won in the 37-year history of the girls tourneys.

Londonderry 5, Exeter 4

Class L Final

Singles: 1. Alex Burbine (L) def. Jack Tisdale 8-0; 2. Alden Sewell (E) def. Harrison Max 9-8 (7-5); 3. Dan Driscoll (E) def. Dave Biondo 8-4; 4. Andrew Bridges (E) def. Mike Rubin 9-7; 5. Steve Bouzianis (E) def. Kevin Greene 8-4; 6. Joe Creed (L) Carter Plimpton 8-2

Doubles: 1. Burbine-Greene (L) def. Tisdale-Bridges 8-4; 2. Biondo-Creed (L) def. Sewell-Driscoll 8-6; 3. Max-Rubin (L) def. Bouzianis-Plimpton.

Records: Exeter 16-1, Londonderry 16-1