LEWISTON — After a strong freshman campaign as a doubles competitor, Lewiston’s Joe Bisson was looking forward to the tennis season in 2016.
He was just coming off helping the hockey team win their first state title since 2002. His success on the ice continued in between the winter and spring seasons as he helped the Maine Moose win USA Hockey’s Tier II U16 National Championship in Wayne, New Jersey.
That’s where he knew something wasn’t right. Bisson went to the doctors soon after and was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He was put on the disabled list for the spring season as he watched his teammates make it to the state championship.
“It was terrible not being able to help my team, but they did a great job last year making it to the state finals,” Bisson said. “Sitting on the sidelines had its ups and downs.”
Bisson was supposed to be part of the doubles rotation with his partner from his freshmen year, Ben Ferrence.
Head coach Tom LeBlond knew Bisson was going to be help support his teammates wherever he could.
“He was here for our matches and he was around when we played in our regional tournament,” LeBlond said. “He was there when we played our North regional final (against Mt. Blue). Certainly he was supportive. The thing with our tennis team, six of our seven players are hockey players. These are his teammates. These are guys he spent most of his time with. He probably has spent more time (with them) than his mom and dad. That’s something he did automatically. I didn’t ask him, you have to be here or whatever. He chose to do that.”
Bisson started to feel better toward the end of the season, but he didn’t want to mess the chemistry up that the team had built throughout the season.
“I had it at the last week of April and at the beginning of June is when I realized I was kind of over it,” Bisson said. “The guys were playing great games of tennis at the time and I wasn’t going to able to contribute.”
Lewiston won the Class A North regional before falling to Thornton Academy, 5-0, in the state finals.
This year, he has made up for lost time, and with the team graduating five seniors from the 2016 team, spots opened up in singles. LeBlond was planning on easing in Bisson, but Bisson grabbed the bull by the horns and grabbed the No. 3 singles position after the ladder matches during tryouts.
“I was planning at the beginning of this year of pairing Joe and Ben on our first doubles (team),” LeBlond said. “As the season proceeded, Joe expressed to me and I also expressed to him: do you want to compete for those singles spots? He did and he’s getting comfortable playing singles. He hasn’t played any tournament singles for us in his three years with us.”
The lack of singles experience isn’t showing, as he’s 6-1 on the season while the team is 7-1. His only loss of the season came against Brunswick on April 27, when he lost to Luke Estabrook, 6-3, 6-1. He will get his chance at redemption on Friday.
Bisson said there is a difference between singles and doubles tennis.
“It was different,” Bisson said. “Playing doubles, it’s a totally different game. Singles you need to rely on yourself a lot more. When you are in a slump, you need to talk yourself out of it and battle through. It was different at first, but I am getting used to it and enjoy it.”
Joe Bisson of Lewiston High School heads towards the net during practice at the high school on Wednesday.