Once again, the Dirigo boys’ tennis team has put the Mountain valley Conference on notice.
As the short-lived spring tennis season nears its midway point, Dirigo remains unbeaten, even taking out two-time champion Monmouth in the process.
“We beat them 4-1, but they gave us some good competition, which is good for us,” Dirigo coach Bruce Thompson said. “We need some of that before we get to the playoffs. They’ve got the experience and they have a good coach.”
Thompson said his team’s success this season has been thanks in large part to strong play from the doubles teams.
“We have stronger doubles than we’ve ever had,” Thompson said. “If you can get your doubles working for you, all you need is that one singles win.”
One player in particular — Joel Cloutier — is drawing Thompson’s eye, more for what he’s able to do with the ball than with his power.
“He broke either his arm or his hand during the year, and he wasn’t able to start right off the bat,” Thompson said. “Because of it, he wasn’t able to hit the ball as hard, and because of that, he was able to direct the ball better than what he has before. He learned how to play the ball better, much better, much smarter.”
An experienced partner at No. 1 doubles isn’t hurting, either.
“Garret Carver is his partner, back from last year, playing some singles and some doubles,” Thompson said. “He’s very strong anyway, and they really are a tough doubles team. I don’t think, except maybe for Winthrop, anybody in the MVC is going to touch those guys.”
A pair of newcomers — one a senior and the other a freshman — is also contributing early in the season.
“(Mason King) is a senior who just came out this year, and he’s very strong, very court-smart,” Thompson said. “He’s just one of those kids, playing doubles, he does well and playing singles he does well. He is probably one of the best kids in terms of court smarts I’ve had.”
And then there’s Jeremy Grignon who, as a freshman, is forcing Thompson’s hand.
“He will more than likely be one of our second doubles players,” Thompson said. “He’s looking so good right now, he could almost make it at singles if things don’t go well for some of the others.”
Coach Jamie Boucher knew the Oak Hill girls’ tennis team was going to be solid.
He wasn’t kidding.
Paced by a pair of returning singles veterans, the Raiders have dropped just one game in recording five match victories in as many tries to open the season.
Last year’s top player, Hannah Langlois, is now at No. 2 singles, while Sara Lacroix slid into the top spot during preseason ladder play. Either way, Oak Hill’s top pair of players is tough to handle for most opponents.
“Hannah’s got that experience at the top,” Boucher said. “It’s tough for a No. 2 to have to play against her. To keep it honest, I’d like to have them play again soon, just to see, to make sure we have it right. But Sara is playing well right now and she did beat her earlier to earn that top spot. She’s playing well at No. 1, she’s improved greatly and she definitely beat Hannah.”
Junior Darby Beaulieu has adapted well to playing singles, too, which solidifies the Raiders’ lineup.
“She’s new to that, but she’s a strong, athletic person,” Boucher said. It’s her first time at singles, but she has a good mental toughness. She’s working out really well there.”
Oak Hill has a pair of matches this week, and needs to be careful not to look past the first toward the second. Camden Hills rolls into town Friday, putting its own perfect record on the line.
Tough stretch, good opportunity
Lisbon has enjoyed a strong start to the season in the win column, posting four consecutive victories after a season-opening loss to Winthrop, with three of those being 5-0 shutouts.
“We have a good combination of veterans and newcomers that, to this point, has resulted in good chemistry,” Lisbon coach Paul Giggey said.
But the fun is just beginning for the Greyhounds, who will complete a match with Hall-Dale this week, face Hall-Dale again in a regularly-scheduled match and then see Winthrop again.
“It’s going to be a very challenging week,” Giggey said. “That’s our true test.”
With a large difference in overall record between Winthrop and Hall-Dale and most of the other teams Lisbon has on its schedule this season, the all-important Heal Points will be tough to come by.
“There aren’t too many teams we play that are in the middle,” Giggey said. “They’re either top of the league or bottom of the league. Our record is probably going to be good, but we’re kind of a victim of the Heal Points. You win with them and you lose with them.”