With two perfect regular seasons in the rear-view mirror, and a host of seniors graduating along with that record, Mountain Valley boys’ tennis coach Todd Papianou thought his inaugural campaign at the helm might be a bit tough.
And it might have been, save for a few new faces whose hometowns are well outside the RSU 10 zone.
Yago Ceballos of Spain and Toni Weber and Nicolas Lehrke, both of Germany, are spending their senior years as exchange students. All three of them landed at Mountain Valley High School, and all three can handle a tennis racket pretty well.
“We kind of got lucky,” Papianou admitted. “We had such a strong senior class last year, and they all graduated, and we had only one senior coming back this year, and we had a bunch of younger guys that were all of a sudden going to be playing singles. But this really has helped to bridge a gap a little bit.”
Weber has taken over at the top.
“As far as a skill set is concerned, he’s got that,” Papianou said. “With him, most of the coaching we have to do is with the mental part of the game, and managing the game.”
Ceballos and Lehrke are no slouches, either. All three players have hit the ground running as the team’s three singles players. In one match earlier this spring, against Madison, Weber earned the win for the Falcons by defeating a countryman.
“Our first match, it came down to their German against our German,” Papianou said with a laugh. “It was kind of funny, before the match, I was talking to their player, and was telling him that Toni is from Bavaria, in southern Germany. He said, ‘Oh, southern Germany, he’ll have a funny accent.’ I went back to Toni and told him that, and Toni said, ‘Oh, we’ll see.'”
In terms of learning English, Papainou said he was lucky, because with tennis in the spring, the students have been at the school long enough to pick up enough of the language to get by.
And at 5-0 after a win over Carrabec on Tuesday, Mountain Valley’s grasp of winning has continued, too.
Not looking ahead, but …
Oak Hill zipped off a 10-2 record one year ago, earned the second seed in the Western Class B tourney and made it through to the regional finals.
With the core of that team returning, there is little surprise that this year’s edition of the Raiders, despite still having only one senior on the roster, is right back in the thick of things.
In fact, through six matches, the Raiders hold the top seed in Western B.
“They got a taste of what it’s like to be successful last year,” Oak Hill coach Jamie Boucher said. “We know who’s tough in KVAC.”
None tougher than perennial nemesis Camden Hills, the program Boucher said is the standard-bearer in the KVAC. And the Raiders have the Windjammers on their radar.
“We never like to look past anyone, of course,” Boucher said, knowing Wednesday brings a matchup against winless Rockland. “But we know they’re coming up. They got us last year, 3-2, and we’d like to get them back this time around.”
Leading the way, and playing the best the Raiders’ opponents have thrown at them, is top singles player Hannah Langlois.
“She’s solid at the top and she keeps gaining experience,” Boucher said. “She got that experience at one and two last year.”
Sara Lacroix holds the fort down at No. 2, and the team’s lone senior, Lynnae Chaput, anchors the singles group at No. 3.
Darby Beaulieu and Becka Lehotay, along with Brittney Marshall and Molly Morrill have been solid at doubles.
Nearly halfway through the spring schedule, and a handful of teams across the state are still among the ranks of the unbeaten.
Fifteen girls’ teams and another 12 on the boys’ side have yet to lose, though several showdowns in the coming days will pare the list down considerably. Locally, Lewiston’s boys’ and girls’ teams sit at 5-0 with a match against unbeaten Bangor, in both boys and girls, on tap for Wednesday.
Oak Hill and Camden Hills appear to be on a collision course for a Friday showdown of unbeatens on the girls’ side, while the largest logjam is in Western Class B boys, with Gardiner, Lincoln Academy, Falmouth and Mountain Valley all sporting perfect records.
Girls’ teams unbeaten to date include the aforementioned Bangor and Lewiston squads, Waterville, Ellsworth, Camden Hills and Caribou in Eastern B, Calais in Eastern C, Portland, Scarborough and McAuley in Western A, Oak Hill and Falmouth in Western B and NYA, Winthrop and St. Dom’s in Western C.
On the boys’ side, joining Bangor and Lewiston in Eastern A is Hampden Academy. George Stevens remains perfect in Eastern C, Windham and Cheverus have yet to lose in Western A, and Waynflete and Monmouth appear once again headed for a 1-2 finish in Western C through the midway point of the schedule.