LEWISTON — Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, ESPN first signed on the air — and Lewiston High School girls’ tennis coach Anita Murphy won her first varsity tennis match as a coach.
And since 1979, the wins have continued to pile up. In the past decade, the rate increased exponentially as the Blue Devils continued to pile up unbeaten seasons and state titles.
Friday, Murphy, a fixture of Lewiston/Auburn tennis for better than three decades, achieved a rare and distinguished milestone, collecting her 400th career coaching victory with a 5-0 triumph over Mt. Ararat.
“I told the girls after the match that they were all a part of history afterward,” Murphy said. “They all had no clue, because it’s not something I was going around and telling people about.”
Murphy herself was vaguely aware that she was approaching the milestone, but it wasn’t until a phone call from her daughter, Wendy, that she realized just how close she was.
“She asked me something I had to look up out of my booklet that I keep of all the teams and years I’ve coached,” Murphy said. “I looked and said, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize I was at 391 after last year.’ When it got to be the seventh one this year, that was 398, I didn’t say anything. But eventually, it was something I felt I wanted to let the girls know about afterward.”
Murphy’s first match victory was in 1979, a 6-1 win over Oak Hill, and she won her first state title with Lewiston in 1984. The Blue Devils followed with another in 1987, and they snapped Caribou’s run of four in a row with a third state crown in 1996.
Then they just started piling up. Lewiston won three of four from 1999 to 2002, was runner-up in 2003 and began a currently-active streak of five consecutive championships in 2006, bringing Murphy’s total state title haul to 11, including seven of the past 10.
“I think in the late 70s and early 80s, we saw tennis really start to pick up a lot,” Murphy said. “Families were playing more. In the last decade it’s just really, really grown.”
Murphy said she has, to her knowledge, coached only one former athlete’s child, and that came last season.
“I’ve had a lot of them in the summer rec program,” Murphy said. “But none in high school yet. I think when it gets to be the grand kids, I’ll know I’ve been there a long time.”
And the next 100? Murphy said the jury is still out on that kind of longevity. But she never ruled it out, either.
“Someone asked me if I was going to go for 500, I looked at them and asked, ‘Are you crazy?'” Murphy said with a hearty laugh.
For the record, it would take nearly six more consecutive perfect seasons to reach 500 wins.
“Yeah, right, OK, that’s not going to happen,” Murphy said, her smile still wide as ever. “I don’t want to be negative, but there are a lot of good teams and players out there.”
While the weather has ravaged tennis teams across the state all season, with a week left in the season, most teams have managed to play through their schedules.
And a handful are on the cusp of finishing the regular season without a loss.
In Class A, the Lewiston, Hampden, Scarborough and Kennebunk boys and Brunswick, Hampden and Cheverus girls all have a shot at completing an unbeaten season. Of those squads, only Scarborough and Kennebunk will face each other in a countable contest.
In Class B, the Falmouth, Ellsworth and Camden Hills boys, along with the Falmouth, Camden Hills and MDI girls are still unblemished, and all of those teams have a shot at completing their seasons without a loss.
In Class C, Dirigo, Winthrop and Foxcroft on the boys’ side and St. Dom’s, Hall-Dale and Foxcroft on the girls’ side have yet to lose. Like in Class B, all six of those squads can run the table, as well.
A pair of area teams’ playoff hopes may hinge on a head-to-head matchup that was supposed to be played last week.
The Edward Little girls are currently on the outside of the six-team playoff picture in Eastern Class A, while the Mt. Blue girls are at No. 5, just inside the threshold. The teams were supposed to meet Friday, but the wet conditions prevented that matchup from occurring.
With one week remaining and Heal Points at a premium, the timing of that makeup match and the end result could shape the playoff landscape.
Up against it
Wednesday, May 25 is the final day, according to the Maine Principals’ Association bulletin, teams are allowed to schedule countable regular-season tennis matches, with Thursday listed as the rain date for matches scheduled for Wednesday only.
Some teams, like Edward Little, have more matches remaining than days on which to play them.
The annual MPA singles tournament will begin in earnest on Friday, with the Round of 48 and the Round of 32 scheduled to begin at Bates College’s James Wallach Tennis Complex.
The Round of 16 and quarterfinals are slated for Saturday, with the semifinals and finals set for Monday, May 30.