For teams across the region, it has been a slow start to the tennis season as Mother Nature has played havoc with the schedule since the season officially got underway on April 12.
There are some teams, like the Mountain Valley boys, who had their first regular season match this past Saturday against Hall-Dale — and had their second match of the season against Spruce Mountain on Monday.
“After doing this long enough, I have been accustomed to the struggles of having practices and (matches) in our Maine spring weather,” Mountain Valley coach Todd Papianou said. “I think a lot of times a lot of our teams in the MVC fight the same battle, we are very equal in terms of weather and availability of courts.”
Papianou has been coaching the Falcons tennis team for ten years. He asked his athletic director, Al Cayer, if they could get some practice time at an indoor facility so he could run some ladder matches to decide who will play singles and who would play in doubles matches. That didn’t happen, though, because the time and expense ramifications were too great.
Papianou is among those excited for the forecast this week, and used Tuesday as a much needed day to work on technique during practice.
“Like I was telling my AD (on Tuesday), I said, ‘Hey, I need all the tennis balls I can get today. Give me all the balls you got, because today is the biggest day of the season,’” Papianou said. “This going to be the best practice after everybody has shaken the rust off. We finally have a clear day, we don’t have a match, we don’t have a makeup day, we will focus on skill.”
For St. Dom’s, a late start is nothing new since they generally start later while members of the senior class and coach Andrew Girouard do charity work in the annual trip to Mississippi. Once they got back from “Mission to Mississippi,” they got hit with postponements.
Even though Girouard is used to the season starting in late April for the program, this year both the boys’ and girls’ teams are young and haven’t experienced the delays.
“Our late start is usually due to the Mississippi trip anyways.” Girouard said. “For us, it’s nothing to out of the ordinary, but I know a lot of times at our coaches’ meetings we try not to schedule matches during April vacations because the students are gone for service trips or family vacations.”
Just like last year, both Saints squads will have four match weeks after the postponements last week.
The Lewiston Blue Devils, on the other hand, have been lucky. The girls’ team has played four of its first five matches already. That fifth match will be made up Wednesday.
“(Monday) was kind of iffy,” Lewiston girls’ coach Anita Murphy said. “It was actually sprinkling at the courts at 2:30, but I heard it was going to clear. We got it in.”
The boys’ team had its match with Edward Little postponed twice. After it was rained out last Wednesday, it got pushed to Saturday, and then pushed again to Wednesday.
Regional qualifying around the corner
With the postponements, the schedule will be compacted as schools try to make up their matches and get some in the next week before next Wednesday’s singles regional qualifying seeding meeting and the qualifying tournament on May 12.
Murphy, who’s the girls’ tournament director for Region 4, said the lack of matches that have been played is concerning, but believes coaches will give honest assessments of their players for the qualifying tournament.
“The coaches are really good about making sure their players has the stats or has played before to seed them,” Murphy said. “It’s very hard…to seed them when we haven’t had that many matches. I think May ninth is our seeding, and I will have put seven matches in. If my number one (Abby Svor) keeps on playing the way she’s been playing, it won’t be difficult to seed her. That will be compared to other number ones have been doing in our region.”
The Region 4 qualifier takes place at Lewiston High School.
Spruce Mountain boys’ win
On Monday, the Spruce Mountain took on Mountain Valley in its third match of the year and defeated the Falcons for a 4-1 victory — their first victory since 2015.
The Phoenix are 1-2 to start the season after losing their opening match to Dirigo, 4-1, and to Boothbay, 3-2.
“We are a super young team and the kids are starting to jive a little bit after playing with each other for a few years,” Spruce Mountain coach Bill Acritell said.
Spruce Mountain returned to the MVC after a couple of years in the KVAC, where Acritell said they played high-caliber teams like Camden Hills and Lincoln Academy, who had kids play year round. Playing those teams did help them get better, even if the results didn’t reflect it.
Cam Cain, the team’s No. 1 player, has been key in each match for the Phoenix.
“My No. 1 singles (player), he’s 3-0 and he’s playing really, really well,” Acritelli said. “He’s only a sophomore, he has two more years to go.”
LaCerda captures NAC honors
Gray native Jake LaCerda a senior at Lyndon State College in Vermont was named to the North Atlantic Conference’s second team all conference selection by the conference’s coaches.
He was the Hornets No. 1 player this season where he had a 3-8 record this season.
The atmospheric science major was also named to the conference’s Men’s Tennis Sportsmanship Team.