DIXFIELD – The Dirigo boys’ tennis team entered the season with loads of potential. What transpired was beyond expectations.

Hard work and attention to detail paid off for the Cougars. The rest of the state could discover what the Mountain Valley Conference witnessed.

No Dirigo team had ever finished unbeaten, until the current group went 12-0. The Cougars also earned its initial No. 1 ranking in Western Class C and enter the postseason with a target on their chest.

“All of the singles positions were up for grabs,” Dirigo coach Bruce Thompson said. “It was a dog fight of challenges at the beginning of the season to establish positions. I had a lot of good solid players coming back, who all had experience at playing singles matches from last year.”

The first matter of business was to replace the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players. Mike Holmquist moved up from 3rd singles last year to take the No. 1 position, while Nate Archibald moved up to No. 2, after having played on the No. 2 doubles team last year.

“Mike has an all around good game,” Thompson said. “And so does Nate, each of them knows how to play the whole court, defensively and offensively.”

With nine veterans returning, it was a pleasant surprise to see a player emerge from nowhere. The Cougars’ diamond-in-the-rough was sophomore Enrico Ross, who played sparingly at second doubles last spring.

He finished the regular season 9-0 at No. 3 singles.

“Enrico was a real surprise,” Thompson said. “He beat the rest of the squad challenge after challenge to move up to No. 3 singles.”

Dirigo’s seven starters each won all of their early matches. Winthrop has always been a troublesome opponent, but the Cougars easily topped the Rambers 4-1.

“I thought at the beginning of the season that it came down to Winthrop and us,” Thompson said. “They graduated a lot of key personnel last year and would be very tough in first singles.When we played, I was very surprised at how much the Cougar boys had improved. I and the boys did not expect a 4-1 match, but they worked for it and earned it.”

Holmquist was the only one of the top seven players to lose a match, dropping his match to Ryan Czado, who reached the Round of 16 in the state singles tournament. That was the only loss that any of the top seven had all season.

Dirigo recorded nine shutouts, with three more ended 4-1. Two of those points were lost because the players were substituting in doubles, losing 10-8 and 11-9 in pro sets.

“At the beginning of the season, team felt we had a chance,” Ross said. “Then, beating Winthrop in middle of the season gave us a big boost. We knew there was a good shot at going undefeated and earning the top spot.”

The rest of the line-up going into the postseason includes Colby Knapp and Kaile Underwood at first doubles. and the No.2 doubles tandem of Josh Saphire and Nick Goddard. Matt Smith is the first reserve.

Dirigo also won its first ever MVC championship.

“The attitude on our team has been positive from the start,” Ross said. “We still have needed to practice hard and stay focused. This includes doing drills correctly and not allowing ourselves to become complacent.”

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