LEWISTON – Two weeks from now, children as young as four will toddle across the parking lot beside the tennis courts at Lewiston High School carrying (and in some cases dragging) their rackets behind them.

They may not know exactly what they are doing. They won’t care. The goal will be to let them have a good time learning the game.

It’s a successful model, and in recent years, the program – run by Lewiston girls’ tennis coach Anita Murphy – has developed a dynasty.

The Lewiston boys won their fifth consecutive Class A state title Saturday, and 12th overall. The Lewiston girls captured their second in a row, and eighth overall. That’s 20 Class A titles between the teams since 1982. The teams have also been runners-up a combined eight times.

Four times, the teams won at the same time, including the last two.

And with just two seniors on each team this season, the chance is good that both teams will again be contenders next season.

For at least 11 of the 14 Lewiston players who participated in Saturday’s matches, tennis began on hot, muggy summer mornings.

“Success breeds success,” Murphy said. “We get a lot of young kids that sign up for our program. They want to play. Sometimes they get away from it, sometimes they come back, but they always have that choice, and we try to make it fun.”

To a person, the players agreed.

“The rec brings a lot of good players to the team,” sophomore singles player Ben McDonough said.

“Our rec program starts it all,” senior Mike Sarrazin said.

“Our summer program is getting a lot bigger, and more people are sticking with it,” junior Julia Bergeron said.

Bergeron and her twin sister Audrey are the third and fourth siblings in their family to play in a state title match. Older sister Amanda went to the state finals against Kennebunk in 2003, and older brother Ben won titles with the boys’ team.

“Tennis is cool in Lewiston,” Blue Devils’ boys’ coach Ron Chicoine said. “It’s OK to play tennis. It doesn’t have any kind of negative stigma, and it’s cool to be part of a championship team.”

That prestige, though, may even have hurt numbers on the high school team this season.

“I really think that if we were less successful we’d have even more guys go out,” Chicoine said. “Some people probably think they can’t make the team and don’t even go out. There were some guys who didn’t play a sport this spring that could have helped us out this year.”

But those who did play at both the varsity and junior varsity level this season are hooked.

“They have fun, they like it and they stay with it,” Chicoine said. “That’s a big factor, and we hope to keep it going.”

Lewiston has also helped other teams load up, too. The Winthrop girls’ No. 1 singles player, Edward Little’s No. 1 boys’ singles player, McAuley’s No. 3 singles player and North Yarmouth Academy’s No. 2 boys’ singles player are all former Lewiston summer recreation tennis students, all taught by former Lewiston High School players.

“It’s always the kids teaching the other kids, too,” Murphy said. “That’s part of what makes it so special.”

The current streak will end at some point. The Blue Devils will fall to another team. But you can bet that this year’s crop of summer students – some of them likely hoping to one day play for a state title – will continue to lug their rackets across the court twice a week, if only for that chance.

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