LEWISTON — Windham High School senior Dan Crocker hadn’t yet landed on his feet, and Lewiston’s Scott Gagne was already looking forward.

Crocker, an emotional leader of a loaded Windham boys’ tennis squad, edged Lewiston junior Eric Hall at No. 2 singles to lift the Eagles to a 3-2 match victory over the Blue Devils in last season’s Class A state tennis championship. The loss was Lewiston’s first since 2003, and first in a state title match since 2002.

“Right when the Windham player jumped over to Eric Hall’s side after winning the match,” Gagne said. “I said, ‘I don’t care who we’re playing next year, we’re winning.’ I want that feeling back.”

Gagne, now a senior, isn’t alone. Eight seniors dot the Lewiston roster, some as regular varsity players, some technically as junior varsity players who would be among the top players on most other squads. And all of them share one common goal.

“On this tennis team the goal is always to win a state championship, and really, anything less than that is almost an unsuccessful season,” Lewiston coach Ron Chicoine said. “Although, last season, despite losing to Windham, I thought we had a great year. Considering that they didn’t lose anybody from the year before, I thought we gave them a better match than the year before.”

This year, the Blue Devils will return a plethora of starters. Scary for the rest of the Class A field?

“They’re all better players, all of them,” Chicoine said. “They’re all a year older, more mature. Even if they didn’t play all winter, the kids play better as they get a year older.”

Gagne, Hall and Eric Morin are again expected to hold down the top three singles positions on the squad. But if any of them need to miss any time, for any reason, Chicoine and the players aren’t worried about the players who’d have to fill in.

“Depth is always a key for us,” Morin said. “We’re always getting pushed by the guys below us. The competition for who wants to play varsity, it’s basically all about who wants it more. Every ladder match we play is key to making it to a varsity spot.”

And the depth on the team extends beyond singles play. A handful of players with doubles experience is also back, some of whom have played for three years at doubles.

“These guys, I don’t have to teach them how to play doubles anymore,” Chicoine said. “They just have to play. We have to make sure they don’t get silly about it, that they stay on track when playing opponents who aren’t quite as strong. But as long as they’re playing the right way every match, they’ll be fine.”

Confidence in the doubles tandems also has the singles players brimming with confidence.

“If we can get that one singles match, and be really confident in our doubles, that’s a huge confidence boost to us in singles in tougher matches,” Gagne said. “We probably have the deepest team in the state. We don’t have that true ace, we don’t have a (former Mt. Ararat tennis star) Mike Hill or anything. But we have three pretty even, solid singles players and two pretty dominant doubles teams.”

Some of the players on the squad are also three-sport athletes. Morin feels a particular push to add another state championship trophy to the school’s case. After last year’s heartbreaker against Windham, he was also on the school’s soccer team that lost earlier in the playoffs than anticipated, and on Lewiston’s hockey team that fell in the state championship game to Thornton Academy in March.

“The last two seasons, we dropped out in soccer and hockey on close ones, so tennis, I’m hoping not to do that again, since it’s my last sports season here,” Morin said. “It helps to have that extra drive.”

The difference this season, Morin said, begins with the team’s mental outlook.

“I think the biggest thing we can work on is our attitude,” Morin said. “We need to make sure we never get down on ourselves and just be ahead the whole time, have confidence in ourselves and what we’re doing.”

“I think everybody’s hungry, I don’t think anybody liked coming in second,” Chicoine added. “We’re working reasonably hard. But I really have no idea what the talent pool is out there for Class A. We’ll have to see what else is out there first. But I like what I see so far from these guys.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: