NEWMARKET, N.H. — Wendy Poutre has some catching up to do.

The new girls tennis coach at Portsmouth High School doesn’t just come from a tennis family. She comes from a winning tennis family.

When high school teams begin practicing in Maine next Monday, her mother, Anita Murphy, will begin her 36th season coaching girls’ tennis at Lewiston High School, where’s she’s guided her teams to 12 Class A championships.

Poutre’s father won seven Class A championships as the boys’ coach at Lewiston High School. Brother Ron Chicoine nabbed eight state titles following their father’s tenure and went on to coach at the University of Southern Maine.

“I’ve been around it for a long time,” said Poutre. “Hopefully, I’ll follow in their footsteps.”

Back in New Hampshire, the Clippers held their third practice of the season on Wednesday indoors at the Great Bay Athletic Club. With many of the top players from last year’s Division II runner-up team graduated, adding to the family’s state title count is a longer-term goal for Poutre, who does plan to employ some of the family coaching lessons learned along the way.


“I watched my mother run her program; she makes it really fun for the girls,” she said. “She tries to engage them. She runs a summer program that keeps them involved. The main thing is to keep it competitive and keep it fun.”

“It’s her first foray into coaching and I think she’s going to do a great job,” said Portsmouth athletic director Rus Wilson.

The school found itself with an 11th-hour varsity opening after Kate Thayer-Rhodes stepped down to devote more time to helping the program at Endicott (Mass.) College, where her step-daughter, Kenzie Rhodes, is a freshman.

A competitive USTA player with a 3.5 rating (7.0 is world-class), Poutre heard about the vacancy from Seab Stanton, the boys’ coach at Portsmouth who also coaches her USTA team.

“When Kate Rhodes left they reached out to Seab and asked if he knew anyone who would be interested,” said Poutre. “I phoned the athletic department, met with them a couple times, and they thought I was a good fit.”

“She comes from a whole family of coaches,” Wilson said. “She has a strong tennis background and a real good personality.”


Poutre, who lives in Stratham, was a conference champion doubles player at Lewiston High School, playing for her mom. She enjoys the doubles aspect of tennis, of forming the partnerships based on players’ individual strengths and weaknesses. In New Hampshire, three of a match’s nine points are decided in doubles.

“That’s kind of my area of expertise,” she said. “It’s very important in doubles, especially in girls and women’s.”

Under Rhodes and her predecessor, Sarah Olsen, the Clippers established themselves as one of the top programs in Division II. They’ve reached the championship match three times in the last seven years, winning in 2009 and losing two others.

Last year, behind Rhodes, the Clippers rolled off a perfect regular-season (14-0) and advanced to the Division II final as the No. 1 seed, losing to rival St. Thomas Aquinas, 6-3. Of the players competing in singles that day, only Abby Lown and Izzy Steucek weren’t seniors.

So there’s some building to do. And now, it will be overseen by someone who’s seen close-up up how good things are built.

“The girls are terrific,” Poutre said. “There’s only one returning (starter) but the other girls who were on varsity all have good tennis skills, are very good athletes and seem like great team members. They’re very coachable.”

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