Josh Deanda-Whaley of Winthrop stretches to return a shot in the No. 2 singles match at the 2019 Class C South team championship. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

Winthrop and Mountain Valley are poised to again have strong Mountain Valley Conference campaigns in 2021, after solid seasons two years ago.

Winthrop reached the Class C South regional final before falling to Waynflete, which claimed its 12th consecutive regional crown.

“We have a few returners from our starting lineup from two years ago,” Winthrop coach Kelsey Ouellette said. “Our strengths will come from the experience from the returners and athleticism of our new players. We will continue developing the new players to become strong, skilled players, as well.”

Among the returning players are Josh Deanda-Whaley, who was the Ramblers’ No. 2 singles player in 2019, and Noah Grube, who was the No. 3 singles player.

Ouellette said the newcomers are excited to get going.

“I think a couple of the new players may have been encouraged to play with the loss of the spring season last year, but most were already interested in playing last season before the shutdown,” Ouellette said.

Mountain Valley finished second in Class B South in the regular season two years ago before falling in the first round to Gardiner.

The Falcons have strength at the top, as Elijah Weston moves from doubles to the No. 1 singles player. Another player to keep an eye out on this season is senior Levon Mickeritz as a doubles player.

“My big gun at (No. 1) this year will be EJ, solid hitter that will be athletic enough to challenge other top seeds,” Mountain Valley coach Todd Papianou said. “Levon Mickeritz is my swing-for-the-fences guy. He will leave it all on the court every day. Showing promise this year are my other two seniors: Ian Cameron will be serving up solid tennis as he will challenge for a singles spot; Keegan Pitcher will also vie for singles.”

Papianou said experience will be an issue, with no juniors or sophomores, but the Falcons have nine freshmen in the program.

The warm weather this spring — well, up until the snow fell Friday — has helped the Falcons get up to speed quicker than usual.

“The bonus is we are blessed this year with the earliest on-court date in my 20 years here in Rumford,” Papianou said. “Being able to get outside in the last week of March in the Western Maine Mountains is unheard of.”

DIRIGO COUGARS

Coach Bruce Thompson believes his team will get better as the season goes along. The Cougars will be relying on the experience Jacob Chow, Sam Skibitsky, Jacob Gallant, Lucas Micks and Hayden Adams.

Thompson said the Cougars should be middle of the pack team in the MVC.

They only have two newcomers, Keegan Foreman and Loegan Hodgkins. Not having a feeder program and Thompson no longer teaching have played a role in the program’s lack of numbers.

“Part of it is I am not teaching anymore,” Thompson said. “I taught and two years ago I retired. I taught for 50 years, but I retired. But I still wanted to coach, so I came back and coached.”

EDWARD LITTLE RED EDDIES

Only two players showed up for the first day of practice, but the Red Eddies’ roster now stands at nine players at the start of the season.

Coach Greg Vincent is excited for the 2021 group.

“This year’s team has a nice mix of new and experienced players,” Vincent said. “I don’t want to call it a rebuilding year, because I think we can compete right now. But we do need to get more experience and a few more players before we can join the upper echelon of teams in the KVAC. However, I do believe that (Edward Little) is headed in the right direction.”

The returning players are three seniors Kayden Kirouac, Isaiah Reynolds and Simon Hayes.

LEWISTON BLUE DEVILS

Lewiston has been at or near at the top of the Class A North standings in recent years, and experience has been the key to its success.

This season, there are plenty of fresh faces on the Blue Devils’ roster.

“A brand new team — only Garrett Mack has any match experience,” Lewiston coach Tom LeBlond said. “We’ll be doing a lot of work on fundamentals, as many of our athletes are new to the sport of tennis.”

LeBlond said the team has been working on the fundamentals — serving, ground strokes and volleys the first few weeks of practice — since the athletes’ offseason focus usually is on other sports.

“Tennis is a game — there are some exceptions like Camden Hills and Falmouth, where (their) kids are playing all year round, their top players are playing all year round,” LeBlond said. “We have always been — kids pick up their racquet in summer or whatnot, but during the winter months, fall months they aren’t playing any tennis at all. They are playing football, soccer and hockey.”

LISBON GREYHOUNDS

Patience will be the key to the season. That has been the message from Lisbon’s upperclassman to its younger players.

“Our veterans tell our newcomers that they were frustrated when they started playing tennis their freshmen year, and it will take time, practice and patience to develop skills,” Lisbon coach Paul Giggey said. “We do not have a rec program, so it is common that the first time our players touch a tennis racquet is in their freshmen year.”

The number one thing Giggey and the Greyhounds have been working on this season is shaking off the rust of an almost two-year layoff.

“Our courts belong to the town, which applied COVID restrictions to the facilities,” Giggey said. “Consequently, our players have had limited playing time, if any, the past two years. Since the season began, our players have made progress in their respective play. We still need some time to set our ladder, which has been a difficult task. Specifically, our players have not had enough time to fine tune their play, so my top five players are interchangeable at this point in the season.”

MT. BLUE COUGARS

Mt. Blue coach Zac Conlogue is excited to see who steps up this season after losing his three singles players, all of whom made the state singles tournament in 2019.

“The team came out ready to play the first week,” Conlogue said. “We have a lot of new players, so the ladder matches have been pretty exciting.”

Conlogue has two starters returning, Michael Ferrari and Ayden Beisaw, who were Mt. Blue’s second doubles tandem and went 7-3 in 2019. He has four others who were on the roster two years ago. The Cougars have one of the largest rosters in the tri-county area.

“We actually have a great-sized roster this season, with 16 guys playing,” Conlogue said. “We only have six returning players from the team two years ago, so we have spent more time on the basics and rules. The guys are catching on quick and are eager to improve. Practices have been similar to the past years.”

SPRUCE MOUNTAIN PHOENIX

Spruce Mountain will have a new coach this year, as athletic director Marc Keller takes over for Bill Acritelli, who stepped down from coaching after the 2019 season.

The Phoenix are another team that will have lack of experience, though they do return some in experience in Drew Delaney, who in 2019 split time as Spruce Mountain’s second and third singles player.

“This team is going to see some struggles getting back into the game, but there is a lot of promise from the veterans, and the newcomers are learning and getting stronger everyday,” Keller said.

ST. DOM’S SAINTS

The Saints were hit hard by a large graduating class in 2020 and it only leaves one boys player in the 2021 season in senior Alec Beaudin.

Beaudin is an experience player according as he was the Saints third singles player in 2019.

Although the Saints do not have enough players to make a team, Alec is working hard and wants to make a splash in the state singles tournament,” St. Dom’s coach Andrew Girouard said. “His dedication to the program throughout middle and high school is exemplary and commendable.”

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