Carson Zundel’s competitiveness kicked in early in the 2021 season.

Zundel, now a junior, began last season on Mt. Blue’s first doubles team in his first year of playing high school tennis. He played an exhibition match and one regular-season match in doubles.

Carson Zundel, now a junior, battled his way from doubles to the number three singles player for Mt. Blue as a sophomore last year. Zac Conlogue photo

Zundel is a Nordic skier in the winter, and he was looking to have a relaxing spring season, but playing in the doubles matches heightened his focus.

“I came in from a pretty good ski season last year — skiing went pretty well that year, I was pretty satisfied with that,” Zundel said. “I was like, ‘OK, I am going to take this as an easy season, not train too hard — just have fun with it.’ After those first few matches, I just got competitive with it. It kind of took off from there.”

Mt. Blue coach Zac Conlogue allows players to challenge teammates ahead of them on the depth chart once a week in practice to what’s known as a ladder match. Zundel challenged Kaden Allen for the third singles spot and won.

“(Zundel) is a very determined guy,” Conlogue, who has been a coach for Zundel’s tennis teams since middle school, said. “He wants to be the best, and he’s always pushing to move up. We had six seniors last year, and he wasn’t afraid of them, he just wanted to get better. He made the whole team better because he kept challenging them. He would challenge them once a week.”

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Zundel never looked back after taking the third singles spot, going 10-3 during his sophomore season.

“It’s really thanks to the coach — he had me play at a higher level since sixth or seventh grade, and he brought me up along with him to get ready for the high school competition,” Zundel said.

Two of Zundel’s three losses came against Waterville’s Josiah Bloom and the other was to Mt. Ararat’s Landon Weaver in the Class A North playoffs. Bloom was a senior last year, and Weaver was a junior.

Conlogue is glad Zundel made the push to be a singles player last season because six of the 2021 Cougars graduated, including the top two singles players, Michael Ferrari and Ayden Biesaw.

“Tennis is all about getting three points (for the team match), and having a guy like Zundel, who has put the time in and has the experience at singles, is going to make a huge difference in how we play,” Conlogue said.

Conlogue said Zundel worked a lot on creating points during the offseason.

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“Last year, I just hit the ball back, and this year, I am hitting the ball back with a purpose, rather (just) than hitting the ball,” Zundel said. “It’s hard to explain, but I don’t want to win a point by (my opponent) messing up. I want to win a point by doing something right.”

Zundel said he hasn’t developed and particular shot, but he did work on his serve last summer after the season ended.

“Just countless hours in unbearable heat, which is motivational when it comes down to it,” Zundel said. ” It’s really beneficial how much progress has been made.”

He said his serve has more power, and he is able to put spin on the ball, which allows him to create shots.

Despite the loss of Ferrari and Biesaw, Zundel isn’t Mt. Blue’s number one singles player yet. That honor belongs to sophomore Bernardo Tovar, a foreign-exchange student from Mexico.

“Zundel was having trouble with him at the beginning of the year,” Conlogue said. “Our new guy is a power hitter, and Carson is trying to play like him too much. (Zundel) wasn’t playing as well. He has figured out, ‘I can’t play his game, I have to play my game.’ He picks up on stuff, and he has guys around him that are better than him, with my assistant coaches and (Tovar).”

Zundel said competing with Tovar will make him better for the 2023 season.

“I haven’t played a whole lot with him yet,” Zundel said. “He’s definitely a harder hitter than me, but I am hoping to catch up by the end of the season.”

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