Mt. Blue’s Bernardo Tovar hits the ball to Cape Elizabeth’s Gabe Berman during the state singles tennis tournament in May at Bates College in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Sophomore Bernardo Tovar came to Farmington and made an impact both in matches and in practices for the Mt. Blue boys tennis team this spring.

The foreign exchange student from Morelos, Mexico, became almost a player-coach for the Cougars. When he played, he played well, and reached the quarterfinals in the MPA state singles tournament. He also has been chosen as the Sun Journal’s All-Region Boys Tennis Player of the Year.

“He actually showed up the first week of practice, and he was wearing like jeans and sweat pants — he didn’t look like a tennis player,” Mt. Blue coach Zac Conlogue said. “It’s like, ‘OK, what do we got here?’ Then he started playing: ‘Oh, he’s good, he’s the real deal.’

“The energy he came to practice (with), he was always willing to help, and he’s a guy that lifted the level of our team.”

Tovar taught his teammates little techniques, which he learned at a tennis academy in Mexico. Conlogue said having Tovar teaching helped since there were 18 players between the Cougars’ varsity and junior varsity tennis teams in 2022.

The biggest benefactors of Tovar’s expertise were those junior varsity players.

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“He was almost like a second head coach out there, talking about little techniques that everybody could use to work on and talking strategy with them,” Conlogue said. “Our exhibition players could see the patterns he’s using and the strategies he was using.”

Conlogue added that Tovar’s play boosted the confidence to his new teammates in their abilities, which helped the Cougars go 7-5 this season and reach the Class A North quarterfinals. In team matches, Tovar went 9-1.

Mt. Blue’s Bernardo Tovar looks to hit a shot to Ellsworth’s Koa Barrett in a Round of 16 match at the MPA state singles championships May 21 at Bates College in Lewiston. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Tovar didn’t need time to adjust to the high school competition and Conlogue, who plays in adult tournaments, saw firsthand Tovar’s skill level.

“I knew once he beat me (in practice) — I play a fairly good amount of tennis, and once he crushed me, I knew we were in good shape,” Conlogue said. “There were very few matches I went into it (thinking) he might lose. He was a guaranteed point (in team matches). He played some good players, but they weren’t quite at his level.”

Conlogue added that while Tovar clearly takes tennis seriously, he also takes time to make it fun.

“He’s a very relaxed guy, he has fun,” Conlogue said. “He works in different things in matches — which for me, he plays around at times, but he just has fun. He loves tennis; he goes out there and has a good time. He plays his style, and he’s very talented.”

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Tovar earned the fifth seed for the state singles tournament, which gave him a first round bye. Then he beat Gabe Berman of Cape Elizabeth 6-3, 6-0 in the second round. In the round of 16, he defeated Ellsworth’s Koa Barrett 6-2 in straight sets.

Then in the quarterfinals, facing the fourth-seeded Sam Yoon of Falmouth, Tovar started to cramp up and had to retire in the second set. He lost the first set 6-2.

“That match looked like it was destined for a third set,” Conlogue said. (Tovar) was up 5-4; I think it was 30-all. He was right there; he was playing well, and he started to figure out how Sam was playing.”

Tovar is the first Mt. Blue boys tennis player in Mt. Blue’s history to reach the quarterfinals of the state singles tennis tournament.

Tovar, who could not be reached for this story, returned home after the school year and, according to Conlogue, is planning to attend a tennis academy next year in Mexico.

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