Before this season, Tobin Thibeau had never attended a doubles tennis tournament. That all changes this weekend.

For the first time since 1980, the Maine Principals’ Association will sponsor a statewide doubles tournament. Sixteen teams  representing five conferences across the state will compete on Saturday and May 20 at Bates College in Lewiston.

The Kennebec Valley Athletic Association is one of three conferences that will send four boys’ and four girls’ teams to the state tournament. The others are the Penobscot Valley Conference and the Southern Maine Activities Association.

“I’ve never been to a doubles tournament before, and I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like,” said Thibeau, a Waterville Senior High School junior.

Doubles players around central Maine say they are excited for the opportunity to compete for a state title.

“It’s a new addition to competitive tennis in Maine,” said Thibeau’s partner, junior Martin Hazelhurst. “It’s going to be really fun to compete.”


“We practice all year in doubles. If we just have a singles tournament, all that practice we had in doubles just goes to waste,” added Skowhegan junior Erick Cunliffe, who plays with partner Bronson Sprague. ” It’s really good to see that we do have a doubles tournament, so we can show off our skills as a pair and get to it. It’s a great goal, and we want to see how far we can make it. If we put our minds together, we can make it far.”

Competitors in the doubles tournament must have played a majority of their regular-season matches in doubles. Furthermore, players who have been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 on their team singles ladder are ineligible for the doubles tournament.

“I think (the doubles tournament) is great, especially because if you’re in the singles tournament, you can also do the doubles tournament, which we were pretty excited about,” said Winthrop sophomore Madelyn Marx, who along with partner Ellie Barrett has qualified for the doubles tournament. “I remember my (freshman) year asking, ‘Where’s the doubles tournament?’ I think it’s a really great opportunity for doubles players, because they’re already not recognized enough.”

Winthrop girls tennis doubles player Ellie Barrett returns a shot during a May 3 match in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Doubles tennis adds a different dynamic to the sport, particularly when it comes to strategy.

“There’s tactical differences,” Hazelhurst said. “You can have one player up (near the net) and one player back, two players up, two players back. It adds more to do in practice and makes the game a little more complicated in a lot of ways.”

Being able to read your partner’s movements on the court is crucial for teams to succeed in doubles tennis.


“If you make a mistake, we always joke (about it), make each other laugh,” Barrett said.

“(Doubles) is a great environment,” Marx added. “When I was playing singles, I was like, ‘I miss Ellie on this court right now.’ I just love the communication (on the court).”

Hall-Dale girls tennis doubles player Lily Drouin-Scease, lower left, returns a shot during a May 3 match in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cunliffe and Sprague, of Skowhegan, have not played together for long, but both make it a goal to mesh on the court.

“It’s about the dynamic, you have to get used to your partner,” Cunliffe said. “If you don’t play with each other a lot, it’s hard to get that flow with your partner, to form a bond.”

There’s also the added pressure of not wanting to let a partner down on the court during a match.

“You definitely don’t want to let down your teammate,” said Hall-Dale sophomore Parula Clark, who competes with teammate Lily Drouin-Scease. “But if you have a good connection with your teammate (the pressure eases) because everybody messes up.”

“It’s nice sometimes to have someone (give positive reinforcement), to say, ‘You good?’ or ‘Good job,’ instead of being out there all alone on the court with no one to talk to you,” added Drouin-Scease.

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