One of the biggest surprises of the high school tennis season is the Erskine girls. The Eagles were 0-12 last year, but they enter this week at 5-3 and No. 7 in the Eastern B Heal points.
“We only graduated one, so our whole team is back,” Erskine coach Erin Corey said. “They just dedicated a lot of time this summer to working on their game. They were sick of losing. I think they have a little more grit this year.”
Erskine opened with its two toughest matches of the season, losing 5-0 to Waterville and Camden Hills. But a 5-0 win over Medomak Valley on May 2 got things going for the Eagles.
“I think the girls were kind of like, â€˜Hey, we just won! So this IS possible!’” Corey said. “They liked the win, and they were hungry for more. The seniors keep inspiring the team to play harder.”
Seniors hold down each of Erskine’s three singles spots. Emma Wilkinson plays No. 1, with Brittany Ibbitson at No. 2 and Kathryn “Sparkles” Fraser at third singles. All three will compete in the Region 3 girls Round of 48 singles tennis qualifying round Tuesday.
“I’m excited to see how they’re going to do,” Corey said.
After eight matches last season, Erskine was still looking for a win. Now, the Eagles are trying to secure a home match in the preliminary round of the playoffs.
“It’s definitely a different mindset,” Corey said. “Instead of going in and thinking, â€˜How are we going to be able to survive this?’ it’s â€˜How can we win this?’ They know what they need to work on, and they want to work on it. They’re a great group of girls.”
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Hall-Dale juniors Clio Barr and Nicole Pelletier both reached the Round of 48 with their play Saturday. Pelletier actually won three matches in the Region 4 girls qualifying round at Bates College. There were 34 girls invited, and by random draw, Pelletier ended up in one of the two play-in matches.
“This is the first time Hall-Dale’s had two in the Round of 48 in — no one knows how long its been,” Hall-Dale girls coach Guy Cousins said. “It’s been at least 10 years.”
After winning her play-in match, Pelletier — who plays third singles for Hall-Dale — was matched up with Grace Hebert, who plays first singles for Dirigo. Cousins said Hebert played No. 3 singles last spring for Dirigo, so she and Pelletier knew each other fairly well. Pelletier defeated Hebert, 8-1, then posted a 6-1, 6-1 victory to advance. The Round of 48 begins May 30 at Colby College.
“Nicole controlled the pace very well,” Cousins said. “Her service was very solid (Saturday), and she’s just very consistent in her play. She’s solid, good technique and typically doesn’t beat herself with unforced errors.”
Barr, meanwhile, was seeded No. 2 in Region 4, but wasn’t exactly working on a full tank. On Friday night, she led Boothbay’s Olivia Zaragozi 4-2, 40-15 in the third set when the match was halted by rain.
“That was a grueling, grueling match the night before,” Cousins said. “We didn’t finish until 8:30, and we were at Bates by 8 o’clock.”
Still, Barr won 8-2 in her first match and 6-1, 6-2 in her second and final match of the day. Cousins remarked to Barr afterward that he thought she played some of her best tennis of the spring this weekend at Bates.
“Her fitness is very good and she had great movement on the court,” Cousins said. “She had her whole game going on Saturday. She’s peaking at the right time in terms of her game.”
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The Mt. Blue girls came away from Saturday with two participants in the Round of 48. Senior Alyssa White wasn’t a surprise, as she went in seeded sixth in the Region 4 qualifying round, which was held at Bates College. Sophomore Eryn Doiron also qualified, but she was unseeded entering the day.
Doiron, who plays No. 2 singles for the Cougars, drew Nichole Jones, Lisbon’s top singles player. After a battle, Doiron came away with an 8-6 win.
“The (other) girl punched the ball and sliced it both sides, and she covered the court pretty well,” Mt. Blue coach Judy Upham said. “Eryn had a hard time getting into a rhythm, but Eryn is pretty good at doing what she needs to do.”
Doiron was in a bracket with Jordan Lau, who plays No. 1 singles for Edward Little, but the EL players were not at Bates on Saturday. In the match that put Doiron in the Round of 48, she won, 6-0, 6-0.
White defeated Lisbon’s Tabitha Porter in the first round in a rare early matchup of No. 1 players at their schools.
“Lisbon’s No. 1 played pretty well,” Upham said. “Alyssa just played that much better.”
White won that match 8-1, then finished off a 6-0, 6-0 win to advance to the Round of 48.
“Alyssa’s serve has improved tremendously this year,” Upham said.
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The Hall-Dale girls have four matches to make up this week. Cousins said that reminded him of a few years back, when the Bulldogs were forced to play three doubleheaders in order to get in all their matches.
One of those doubleheaders was played at two sites: Hall-Dale hosted Lisbon, then played at Winthrop the same night.
Farmingdale to Winthrop isn’t a long drive, but the teams were still under a time constraint. Cousins said that due to a town ordinance, the lights at Winthrop’s court were required to be off after 10 p.m. — and they did go off right at 10, with some matches still going on.
“We had no way to turn them back on,” Cousins said. “Fortunately, the outcome had already been determined.”