Hall-Dale High School senior Spencer Shagoury has every reason to feel confident today when he faces York’s Jack Lawlor in the Round of 48 at the state singles tennis championships at Portland’s Racket and Fitness Club.

Shagoury is unseeded, but he did avenge his only loss of the season Wednesday to 10th-seeded Zach DeBlois of St. Dominic as Hall-Dale won the Mountain Valley Conference championship. After losing in three sets during the regular season, Shagoury beat DeBlois in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1. Shagoury has never played against Lawlor, but he’s prepared for a tough match.

“I know he’s going to be good because he’s there,” Shagoury said.

Should he win, Shagoury will face Waynflete’s Isaac Salas, who is seeded eighth, later in the day in the Round of 32. The top 16 finishers advance to Bates College on Monday where the field will be whittled to four.

For all his individual success, Shagoury is part of a much larger story at Hall-Dale, where the boys and girls tennis teams have turned winning into a way of life. The girls won their third straight MVC title Wednesday over Dirigo and, like the boys, are 12-1 this season. Hall-Dale athletic director Tim Johnson credits girls coach Guy Cousins and boys coach Dan Bence as the driving forces behind the school’s success.

“There’s no coincidence they’re doing well,” Johnson said. “It really does start with them. They’ve created a tennis environment. They are chronically attending to those two programs.”

Winning is really a byproduct of the program’s goal, which is to teach kids how to play and learn the game.

“It’s one of the sports kids can learn and enjoy the rest of their lives,” Cousins said.

Cousins, who also coaches the girls soccer team, has been tennis coach for nine years. Bence, a certified United States Tennis Association instructor, has been boys coach for four years.

“Coach Bence brings a lot of experience that you don’t often see in Class C,” Shagoury said. “He’s also able to connect with the kids on our team.”

Although the girls and boys teams play their matches at opposite venues, Cousins and Bence continually bounce ideas off one another. They are also in the process of putting together a summer program for elementary and middle school kids.

“Guy Cousins is a great coach,” said Bence, who was recently named MVC Boys Tennis Coach of the Year. “I think we kind of complement each other although we rarely get to see each other’s matches. We talk all the time.”

Cousins and Bence started a spring tennis tournament last year known as the Hall -Dale Invitational with the idea of promoting tennis in central Maine and earning a little money for the program. After attracting 12 players last year, the tournament drew 48 this year and earned enough funds for the purchase of a new ball machine. The high school matches draw a lot of spectators, Shagoury said, which adds to the general tennis culture in Hallowell and Farmingdale. The three courts are lighted and draw a lot of play during the summer and fall from kids and adults alike.

Team quarterfinal play gets under way Thursday. The top-seeded girls reached the regional finals last year before losing to Waynflete. The boys also lost to Waynflete in the quarterfinal round. Tennis in Class C has largely been a private school affair dominated by Waynflete or North Yarmouth Academy, which play against Class A and B competition.

“At some point we’re going to have to face one of those private schools to get to that next step,” Cousins said.

Added Shagoury: “The goal is to get to Waynflete and play the best you can play and hope for a miracle.”

• • •

Also participating in today’s Round of 48 are Hall-Dale’s Derek Vigue, Monmouth’s Kasey Smith, Cony’s Dallas Clark, Erskine’s Zhong McClure, Maranacook’s Kelby Mace and Messalonskee’s Jai Aslam, who is seeded ninth. The girls side includes Winthrop’s Amber Pritchard.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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