Evan Backus’ climb from a freshman competing primarily in exhibition matches to Mt. Blue’s No. 1 singles player leading his team to the regional finals, is a testament to what hard work and talent can do when combined in the right hands.

“Everyone sees how hard (Backus) works. He puts in a lot of effort and he holds (teammates) to a high standard,” Mt. Blue boys tennis coach Zac Conlogue said.

Backus’ strong senior season included earning second team all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A honors at first singles, reaching the Sweet 16 of the state singles tournament, and helping the Cougars turn in their best season with a trip to the Class A North championship.

For his work, Evan Backus is the Morning Sentinel Boys Tennis Player of the Year.

“He’s always someone we can rely on, someone we can count on every match. Evan just brings it every day,” Conlogue said.

Backus joined the Mt. Blue tennis team as a freshman neophyte to the sport. That season, he played in exhibition matches, studied older players like Sullivan Abbott — who graduated last year — practiced and learned.

“I was hitting as much as I could,” Backus said.

By the start of this season, Backus had established himself as the top player on a much improved team. Conlogue called Backus a smart player who can pick up things during a match that will help him win, and cited two matches this season as examples. The first was an early season match against Lewiston, in which Backus played Temo Teckenberg. Normally the Blue Devils No. 2 player, Teckenberg played first singles that day and won the first set over Backus, 6-2.

“Evan devised a good strategy to come back and won the match,” Conlogue said.

Added Backus: “I regained my composure. Temo’s really good at getting the ball in play. I had to shorten the point.”

The other match in which Conlogue felt Backus was at his best was a three-set win over Brunswick’s Dasol Kim. During that match, Backus busted strings on two rackets, forcing him to play with a third, unfamiliar racket.

“It seemed that every time I started to play well, then I’d lose a racket,” Backus said.

For his part, Backus said he learned more about his game and what it takes to succeed from a match he lost, to Mt. Ararat’s Nick Mathieu, the top singles player in the conference. Backus lost in four sets, but learned he could hang with the best players in the state.

“It felt good to play with somebody that good and hit with him,” Backus said.

When he looks back on his senior season, Backus thinks he’ll remember the team success the Cougars enjoyed, which included a win over top-seed Hampden Academy in the regional semifinals.

“Together as a team, we all had chemistry,” Backus said. “We were a team.”

“He was a huge reason for our success. We wouldn’t have been in that part of the season without him,” Conlogue added.

Backus will enroll at Maine Maritime Academy in the fall, where he plans on joining the soccer team.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

<URL destination=””>[email protected]

</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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