READFIELD — Micah Charette thought his high school tennis days were over.

“I was debating, what am I going to do in the spring to stay active?” said Charette, who for his senior year transferred from Fort Kent Community High School, which had boys tennis, to Maranacook, which didn’t. “I was definitely like ‘Am I going to run track? Am I going to go back to baseball? The debate was there.”

Meanwhile, a few towns over, Matt Anderson — Charette’s former coach — thought the same thing after he was unable to start a program at Monmouth Academy.

“I was kind of reserving myself to thinking that maybe it’s not in the cards for the next couple of years,” Anderson said.

The Fort Kent transplants found the solution to their common problem in each other, and they got a bevy of students to join their side. Anderson is the coach and Charette is the No. 1 player for the Maranacook boys tennis team, which is back this year for the first time since 2014.

Their story isn’t one of fortune and good timing, however, but one of persistence and determination. Maranacook’s team is the result of the players not just joining the new squad, but bringing it back to the school’s offering themselves.

“This was 100 percent student-driven, player-driven,” Anderson said. “It was these players who came together, (went) to the athletic director and wanted this to happen.”

The return of boys tennis in the spring actually began in the fall, when Charette was playing for the boys soccer team fresh off the move south from Fort Kent. Talking with teammates and other students, he found a group, made up of experienced players and novices alike, that was interested in starting a team in the spring.

Mark McLaughlin, Charette’s soccer teammate, was among those on board. So were sophomores Brady Stockwell and Robbie McKee.

“There seemed to be a growing interest from the underclassmen of ‘Maybe this could be something I’d want to try,'” Charette said. “We pretty much decided we wanted to talk to the athletic director and see if we could get that started.”

Charette said athletic director Al MacGregor wanted to be sure that the interest wasn’t fleeting, and that the prospective players were committed to a new team.

“One day we had probably 20 kids show up to the office saying they were willing to play tennis if we got a team started,” Charette said. “And I think that really got the ball rolling.”

Still, the Black Bears needed a coach. It didn’t take too long for Charette to think of Anderson, in his second year as an English teacher at Monmouth after two years leading the Fort Kent team, and it took even less time for Anderson to say yes.

“(Charette) sent me a text basically telling me that he and some guys down here were getting the program started and that they would be looking for a coach, so I jumped at that opportunity,” Anderson said. “The chance to coach again was definitely something I wanted to get back into my life.”

With a roster of 13, Anderson had the numbers he needed. He also had a wide spectrum in experience and ability among the players signing up. While Charette and freshmen Garrett Fine and Thomas Trafton projected immediately as top-of-the-ladder players, Anderson had to spend the first few practices teaching others the beginning elements of the game — where to stand on the court, basic footwork, and even how to hold the racquet.

“The first practice I was like ‘We’re starting from square one. This isn’t what I’m used to,'” Charette said.

But Anderson had a plan. Knowing his players had to get used to playing serves and volleys, he brought the team to the A-Copi Tennis and Sports Center so it could practice while waiting for the snow to melt off the courts. Soon after, the team went outside, and as the practices racked up, Anderson could see his team making strides.

“They’ve shown rapid improvement, which I think just speaks to their commitment to the sport, and gets back to them really being the ones to start this sport and really pushing to have the sport back,” he said. “They’ve been working hard, it’s been cold out here — we played in the snow on Friday — and they haven’t complained.”

The players are confident they’re seeing the improvement as well.

“The first couple of days, we were like ‘Okay, this could be interesting.’ But over time we kept working and working and working, and now we started (thinking) ‘Oh, we can actually play now,’ ” McKee said. “We’re definitely very determined kids, especially now because none of us has any real experience here, but we’re still spending two-and-a-half hours out here every day trying to get better.”

How much better can they get? Good enough for some optimism to set in. Even with inexperience throughout the roster and a tough Class B schedule to play, Anderson and his players are looking for a competitive season.

“I would like to sneak into a playoff spot. I think this team is definitely capable of squeaking into a playoff spot,” Charette said. “Maybe not a high seed because we definitely play some great competition, but we could surprise a lot of people for a first-year team.”

The players are certainly eager to turn some heads.

“I think, overall, our expectations are pretty low but our hopes are high,” McKee said. “And when you’re there, you can’t lose.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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