As a freshman on the Hall-Dale High School boys tennis team, MacKenzie Creamer’s only playing time came in exhibition matches. As a sophomore, Creamer saw time at second doubles. That was enough to make an impression and convince Creamer he needed to work even harder at improving his game.

“I really took it to heart. Being able to start, I started playing year round,” Creamer said.

As a junior, Creamer earned a singles spot. This past season, Creamer’s hard work was rewarded. He stepped into a leadership role as Hall-Dale’s No. 1 singles player, helping the Bulldogs win the Mountain Valley Conference championship and advance to the Class C South final, where it fell to eventual state champion Waynflete.

Creamer lost just two matches all season.

For his strong season, MacKenzie Creamer is the Kennebec Journal Boys Tennis Player of the Year.

It took four years for Creamer to evolve from someone fighting to see the court to experiencing palpable success on it, Hall-Dale coach Dan Bence said. A key to Creamer’s improvement was playing regularly at the Kennebec Valley Tennis Association’s indoor facility in Augusta.

“He played there as often as he could, and it made a big difference in his play,” Bence said. “He’s very coachable. He understands what I was trying to tell him and made adjustments.”

Experience led to consistency in Creamer’s play. Last season, Creamer focused on strategy in is matches. This season, as Hall-Dale’s No. 1, he focused on confidence. In the past, Creamer would let himself overthink not only opponents, but challenges from talented teammates. Now, as a senior, he just played.

“This year, once I let go and played my game, rather than worry about somebody being better than me. I was able to execute,” Creamer said.

Creamer’s play helped Hall-Dale finish the regular season with a 9-1 record and the two seed in the Class C South tournament. Bence pointed to a pair of matches against Dirigo’s Brandon L’Italien that helped define Creamer’s season. The Bulldogs beat Dirigo 3-2 late in the regular season, and 3-2 again in the MVC championship. Each time, Creamer’s matches decided the outcome. When Hall-Dale played Dirigo in the Class C South tournament, the third match against the Cougars in 10 days, the Bulldogs took a 5-0 win.

“When we had to have (Creamer) for the team to win, he was there,” Bence said.

Creamer also helped his teammates improve during practices. It’s a program tradition for the seniors to help the younger players along, Bence said, and Creamer took on the mentor role easily.

“He just took that job over. I didn’t have to ask him. I didn’t have to tell him. I always felt comfortable asking him to do a specific drill,” Bence said.

Creamer went to tennis camp his junior year, and when he came home he began playing with teammate Eli Spahn. This past season, Spahn improved from second doubles to third singles. While Creamer was quick to give all the credit to Spahn, he also realized playing friendly matches with his friend and teammate helped set Spahn up for success.

“Getting to see him improve was fun,” Creamer said.

Creamer will enroll at the University of Maine in the fall, where he plans to join the Black Bears’ club tennis team.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM