When Kobe Tibbetts assesses his level of play during his first days as a member of the Madison boys tennis team, he is brutally honest.

“I had only played tennis for one week in the summer. I had no idea what I was doing,” said the recently graduated Tibbetts of his freshman season.

Over four years, Tibbetts got better. When he graduated last month, Tibbetts did so as the top singles player in the Mountain Valley Conference. Tibbetts went undefeated through conference play. He advanced to the second round of the state singles tournament.

For his efforts, Kobe Tibbetts is the Morning Sentinel Boys Tennis Player of the Year.

If the Mountain Valley Conference awarded a Mr. Congeniality, Tibbetts would have won that, too.

“The running joke was, if you couldn’t find (Tibbetts), look on the other team’s bench,” Madison coach Travis Rogers said. “He’s one of those guys, he just loves meeting new people. You couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the school.”

Tibbetts took up tennis when he decided neither baseball nor track and field interested him. A three-sport athlete (he also played football and basketball for the Bulldogs), Tibbetts was athletic enough to get the basic of tennis and play at second doubles his freshman year.

“He was fast around the net. He had some natural ability,” Rogers said.

By the time he was a junior, Tibbetts was the Bulldogs’ second singles player. Playing against last year’s No. 1, Steven Ouellette, helped Tibbetts improve, as did playing against coaches Rogers and Ron Chillington.

“I didn’t get to see some aggressive players in most of my matches. When I started playing (Rogers), it was a whole new level of tennis,” Tibbetts said. “Mr. Chillington, his serve is insane. It’s 108 miles an hour. Now when I play guys with a strong serve, their serve seems normal to me.”

“The one drawback to being that undefeated guy in the conference is, you don’t always have somebody nipping at your heels and challenging you,” Rogers said.

Tibbetts said most of his improvement came in his junior season. Tibbetts learned to stop admiring his good shots and immediately get ready for his opponent to return the volley from anywhere on the court. The point is never over until it’s over, Tibbetts said.

“I was getting more consistent. I was playing Steven all the time. We made each other better,” he said.

This season, Tibbetts began with a close win over Hall-Dale’s MacKenzie Creamer, and from there, just got better with each match.

“He got his feet under him, and he was on cruise control from there on out,” Rogers said.

Tibbetts’ season peaked with his first round win at the state singles tournament. Tibbetts earned a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Andre Daigle of Presque Isle.

“We were pretty happy to see that,” Rogers said.

Added Tibbetts: “This year was my third year being in the tournament. I knew I had to play hard and aggressive.”

Academically, Tibbetts’ plan is to spend the next two years at Kennebec Valley Community College, before going on to the University of Maine to study engineering. He’d also like to join Maine’s club tennis team.

“He’s just getting started, tennis-wise,” Rogers said. “He’s still got more in him.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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