In only his sophomore season, Waterville’s Charlie Haberstock was getting the top billing.

New coach Ken Boykin was moving Haberstock up to first singles, meaning he was going to be facing each team’s best player. Easy matchups were going to be fewer and farther between, and the standard for winning matches was going to be increased.

Haberstock, however, looked at that as a positive.

“It was definitely very fun to play at No. 1 singles,” he said. “It’s a much higher level of tennis, and you get some great matches, and you have to play against some really fun players. That was my favorite part (of the season).”

Haberstock proved he was worthy of the job, taking Waterville to the B North semifinals and also making the Round of 16 in the state singles tournament. For his performance, Haberstock is the Morning Sentinel Boys Tennis Player of the Year. Mt. Blue’s Chris Marshall and Mick Gurney were also considered.

“We had pretty high expectations for the team this year,” said Haberstock, who was third singles last season. “We made it to the Northern Maine finals last year. We definitely have a great tennis community here. There are always a lot of people that are really into it, so we expected to do pretty well.”

They did, with Haberstock, who went 14-4 in both team and individual competition, leading the way.

“If there’s one thing about Charlie that just stands out, it really has to do with his consistency,” Boykin said. “Not only from a physical performance perspective on the court, his stroke production and the way he plays the game, but really his mentality. The way he approaches the game. He’s so even-keeled. He’s never too up, he’s never too down. And you really have a tough time knowing what the score is if you just look at his expression.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t feel the nerves and the pressure any player can experience — particularly in those situations when the first four matches have been split, and suddenly it’s all on the top players to come through.

“I don’t think I’m the best at pressure,” he said. “It does get to your head, and when you lose confidence, it makes you swing slower. It definitely matters.”

One of the ways Haberstock went about beating it was by working in the offseason. He took lessons with Jason Tardif at Champions Fitness Club, and was played matches when those lessons ended.

“I played a lot this winter,” he said. “Probably three or four times a week. I love it.”

The training improved his game and honed an advantage that he has had since he first picked up a racquet. Haberstock is left-handed, which Boykin said presents a variety of benefits.

“Most of the players are right-handed, so the common strategy that a right-handed player would probably try to employ is to hit to the other right-handed player’s backhand,” he said. “Well, if you’re playing a lefty, you’re hitting into their forehand. … It’s just unfamiliar for a right-handed player. There’s something extra they have to think about, just by playing a left-handed person.”

The players who do figure it out, though, aren’t in the clear just yet.

“Charlie has a really, really good backhand,” Boykin said. “But his forehand, just like most of us, is better. … He’ll get out there, and once he gets you into a rally where he is dominating with his forehand, he’s not going to let you go. He’s not going to let you get out of that situation. You’re going to have to force your way out with good play.”

That was on display during the singles tournament. Haberstock, who lost in the first round last season, beat Caribou’s Sawyer Deprey 6-3, 6-2 in the Round of 48, then topped Lewiston’s Caden Smith, the 12th seed in the tournament, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Round of 16.

“I got pretty lucky in the draw. I played the lowest seed in the Round of 32, the 12th seed in the state,” he said. “But you know, they’re good players, and it was really fun. … I think that was a big part of it this year, having no expectations, at least in the later rounds. The pressure was on the other player.”

Haberstock’s job wasn’t finished. There was still the matter of the Waterville team, and Haberstock dazzled in a 4-1 win over No. 4 Hermon in the regional quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over the Hawks’ Nate Fettig. Next up was No. 1 Caribou in the semifinals, where Haberstock battled Parker Deprey — the seventh seed from the singles tournament — before falling 6-1, 4-6, 2-6.

Getting back to that point won’t be easy, as Waterville loses its second and third singles and first doubles team. No. 1 singles, though, will be taken care of this time.

“We have a lot of young, athletic people. They just haven’t played tennis very much,” Haberstock said. “I think we can make it back to the playoffs if we work hard.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.