Editor’s note: This is the eighth installment of our new series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school spring sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

It was the beginning of the season, long before the first competitive serve, volley or lob was executed, when singles player Elyse Cole approached Winthrop coach Wilbur Shardlow and delivered an eye-brow raising promise.

“Elyse came up to me, right at the beginning, and said, ‘Coach we blew it in field hockey but we aren’t going to blow it in tennis,” Shardlow said. “We are going to win states. As a coach I was thinking, ‘oh my God, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.’ I said to her, very casually, let’s deal with the season first. But in all honestly, I knew going into that season we were so well-balanced. I knew we were going to be tough. I knew I had a special group.”

And fiercely talented.

The 2005 Winthrop girls tennis team delivered on that promise, capping an undefeated season with the Class C state title, the program’s first and only crown.

The Ramblers (17-0) demolished its Mountain Valley Conference adversaries then knocked off perennial nemeses Waynflete and North Yarmouth Academy in the Western C tournament. In the state final, Winthrop made quick work of overwhelmed Orono to finally (and emphatically) reach the pinnacle.

“Everything worked that year,” said Kayla Frechette, 30, who played second singles as a sophomore that spring. “Let me tell you, that season one of my best, most favorite high school memories. The following years were still wonderful for me, but almost a letdown, because it wasn’t that 2005 team. That was my moment. I’ve had so many big moments since then, but when I flash back to that, it was the highlight of my life back then. It was such a great feeling. Not everyone gets that. I feel so fortunate to have had that. The whole season was just phenomenal.”

Winthrop’s Ali Dick was the2005 Kennebec Journal Girls Tennis Player of the Year. Kennebec Journal file photo

Added Cole, 33, who resides in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and twin baby boys: “Our team, we just dealt. We thought we had a chance to win states in field hockey, and we didn’t do it. So we went out and did it in tennis. It was awesome.”

The Ramblers featured a complementary blend of experience. Ali Dick, a junior who resides in New Zealand, played at No. 1 singles. Frechette — who teaches first grade at Bonne Ecole Elementary School in Slidell, Louisiana — and Cole rounded out the singles play. Seniors Sarah Cook and Anna White provided standout play at first doubles. Freshman McKenna Minor and Laura Kenney played at second doubles, and turned in their best performances at the end of the season.

“The confidence I gained that year by being on such an amazing team, experiencing the support, camaraderie and talent encouraged me to continue my tennis career,” Dick wrote in an e-mail. “I went on to play Division III tennis at Smith College in Massachusetts but the highlight of my tennis career will always be with the 2005 Winthrop girls tennis team, which defied all odds to win that state championship trophy.”

“It was one of the easier coaching years for me,” added Shardlow, whose teams won seven MVC titles in 10 seasons between 1997-2006. “I wasn’t dealing with issues. Everybody was different, but what a group. I knew the toughest part would be getting past Waynflete and NYA. I knew that would be the tough part, but we had to get through the season first. And we did. We went right through.’

In 2004, Winthrop finished 12-0 in the regular season, earned the top seed in the Western C playoffs, but then dropped a 3-2 decision to NYA in the regional quarterfinals.

If the Ramblers were going to reach states, they were going to have to beat NYA or Waynflete — if not both.

“When you look back at the states in Maine, it’s a lot of NYA, Waynflete, NYA, Waynflete,” Cole said. “We knew what we faced.”

The Ramblers breezed through MVC play, dispatching opponents in convincing fashion, to again earn the top seed in the Western C playoffs. After beating Boothbay in the MVC title match, Winthrop drew No. 8 Waynflete in the regional quarterfinals.

“Waynflete was 7-7 but they played a (Class) B schedule,” Shardlow said. “But we won that match 4-1, losing only in second doubles. Two of the matches went three sets, so it was close.”

“We started to surprise some people,” Frechette added.

The Ramblers next turned their attention to Dirigo in the regional semifinals, and again pulled out a 4-1 victory. Next up? A date with NYA in the Western C final at Bates College in Lewiston.

“It was a funky match,” Cole said. “There was at least one, if not two, rain delays. That can throw players off. We went right into the evening.”

The teams went back and forth for hours, with Winthrop eventually securing the regional crown with a 3-2 victory. Cole and Frechette won at singles before Minor and Kenney pulled out a crucial victory at second doubles.

“It was tight,” Shardlow said. “That was the match the second doubles put it together. It was the best they played all year. You could see the confidence level grow. We held it together.”

“We had come out of nowhere,” Frechette added. “This little school in Winthrop, Maine. We beat NYA. We beat Waynflete. Those schools were always the end for us.”

White, 32, who lives in Topsham, agreed, saying the NYA victory was pivotal for the program.

Former Winthrop No. 1 singles player Ali Dick still has a board of photos and old newspaper clippings from the 2005 tennis season. Dick helped the Ramblers win the 2005 Class C state title. Contributed photo

“That felt more like a state final than anything else,” she said. “It was a turning point. We were a little scared going into it, and then we got lost in our own heads, but we rallied and we beat them. At that point, there was no other choice but to win states.”

Winthrop would face Eastern C champ Orono, which entered the match 9-4.

“To be honest, and I never said this because you know better, but when I looked at the Orono matchup, looked at the team record, who they played and looked at their individual player records, I knew that there was no way we were going to lose this match,” Shardlow said. “When I looked at the stats, I knew our competition in Western Maine. When we got to states, we were like a freight train at full speed.”

Added Frechette: “I didn’t see how we were going to lose. We weren’t familiar with Orono, but I remember thinking, ‘there’s no way we were going to lose.'”

And they didn’t. The Ramblers rolled to a 4-0 victory, with Dick’s match cancelled due to the threat of inclement weather. By that point, however, the match in Lewiston was already decided. None of the matches went to a third set.

“For four of us — Elyse and three of us on doubles teams – everything was over,” White said. “We had graduation like the next day. Winning states, it was so awesome. I was extremely happy and a little sad at the same time because it was the end. … We went into field hockey looking to win states and then we got vindication in tennis coming out on top.”

Dick, who moved to New Zealand in February 2020, said the state final was anticlimactic.

“It was more difficult to beat both NYA and Waynflete than the state finals,” wrote Dick, 32, who is an international market manager in Wellington, New Zealand. “It felt so good as the underdog public school kids to defeat not one but both private schools in our class, where many of us had experienced defeat in field hockey, soccer or other sports.”

After the final, the team received a fire truck parade in downtown Winthrop, its undefeated season finished.

“Look, we were a tennis team in a football town,” said White. “We came out of nowhere. We had one fire truck parade and no one in town had any idea what had happened. We were just coming down in Main Street on a Saturday afternoon. It was like, ‘hey, we’re back,’ and the rest of the town is going, ‘why is this here?’ ”

Now 15 years removed from the title, the players are living in different parts of the country and beyond. But, they say, the spring 2005 forever unites them.

“We still talk about it,” Frechette said. “We all reminisce. We all have these wonderful memories. This was a special team. I just remember how good it felt to go to tennis every day.”

“We still all feel the same way about each other,” Cole added. “These were times I won’t ever forget. I think we surprised some people. We always had some good teams, some strong teams. When we got over the hump, we were like, ‘we can do this.’ And we did.”

Related Headlines


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.