The 1993 Cony boys tennis team went 14-1 and won the Class A state title. John Gasink, with hat on holding plaque, played at No. 1 singles and led the Rams that season. Submitted photo

 

Editor’s note: This is the 17th 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.

AUGUSTA — Before you dig too deeply into the record books, there’s something John Gasink wants you to know about Maine’s 1994 high school tennis season.

“There should probably be a little bit of an asterisk there,” Gasink said with a laugh this week.

As a senior at Cony High School, Gasink was crowned the 1994 state singles champion. The logs show that he beat Brian Bouchard of Lewiston High School in straight sets on a waterlogged June afternoon to become Cony’s first and only individual Maine high school champion. The victory of Bouchard was the lone time in his career Gasink beat the Blue Devil, either during school play or on the state and regional junior circuit.

“That was a good time to do it,” said Gasink, who is now a trial lawyer for a firm in Austin, Texas, where he resides with his family. “I remember the last point of that match. I was up either 40-love or 40-30 — it had to be one of those, because I was serving from the ad court — and I said, ‘I’m going to hammer an ace down the middle,’ and I did it.

“I remember that.”

Gasink’s victory capped an incredible two-year run for Cony’s boys tennis program. In 1993, the Rams defeated Sanford to win the Class A team championship. In 1994, the year of Gasink’s title, Cony lost to Lewiston in the state finals.

Seth Meyer was Cony’s No. 2 singles player behind Gasink in each of those seasons.

“We had some fabulous teams,” said Meyer, who is the current tennis professional at Midcoast Recreation Center in Rockport. “I think we knew, honestly, from our freshman year that we had a pretty good team developing. We may have gone through the whole season without losing a set (in 1993) — although my memory after 27 years might be wrong. But we could tell pretty early on that we had a good chance to win it, that season in particular.”

Gasink was the driving force behind Cony’s noteworthy two-year run.

“He was a phenomenal player, an aggressive player,” Meyer said. “He was a great serve and volleyer at a time when not a lot of kids were doing it. That was kind of his tactic, and he was so good at it and so good under pressure.”

The pressure to win the individual state title lessened by the time the spring of 1994 rolled around, something Gasink was — and is — still acutely aware of.

The best player not only in Maine but in the entire New England region, Falmouth’s Brian Patterson, opted to play baseball that season. Tennis was Patterson’s game — he played collegiately at the University of Notre Dame — but after winning the state championship as a freshman at Falmouth he opted to keep his tennis separate from school until returning as a senior to win another state title in 1995.

That opened the door for Gasink, but not without a pair of significant obstacles: He still had to beat St. Dominic’s John Weber, who defeated him in the ’93 state semifinals, and Bouchard, whom he’d never beaten previously.

“He was just incredibly consistent. There were not really any holes in his game,” Gasink recalled. “He was that player who always made you hit one more shot. What had plagued me throughout juniors and high school was inconsistency — particularly on my backhand.”

That backhand, when Bouchard and Gasink met for the singles championship, proved crucial.

Gasink remembers a few key points from that day. The first was that rain forced the championship match indoors, and the faster indoor surface suited Gasink’s serve and volley style. Another thing he remembered was that he had to battle back some nerves after winning a tight, first set before breaking serve early in the second to take command.

The other thing Gasink remembered was that a formerly inconsistent backhand had shown up to play that afternoon.

“Early in the first set, Brian was putting a lot of pressure on my backhand,” Gasink said. “He came in on my backhand a few times, and he clearly had a strategy. But there were two or three points in a row where I hit two backhand passing shots — one up the line and one crosscourt — that gave me a lot of confidence that this would not be a day I’d be struggling to find my backhand.

“I remember those backhands.”

The 1993 Cony boys tennis team went 14-1 and won the Class A state title. Submitted photo

Bouchard got his revenge, as Lewiston beat Cony a few days later for the team title. Bouchard beat Gasink as part of the Blue Devils’ 4-1 victory.

Still, it was a fine cap to a two-year run for Cony’s tennis team that felt a lot less like a “team” or a “program,” and a lot more like family.

“The boys were good friends outside of tennis. They really liked being together.,” said Carolyn Neighoff, who spent seven years as Cony’s tennis coach. “We went to Hilton Head (South Carolina) for some early season tennis— and if they were not on the tennis courts, they were playing beach volleyball. They played it seemingly endlessly. They really liked each other. Sometimes you don’t have teams that don’t. It made it a real pleasure to go to practice, to go to matches.”

“It was fun to participate in that with some of my truly closest friends,” said Meyer, Neighoff’s son. “To have my mother be a part of that — it was literally family — but for all of us, and to have her so involved with us and having known us all for so many years growing up, it really felt like a family.”

Gasink reaped the rewards of that close-knit group, and the competition he had every day in practice with a player of Meyer’s caliber. He said Meyer was far and away the best No. 2 player in the state — Meyer was the only Ram to earn a point in the 1994 state championship loss to Lewiston — and would have been a No. 1 anywhere else.

“I had been playing some of best tennis of my life that summer and fall and heading into that school season (in 1994),” Gasink said. “My overarching memory of Cony tennis was the team and was just how much fun it was.”

 

 

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