HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton boys and girls tennis squads have a strong mixture of returning veterans and talented newcomers eager to make their marks.
Nancy Mooers, who is entering her sixth season as coach of both the boys and girls varsity tennis teams, is cautiously optimistic about what the new year will look like.
“A lot of the girls seem to have played through the summer and the level of play at this point compared to last year is way up,” Mooer said. “We lost two on the girls team — Dina Kortesky and Reagan Perfitt — who played first and third singles. The boys did not lose anyone.”
Members of the varsity boys squad are seniors Jadon Gentle, Caleb Solomon, Bradley Bean and Gage Bartlett; juniors Nicholas Hardy and Brody McLaughlin; sophomores Kole Skehan and Jackson Cullen; and freshmen Jay Tweedie and Rider Austin.
Members of the varsity girls squad are juniors Lydia Byron, Natalie Delucca, Cindy Hanningan, Hillary Peabody, Maria Peterson, Haley Quint and Riley Sylvain; sophomores Lucy Duff-Hebert and Sophie Lorom; and freshmen Emily Bushey, Olivia Cyr and Mimigwes Weston.
“The ladder has yet to be decided as to who will be playing,” coach Mooers said.
The Shires struggled last season, with neither squad making the postseason. The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.
“I think things will be a lot different this year,” Mooers said. “With tennis, you decide if you want to put the time in to improve.”
Coaching both the boys and girls varsity clubs has proven challenging over the years, the coach said.
“The hardest part is that I don’t get to watch all of the matches,” Mooers explained. “Caribou is the only site that has all of its courts in one location. You don’t know what you need to work on if you don’t see it (the match).”
Tennis is the only high school sport where athletes must keep track of their own scoring, and often serve as their own judge as to whether a shot was in or out. Coaches are only allowed to talk with their players once during their match.
Houlton splits its tennis matches between the three courts at Houlton Community Park and two additional courts at the Houlton Recreation Center. During competitions, Mooers often stays at one location, while the opposing coach is at the other site in case.
Assisting Mooers with the program is volunteer coach Tim Youngfellow, a former member of the Shire tennis program.
Houlton is tentatively slated to open its season at noon on Tuesday, April 19, for a match with Stearns/Schenck. The first home match is slated for Friday, April 29, also against Stearns/Scheck.