When the Madawaska boys tennis team won its first Eastern Maine Class C championship in a decade last spring and narrowly lost to powerful Waynflete of Portland in the state final, there was reason for celebration in the St. John Valley.
There was also reason for concern, as two of the eight players on the roster were graduating. The Owls couldn’t be 100 percent certain they’d be able to find replacements, because the feeder system that developed most of the stars of the 2009 team — a recreational program and a middle-school team — no longer existed.
But fifth-year coach Ben Siriois and his squad are back, with just enough depth to contend for what they hope is another deep postseason run this spring.
“Just barely, but we’re back,” said Sirois, whose eight-player squad opens its season Thursday against Houlton.
Top singles player Shawn Parker and doubles player Kyle Pelletier were the only graduates from the 2009 team that took Waynflete to a pair of deciding third-set matches at third singles and second doubles before the Flyers emerged with a 3-2 victory good for their second straight state title.
Freshman doubles player Adam Lavertu also left, transferring to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone.
But in their stead the Owls feature four returning starters in singles players Nathan Beaulieu and Christian Lizotte and the first doubles team of Jamie Cyr and Jacques Daigle.
“Nathan played No. 2 last year, but he and Shawn could have been pretty interchangeable at No. 1, and Christian was very competitive as well,” said Sirois.
“And our high doubles team really works well together, they really complement each other. Jamie is 6- foot-7 and is strong at net, and Jacques plays well off him.
Those veterans are joined by new No. 3 singles player Matt Deschenes, a first-year high school tennis player as a junior who is also a standout basketball player for Madawaska, last year’s No. 8 player in sophomore Gregoire Faucher, and freshmen Aaron Thibeault and Cameron Beaulieu.
One key to Madawaska continuing its recent strong run in the Class C ranks — the Owls also reached the Eastern Maine final in 2008 — is strong leadership from the upperclassmen on the team, particularly Nathan Beaulieu and Lizotte.
“They know what to expect,” said Sirois. “And at practice they’re not only working on their own games, but they’re also playing with the younger players and working to help them out. They know that in order to be a stronger team we have to not only be strong when they play but also at third singles and doubles.”
Penquis no-hitter first since ’85
The Penquis of Milo baseball team accomplished something Friday for the first time in 25 years — the Patriots pitched a no-hitter.
Kiel Larson, Brandon Smith and Eddie Cobb combined to no-hit Piscataquis of Guilford 18-0 in Penquis’ opening game of the season. Larson worked the first three innings of the five-inning contest, with Smith and Cobb each working one inning before the game was halted under the 10-run rule.
The trio combined to strike out 12 batters and walk five while being backed by an errorless defense.
According to Penquis coach Jeremy Allen, that’s believed to be the first no-hitter thrown by the Patriots’ pitching staff since Dale Piche no-hit Schenck of East Millinocket in 1985.
The no-hitter is the latest step in the resurgence of the sport at Penquis.
The Patriots had their best season on the diamond many years last spring, finishing the regular season with a 10-4 record good for sixth place in Eastern Maine Class C before being ousted by Lee Academy in the preliminary round.
This year, the Patriots are 2-0 after a win at Schenck on Monday, and are scheduled to play Dexter in their home opener at Harris Field on Friday afternoon.
Ironically, Penquis’ no-hit performance against PCHS was matched the same day by a three-pitcher no-hitter thrown by Orono in a 14-4 victory over Searsport.
In that game, Tyler Eddy, Dominic Mowrer and Brandon LeVasseur combined to hold Searsport hitless while handing the Vikings their first loss.
PI native named Windham AD
Presque Isle native Rich Drummond, who has served as athletic administrator at Portland High since 2005, is leaving that post to assume the same position at Windham High School, where he and his family reside.
The 40-year-old Drummond is a graduate of Presque Isle High School, where played baseball and basketball — and was a second-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice for the Wildcats’ basketball team in 1989.
Drummond went on to the University of Maine-Presque Isle before beginning his teaching career in Milo. He went on to coach basketball, teach and become the athletic director at Noble of North Berwick in the late 1990s, remaining there until accepting the Portland athletic administrator’s post in 2005.
At Windham, Drummond will replace Steve Merrill, who announced his resignation in March after 12 years on the job.
Windham competes in Western Maine Class A as a member of the Southern Maine Activities Association.