BREWER, Maine — The Bangor High School boys tennis team has spent the last decade among the pack chasing perennial state champion Lewiston for Eastern Maine Class A supremacy.
But this year the Rams have been the targeted team since the opening serve of their first match, and with a 10-0 record after Wednesday’s 5-0 victory at Brewer, coach Cindi Howard’s team has lived up to those expectations.
“Obviously, we want to go out and win every match,” said Bangor senior top seed Patrick Stewart. “The expectations are high, so hopefully we can keep it up.”
Bangor returned its entire starting lineup, six seniors and sophomore third seed Sam Bolduc, from the 2011 team that advanced to the regional semifinals before being eliminated by rival Hampden Academy.
“Last year we were a little disappointed that we were out of the playoffs so early, we thought we could have gone further,” said senior Robby Brookings, who teams with classmate Kris Bears at second doubles for the Rams. “But we knew that Lewiston and some of the other teams were losing a lot of seniors and we knew we’d all be back, so we figured this could be a good year for us.”
Last spring’s disappointment, combined with the promise this season offered, prompted many of the Bangor players — nearly all of whom are three-sport athletes at the school — to do something they hadn’t done before their previous tennis seasons, play occasionally during the winter.
“That’s what I encourage them to do,” said Howard. “Even though they’re playing other sports, if they could get together just one day a week and keep up with it, that would help, and they did a good job of that.”
That offseason work certainly hasn’t hurt the Rams. Stewart, Bolduc and senior second seed John Szewczyk have teamed with the doubles tandems of Chris Howat and Connor Griffin and Brookings and Bears to win 49 of their 50 individual matches to date.
Bangor won all five of its matches against Brewer in straight sets, with Stewart topping Ian Burgess 6-3, 6-4, Szewczyk defeating Josh Theriault 6-3, 6-1 and Bolduc besting Ryan Boothby 6-3, 7-5 in singles while Howat and Griffin defeated Jonathan Shedd and Gabe Valley 6-0, 6-0 and Bears and Brookings beat Marc Eremita and Eric Rodriguez 6-1, 6-0.
The only nonsweep of a match so far this spring came in Bangor’s 4-1 victory at Hampden on April 30 in which three of the five matches went the maximum three sets. Those teams are scheduled to meet again Friday in Bangor.
While Hampden has provided the stiffest test so far, the Rams’ most satisfying performance may have been their 5-0 win two days earlier at Lewiston — which has won the last nine Eastern A titles and eight of the last nine Class A state championships.
“They’re still a talented team,” said Stewart of Lewiston, which was 7-2 entering Wednesday’s play. “They were missing their first singles when they played us, so we know if we see them again it’s going to be a tough match.
“But it was really nice to beat them. John and I beat them freshman year individually and that was a big deal back then, but to get a collective team win and to get it the way we did, that was a real positive mental boost for us.”
The senior-laden Rams not only have to contend with their remaining opponents in their quest to bring Bangor its first state title in boys tennis since 2002, but also with some hectic final days of high school. Wednesday’s match, for example, was moved up an hour because of an academic awards banquet scheduled at the high school later in the evening.
And graduation for Bangor’s Class of 2012 comes June 3, one day after the regional semifinals and three days before the Eastern A championship match.
“We’ve got a lot of things coming up,” said Szewczyk, “but as long as we stay focused we should be OK. We’re all pretty close, and as long as we keep each other motivated we should be fine.”