HAMPDEN, Maine — Most high school seniors can’t wait for graduation day and the exciting albeit unknown future that awaits them.
That anticipation typically is accompanied by a sense of nostalgia stemming from all the memories made along the road leading to Pomp and Circumstance.
Ashley Woodside is no exception. The Hampden Academy senior is looking forward to studying athletic training at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, in the fall, with an eye toward a career as a physical therapist.
But she’s also feeling bittersweet, as her successful high school tennis career is approaching its final chapter.
“To be honest, it feels like the last four years have gone by so fast,” said Woodside, who will compete in the 2014 state singles tournament, which continues Friday at Colby College in Waterville. “I’m proud of how I’ve played but disappointed that it’s coming to an end.”
Woodside’s college experience likely will include a continuation of her tennis career, as she has been recruited to play the sport at Colby-Sawyer by Chargers’ head coach Barry Schoonmaker, who has guided his team to the NCAA Division III tournament each of the last three seasons.
Still, she would like to make the most of her remaining matches at the high school level, and her career track suggests she will.
As Hampden’s top-seeded player for each of her four high school seasons, Woodside has ranked among the state’s best statewide since advancing to the singles tournament Round of 16 as an unseeded freshman in 2011.
She returned to the Round of 16 as the No. 9 seed a year later, then was seeded seventh last spring, when she reached the quarterfinals before being ousted by Falmouth’s Olivia Leavitt, who went on to win the individual championship.
Woodside enters Friday’s singles playdown as the No. 6 seed and is scheduled to open play in the Round of 32 against the winner of a match earlier in the day between Christine Levesque of Mount Ararat of Topsham and Erin Patton of Caribou.
Woodside has not played Patton, but did defeat Levesque last spring when Levesque played first singles at Mount Ararat.
The tournament continues with the Round of 16 and quarterfinals at Colby College on Saturday, with the semifinals and championship matches for both boys and girls slated for Monday at Bates College in Lewiston
“My goal for the weekend is getting to the semifinals,” Woodside said. “I’ve progressed every year, and I’m just going to try to play the best I can and hope to get there.”
Woodside’s progression is not reflected just in her finishes at the state tourney, but also through the overall development of her game.
“My goal for the past four years has been to improve as much as I could each year,” she said.
Woodside has compiled a 62-5 overall record, with her only regular-season defeat coming against 2012 individual state champion Maisie Silverman of Brunswick — the second seed in this year’s field behind Leavitt.
“When I was a freshman, I was very impatient,” said Woodside, who has enhanced her personal fitness for tennis by running cross country for Hampden in the fall and indoor track during the winter. “But as I’ve gone on, I’ve gotten stronger. I’ve gotten better with my strategies and more consistent with my shots. I used to stay back a lot, but my coaches have really helped me with coming forward.”
Woodside also has led coach Rich Nutter’s Hampden girls team to a 10-2 regular-season record this spring — good for second place in Eastern Maine Class A behind undefeated Brunswick, the two-time defending state champion.
Regional team quarterfinals are scheduled to be held June 5.
Another veteran Eastern Maine tennis player aspiring to make a deep run at this weekend’s state singles tennis tournament is Bangor senior Sam Bolduc, who hopes the experience gleaned from his two previous appearances in the event will prove beneficial.
“My sophomore and junior years I was kind of overwhelmed by everyone around me,” said Bolduc, who is seeded ninth among this year’s field of 48 tournament qualifiers. “But being seeded this year I definitely feel like more a part of it.”
Bolduc is one of three Bangor boys to qualify for Friday’s Rounds of 48 and 32. He will advance directly to the Round of 32 while classmates Josh Landry and Kenny Colpritt — both first-year singles players for coach Cindi Howard’s Rams — face Round of 48 challenges.
Bolduc’s first match is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of a morning clash between Hampden Academy’s Filip Bilek and Thomas Jarmusz of Morse of Bath.
Bolduc reached the Round of 48 as a sophomore playing third singles for Bangor, then advanced to the Round of 32 as the Rams’ top singles player last spring before being ousted by fourth-ranked Matt Gilman of Cape Elizabeth.
Bolduc has an 11-1 record at first singles for Bangor again this spring, dropping only an early season match to Nick Mathieu of Mount Ararat of Topsham, the fourth-seeded player in the singles tournament.
“This year where I’m seeded ninth my hope is to reach the round of eight, because that would mean I’d (surpassed) my seed,” said Bolduc, who plans to study engineering at the University of Maine beginning this fall and play in the school’s club tennis program.”
Bolduc also has led the two-time defending Eastern Maine Class A champion Bangor boys team to an 11-1 record this spring — good for the No. 1 slot in the region’s Heal point ratings.
Bangor is one of just three boys teams statewide to advance three players to the singles Round of 48 this year along with perennial Western Maine powers Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth. The Falmouth contingent involves three of the top five seeds in No. 1 Justin Brogan, No. 2 Brendan McCarthy and No. 5 Aiden McGrory, while Cape Elizabeth has No. 10 Gabriel Torres and unseeded Eli Breed and Luke Gilman.
Just two girls teams, Falmouth and Brunswick, have three players in the state singles field. Falmouth, which moved up to Class A this year after winning the last six Class B state titles, is represented by top-seeded and reigning state champion Olivia Leavitt, No. 4 Julia Brogan and No. 11 Caroline Ray, while Brunswick’s qualifiers are No. 2 Maisie Silverman, No. 9 Ali Stankiewicz and unseeded Leah Soloway.