BANGOR, Maine — The search for afterschool recreation typically led Bangor High classmates Josh Landry and Kenny Colpritt to the golf course last spring.
Nothing was at stake save for bragging rights between the best friends, also teammates on the Rams’ soccer team.
But a chance flirtation with tennis last summer has led to Landry and Colpritt exchanging the golf clubs for tennis rackets this spring, and the two seniors have become pivotal performers as first-year players in helping the Bangor boys tennis team contend for a third consecutive Eastern Maine Class A championship.
Landry has a 12-1 record while playing second singles, and Colpritt is 13-0 at third singles for the top-ranked Rams, which are scheduled to host No. 5 Mount Ararat of Topsham in a regional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“They’re great additions to our team,” said top-seeded Bangor singles player Sam Bolduc. “We had lost both our second and third singles players from last year, and they came in this year ready and excited to play and have done well.”
Neither Landry nor Colpritt had attempted to play the sport — much less considered varsity tennis — before last summer.
But upon picking up rackets for the first time, they found they liked it.
“We just went out and played for fun,” said Landry. “It was a nice day, and it seemed like it would be a fun thing to do.”
That first impression led to Landry and Colpritt spending much of last winter learning more about the sport from Jeff Courtney, a teaching pro at the Armstrong Tennis Center in Hampden.
The pair dedicated much of that time to competing as a doubles team and learning that successful tennis is much more than just using athletic ability and conditioning to chase down shots.
“I remember playing doubles, and Sam and [Hampden Academy standout] Ashley Woodside hitting topspin lobs over us and wondering, ‘What am I getting into?’” said Colpritt.
That discouraging moment soon gave way to more positive results as Landry and Colpritt continued to familiarize themselves with the sport.
“They had a nice athletic base, so from there you could see there was a lot of potential,” said Bolduc. “They reminded me of me when I was younger. I didn’t really know a lot about tennis, but I could just run at the ball and hit it over.”
Neither Landry nor Colpritt played an interscholastic sport last spring. However, the two committed themselves to Bangor’s varsity tennis team just before preseason practices began in March after combining to become their school’s intramural champions in pickleball — a sport that fuses elements of badminton, table tennis and tennis.
“Josh and I played [pickleball] last year, but we didn’t have any tennis skills, so we weren’t very good,” said Colpritt. “But playing tennis all winter made it a totally different game out there.”
Their path to pickleball glory included a semifinal victory over a team that included Bangor boys tennis coach Cindi Howard, followed by a championship-match victory over Bolduc and his partner.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about them except from watching them play pickleball, but I was told they had been working on their tennis during the winter at some clinics,” said Howard. “They worked very well together as a team, and in pickleball, you’re not using the full swings, but they showed they had the racket skills and the athletic ability.”
Landry and Colpritt joined the Bangor High tennis team initially with designs on playing together, but each battled his way into singles competition.
“I actually was looking at them as maybe a doubles team,” said Howard. “But I watched them play and had them play challenge matches and saw them beat some of the kids who had been playing for me for four years. They had the athletic ability, and they were learning the game. They were very coachable. They earned their way.”
Both players not only helped Bangor compile an 11-1 regular-season record, but each joined Bolduc in qualifying for the state singles tournament. Colpritt reached the Round of 48, while Landry won his first state tourney match to advance to the Round of 32.
“At first it was just going out and hitting the ball, but now it’s a lot more strategy,” said Landry.
Both Landry and Colpritt say increased mastery of the sport’s specific elements has hastened their improvement on the court.
“I came up from the bottom, but I think it’s the general strokes that I’ve learned that have been the big thing. Because before that it was just doing what felt good to me,” said Colpritt. “Tennis is like golf in that there are certain mechanics that you just have to do, and once I learned that, everything started clicking.”
That Colpritt and Landry have been quick studies should not come as a big surprise — Colpritt plans to study robotics engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts, while Landry is bound for the University of Maine to major in mechanical engineering.
“Even from the first game you could see it,” said Howard. “Anyone who had seen them in their first games would have seen them as scrappy hitters who got to everything. But they’ve played their matches and gone through practices learning the different techniques and strategies, and now if you look at them, now you’d think they’d been playing for a long time.”
And no matter how far their team advances this postseason, Landry and Colpritt expect to continue enjoying their newfound athletic passion long after graduation.
“It’s a lifestyle activity,” said Colpritt. “Now I’m loving golf and I’m loving tennis, and when I’m older, I can still play both. I can’t go play soccer just anywhere, but when I’m 60 years old, I can still play tennis.”