SCARBOROUGH – So much for easing into the tennis season.

The finalists of the 2009 Western Maine Class A boys’ tournament once again found themselves across the net from each other Monday afternoon when they kicked off their 2010 campaigns.

As was the case last June at Bates College, Windham defeated Scarborough by a score of 4-1. Instead of hardware, this time the reward was hot dogs, chips and watermelon, as Scarborough boosters hosted a post-match barbecue for these friendly rivals.

“I’m very encouraged,” Scarborough Coach Craig McDonald said after Windham clinched the match with Nate Johnson’s 7-5, 6-2 victory at first singles over Scarborough’s Adam Saltz. “I actually like it this way, because we can build upon it. Hopefully, we’ll meet them again at the end of the year, if all goes according to schedule.”

With seniors dominating both rosters, many of the faces were familiar from the past two seasons. Even so, only the Johnson-Saltz match was exactly the same as last June’s regional final, when Saltz managed only three games off Johnson.

On Monday, it was 5-all in the first set, thanks in large part to Saltz’s powerful serve and improved groundstrokes.

“I’ve been playing him since sophomore year and that’s the closest I’ve ever come to him,” Saltz said. “So it was really exciting.”

Johnson finally broke serve in the 12th game to win the first set, then broke twice in the second after both players backed up — Johnson to receive better and Saltz to avoid the obvious foot faults Johnson ignored throughout the first set.

If Windham had more than the usual opening day butterflies, blame it on the Class A state final, in which the Eagles saw four championship points flutter out of their grasp in an excruciating loss to Lewiston, which won its seventh straight title.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Johnson said of opening with Scarborough. “Not all our guys played in the off-season so I wasn’t sure if we were going to be ready for this.”

Windham seniors Kurt Stultz and Nick Rallis, the two-time defending SMAA doubles champions, were first off the courts Monday, a 6-3, 6-2 victory safely in hand over Scarborough’s Zach Porter and Dennis Liu. It was Stultz and Rallis who had those four match points against Lewiston, the first of them on a net cord.

“It’s been hard for me,” Rallis said. “I still think about that a lot.”

What’s easy to forget is that Rallis and Stultz fought off eight match points, twice as many as their Lewiston opponents, in that three-set thriller.

“It feels good to get another match under us,” Rallis said. “Certainly, we want to get there again and win it.”

At second singles Monday, Windham senior Dan Crocker won 6-4, 6-2 over Scarborough senior Tim Przybylowicz, who played No. 3 last spring.

“We were surprised by the schedule when it came out,” Crocker said. “We were a little bit edgy about this match, but we were prepared. It’s good to get it over with now. The rest of the (regular) season should be significantly easier.”

Dan McGovern, a senior unbeaten in three years at No. 3 singles for Windham, recently lost his spot to sophomore Ryan Johnson, Nate’s brother. When Johnson jumped to a 5-1 lead over Scarborough sophomore Alex Henny, a Windham sweep seemed likely.

A change of tactics, however, led to Henny winning six straight games and taking the match 7-5, 6-2 for Scarborough’s only victory.

“I started coming in to net more and tried to hit an angled volley near the service line,” Henny said. “When I was just standing back at the baseline and trying to hit deep, he hit everything back. Eventually, I’d make a mistake.”

Nate Johnson’s clinching victory gave Windham a 3-1 advantage, making moot the second doubles match, won in straight sets by McGovern and fellow senior Andy Brix over Scarborough’s E.J. Conceison and Dan Slavin.

“It’s great that we won it, but you’re definitely going to see two different teams at the end of the season,” Windham Coach Wayne Martin said. “There’s so much rust out there. The style and the roster could be totally different (in June).”

Martin added, “In theory and on paper, it’s us and Scarborough. I anticipate them to win the rest of their (scheduled) matches. They’re strong.”

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]