Andrew Hopkins-Lisle is a sculptor.

So when he looks at the Portland High boys’ tennis team, he sees not what is missing — experienced singles players and seniors — but what’s beneath the surface.

He sees potential.

Hopkins-Lisle, who teaches at the Maine College of Art, took over the program a month ago and is excited about its prospects.

“They are a work in progress,” said Hopkins-Lisle, who videotaped strokes in preseason and plans on doing it again at season’s end to clearly show his players their improvement. “They’re committed and they’re all working hard.”

The Bulldogs have five juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen. Their top two singles players, juniors Isaac Jaegerman and Will Chapman, managed only one game between them off Tyler Adams and Zac Cary of Bonny Eagle in Monday’s opener.

Even so, Portland freshmen Chris Eye and Dana Kuniholm won at second doubles, and the Bulldogs were up a set at third singles (sophomore Malcolm Henry) and first doubles before rain interrupted the match, to be continued at a later date.

Not that Hopkins-Lisle is focused on results. Not with a young team that only won a few matches last season.

“As I told the team, I don’t care if we don’t win a match,” he said. “I want us to win and I want you to succeed, but I also want you to improve and get better, and apply things we’re doing in practice to your match.”

That means no ‘poofing’ your second serve just to get it in, he said. That means hustling after every ball and trying to construct points instead of simply sitting back and slugging.

A graduate of Ellsworth High and Tufts University who also studied at the University of Maine and the School of Fine Arts in Boston, Hopkins-Lisle also has coached tennis at Brunswick High and as an assistant at Bowdoin College. At Portland, as he did at Brunswick and Bowdoin, Hopkins-Lisle designed a team logo. He’s invested in this team and, so far, the feeling seems mutual.

“Engaging a student, whether it’s sculpture or tennis, is exciting,” he said. “I’m not perfect at it, but I do love it and hope my enthusiasm for teaching shows.”

SPRING BREAK for McAuley girls’ coach Joe Kilmartin and Cape Elizabeth boys’ coach Andy Strout means an annual sojourn to the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy in Hilton Head, S.C.

Last week, Kilmartin chaperoned six of his girls and Strout had five of his top seven boys at the camp, also attended by players from Cheverus and Fryeburg Academy. In all, 18 high school players from Maine took part in daily three-hour sessions of drills and instruction.

Strout first made the trip in a van in 1982. A few years later, Cheverus Coach Wayne St. Peter, then at Portland, brought his team, and Kilmartin and McAuley followed. Greely and South Portland also have done the trip. Fryeburg is in its third year.

“I use it for a couple of things,” said Kilmartin, whose trip counter has reached 18 years. “No. 1 is team bonding. A couple of the girls hadn’t been before, so I think it’s really good for them.”

No. 2, Kilmartin said, is simply being on the court hitting balls for a good portion of the day. In addition to the afternoon instruction, his girls played matches — some of them ladder matches — in the morning.

And then there’s the feeling of swinging free and easy under sunny skies amid 80-degree temperatures. That’s hard to replicate in Maine in April.

“There’s no doubt,” Kilmartin said, “the weather is terrific.”

Three McAuley players, including junior Addie Devine, who plays first singles, missed the trip in favor of a school-sponsored adventure to France and Spain. Tapas and chateaux have their place, as well as dropshots and volleys.

With Devine still not back from her trip abroad, McAuley nonetheless won its opener Monday, 5-0 against Marshwood in a match that started outside and finished inside at Foreside Fitness in Falmouth.

Cape Elizabeth’s scheduled opener against the Waynflete boys — a match pitting the defending Class B and Class C state champions — was postponed until Tuesday. Waynflete Coach Jeff Madore joked that Strout didn’t feel conditions were windy enough at the notoriously breezy Cape Elizabeth courts to give the home team a sufficient advantage.

THE SMAA doubles tournaments originally scheduled for May 7 have been pushed back to May 21 because of a conflict with a scheduled SAT Reasoning Test. The boys will play at South Portland and the girls at Deering Oaks in Portland.

The Western Maine Conference doubles tournaments are also scheduled for May 21, at Waynflete for boys and Falmouth for girls.

IF YOU think the Falmouth girls are loaded now, eighth-grader Meghan Kelley still hasn’t reached high school and already is ranked 41st in the country for girls 14 and under (and she’s only 13). She recently won two matches at the Easter Bowl junior tournament in California and is the reigning Betty Blakeman tournament champion.

Of course, with a player of Kelley’s caliber, she may opt to train on her own and continue playing USTA events. Either way, you get the feeling Falmouth will be the team to beat among Class B girls for the foreseeable future.

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