As it turned out, the missing ingredient was neither kick serve nor topspin.
What Maisie Silverman needed in her quest for the state singles tennis title was oxygen.
“There were definitely times when I could feel the pressure,” she said of the three-set matches she won in the semis and finals played on Memorial Day at Colby College in Waterville. “I could feel my focus going away. I just went back and I breathed. I pictured what I was going to do, and I performed.”
For winning the singles tournament a year after finishing as runner-up, the Brunswick High sophomore is our choice for Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year in girls’ tennis.
“In tennis it’s easy to be introverted,” said Cinda Holbach, Silverman’s coach of five years. “A lot of times, under pressure, it’s helpful to focus on the other side of the court.”
It was Holbach who suggested Silverman take up yoga, as much for the mental discipline as the flexibility benefits. Silverman was a willing student.
She had reached the 2011 final before falling to Maria Varano of Kennebunk.
“It’s a little scary the first time,” Silverman said. “There’s just so much pressure, going up against the top seed, being a freshman, having a ton of fans be there. I’ve never experienced that before.”
Having done so made possible her 7-5, 0-6, 6-3 semifinal victory over fifth-seeded Falmouth freshman Olivia Leavitt last month. Silverman went on to defeat second-seeded Annie Criscione, a Falmouth senior, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final.
“I had to fight,” Silverman said. “It could have gone either way. They’re both great players.”
Earlier this month, Silverman led Brunswick to the Class A state championship. The Dragons eliminated six-time defending champion Lewiston in the regional final before edging previously unbeaten McAuley 3-2 in the final, with Silverman scoring the decisive point at No. 1 singles.
Before concentrating fully on tennis, Silverman played soccer and ran track. She plans to run indoor track next winter, with a focus on sprints and the long jump.
The strength in her lower body is part of what makes her successful. More than powerful quads and calves, however, it’s what’s inside her cranium.
“She’s a very smart player,” Holbach said. “She’ll figure out what she needs to do to win.”
Silverman also shines off the court. Recently, she helped Holbach with an exhibition at the Damariscotta YMCA on behalf of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), speaking about resources available for family members of people with mental illness.
“Nothing too heavy,” Holbach said. “She is this beautiful girl who has a great family, but she, too, goes through the stresses of high school and wants people to know there are resources out there that can help.”
Silverman also volunteered to help Holbach with a Tennis Without Borders event, giving a speech before a few hundred people, and collecting resources and equipment to send to Ghana.
“I think it’s important to see kids give back,” Holbach said. “Tennis can be a fairly self-centered sport, so I’m certainly very proud of her.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: