The finish was too disappointingly quick, but it did not lessen a historic season for the University of Southern Maine men’s tennis team.
With a lineup built on players from Maine, the Huskies went 14-4, won the Little East Conference championship, swept the league’s coach, player and rookie of the year awards, and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament for just the second time in program history.
The season came to a sudden stop Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Amherst, Massachusetts, when Stevens Institute of Technology of Hoboken, N.J., beat USM 5-0. Stevens won all three doubles matches and clinched the best-of-nine competition with a pair of wins in singles.
Leading the way for Southern Maine this season were three newcomers of sorts – the top two singles players, Tyler Adams and Max Wilkey, and Coach Aaron Bergeron.
Bergeron spent one season as Ron Chicoine’s assistant before taking over this season as head coach. A native of Gorham and a 2008 graduate of Gorham High, Bergeron quickly decided he had a talented cast of players and determined that in-season wins would result from increased preseason training.
“We got together in January and decided we have a lot of talent and if we work hard enough we can win the conference,” Bergeron said. “From Day 1, I’ve been running these guys pretty vigorously and getting them in shape. There’s no magic. It’s just hard work and determination.”
Adams, a sophomore from Standish (Bonny Eagle), was the Little East Player of the Year, and sophomore Max Wilkey, a Cape Elizabeth resident and the No. 2 singles player, was Rookie of the Year.
Joining Adams on the all-conference first team were freshman Kyle Curley of Gorham at No. 3 singles, junior Scott Gagne of Lewiston at No. 4 singles, junior Thaddeus St. John of Weld (Mt. Blue) at No. 5 singles, and senior Christopher Ross of Somerset, Massachusetts, at No. 6 singles. Ross and senior captain Corey Dyke of Monmouth made the first team at No. 3 doubles. Wilkey in singles, Adams and Gagne at No. 1 doubles, and Curley and Wilkey at No. 2 doubles were second-team picks.
“We’re all a lot of small-town kids that didn’t necessarily want to play a lot of junior tournaments and travel, and we’re all coming together now,” Adams said. “All of us definitely share a love for the game.”
Adams was enrolled at USM as a freshman but did not play during the spring season. After a year of acclimating himself to college life, he joined the team this year and grabbed the No. 1 singles position, going 15-3. His 14-match winning streak corresponded with the team’s 14 straight wins. His pedigree as an unheralded in-state player (although he was a three-time quarterfinalist in the high school state singles tournament) also matches the team.
Sometimes the foundation of a strong season gets some unexpected support. That happened in the case of Wilkey.
According to Bergeron, the 6-foot-4 Wilkey stopped playing tennis as a junior, burning out after being a nationally ranked junior. He eventually moved to Hong Kong, living with his father. After a stop in New York City, Wilkey moved north and settled in Cape Elizabeth. While attending Southern Maine Community College, Wilkey reached out to Bergeron and expressed an interest in returning to the courts.
“We kind of lucked into him and we didn’t hate it,” Bergeron said. “From Day 1, I could see (the talent). Even if he was rusty, you could see a couple forehands, a couple backhands and you know the kid had talent.”
Wilkey compiled a 9-3 singles record and did not drop a set in the conference season.
Curley was also instrumental to the team’s success, going 10-6 in singles. He and Wilkey were 11-2 at No. 2 doubles. Curley started playing tennis his freshman year of high school, cracked the Gorham lineup as a sophomore and helped the Rams win back-to-back Class A state championships in his junior and senior seasons.
He said he knew little about the USM program. He was just excited that a coach showed interest in him playing college tennis.
“I knew how good the players were because I’d seen some of them practice while we were out on the courts,” Curley said. “But I didn’t know how well they did in their matches.”
An early win against UMass- Boston, the defending Little East champions, showed Curley his team could be special.
“We were missing (Wilkey) and we beat them 7-2,” Curley said. “That was when I realized we would be a pretty tough team to beat.”
Bentley University sophomore Malcolm Oliver of Damariscotta (Lincoln Academy) recorded the program’s best 54-hole score in at least 17 years when he went 74-71-71—216 at the NCAA Division II East/Atlantic Regional, held on the par-71 Edgewood Country Club in Charleston, West Virginia. Bentley finished sixth, missing a trip to nationals by seven strokes.
Oliver tied for seventh individually, two strokes away from advancing.
Guilford College senior Lily Colley of Wells was named a first-team All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference selection. Guilford went 12-7 and reached the final of the ODAC tournament for the first time, losing to Washington and Lee. Colley’s twin sister, Becca, was a second-team all-ODAC pick.
Lily Colley led the ODAC in scoring with 73 goals and 60 assists. Her 133 total points led the NCAA in scoring as of May 4 and ranks 12th in NCAA Division III history.
Becca Colley was fourth on the team in scoring with a career-high 50 points (38 goals, 12 assists) and graduates as Guilford’s all-time leader in caused turnovers (91).
Bentley freshman attack John Wheeler of Scarborough was named to the Northeast-10 All-Rookie team. Wheeler was Bentley’s third-leading scorer with 10 goals and 11 assists.
Bentley University junior guard Keegan Hyland of South Portland was named to the Academic All-Northeast 10 Conference team. On the court, he averaged 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers and 51 percent overall in his first season of college action. He also earned a 3.89 grade-point average as an economics-finance major, making the President’s List in each of his first three semesters at Bentley.
Newbury College junior third baseman Steven Broy of Gorham earned second-team All-New England Collegiate Conference honors for the second time in his career. Broy batted .325 with 24 RBI and became the sixth player in program history to reach 100 career hits.
Bentley University sophomore midfielder Kelsey Howard of Scarborough was among 10 Falcons named to the 2013 Gladiator by SGI Division II National Academic Squad by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association. The team recognizes players with a cumulative GPA of 3.30 or higher through the first semester of 2013-14. Howard, a starter at Bentley, was also on the national academic squad as a freshman and was named to the Academic All-Northeast 10 team.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
Assumption College freshman Libby Gajewski of Biddeford (McAuley) was named the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year after helping the Greyhounds win the conference championship. Gajewski won the 200 freestyle with a school-record time of 1 minute, 55.69 seconds. She was second in the 100 free and sixth in the 50 free, breaking school records in both events during the prelims with times of 53.90 and 24.90, respectively. Gajewski also helped four relay teams place in the top two, including the winning 200 free and 800 free relays.
Eleven times this season, Bentley sophomore Nicola Mancini of Falmouth was named the Northeast-10 Diver of the Week. Recently she was named the league’s Women’s Diver of the Year. At the NCAA Division II championships, Mancini twice earned All-America honors by finishing fifth off the 3-meter board and eighth in the 1-meter event.
Beloit (Wisconsin) College junior Alicia Hoffman of Cumberland (North Yarmouth Academy) was honored at the school’s student-athlete banquet for having the women’s swimming and diving team’s highest individual GPA.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: