On most Wednesdays at the end of third and fourth grade at the old Plummer-Motz Elementary School in Falmouth, Brendan McCarthy and Justin Brogan would board bus No. 5 and get off at Foreside Fitness, where they would share a tennis lesson and perhaps play a match.
“It’s been pretty close the whole way,” McCarthy said. “He’s a great player, so I’m happy to be close to him.”
McCarthy played No. 2 to Brogan’s No. 1 on the Falmouth tennis ladder this spring, but in the state singles tournament it was McCarthy who rose to the top, winning all five of his matches in straight sets to join Brian Patterson as Falmouth’s only schoolboy state champions.
For doing so, McCarthy is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year in boys’ tennis.
“He’s a really hard worker in everything he does, including tennis,” said Brogan, the tournament’s top seed who withdrew in his first match after reaggravating an ankle injury. “You won’t meet anyone nicer than Brendan.”
A left-hander with a tough serve and solid groundstrokes, McCarthy made quick work of Mt. Ararat freshman Nick Mathieu in the finals, winning 6-1, 6-2 in less time than it took Olivia Leavitt and Maisie Silverman, on a nearby court at Bates College, to play the first set of the girls’ final.
A year ago, McCarthy was the singles runner-up to Jordan Friedland of Lincoln Academy. Instead of returning to the top of Falmouth’s singles ladder for his senior year, McCarthy had to face Brogan in a preseason challenge match. Brogan was the singles runner-up as a freshman and sophomore before taking a year off from high school competition to hone his game in hopes of attracting college attention.
Brogan won the challenge match, 7-6, 6-3. McCarthy can’t remember the score of the tiebreaker, but thinks it was 10-8.
“Obviously, I wanted to play No. 1,” McCarthy said, “but it worked out.”
Indeed, Falmouth ran the table in its first year in Class A, capping a 16-0 season with a 3-2 victory over Mt. Ararat. McCarthy never dropped a set, either in team competition or the singles tournament.
“I had him in class, for honors pre-calculus,” said Falmouth tennis coach Bob McCully, a math teacher who also coached McCarthy in eighth-grade basketball. “He did a great job there, too. Just a really pleasant kid.”
A favorite McCully memory from this season was when McCarthy and Brogan, remembering how welcoming the seniors were back when they were new to high school, asked if they could work on doubles with freshmen Trey Fallon and Peter Stegemann.
“They each took a freshman for a partner and every point, they dissected, afterward, what they did right and what they did wrong,” McCully said. “They played a bunch of games that way, then they played the two of them against the two freshmen.”
Although he concentrated solely on tennis throughout high school, McCarthy played baseball, soccer and basketball and ran track when he was younger. He even messed around with hockey, and shoots a puck and swings golf clubs and baseball bats as a right-hander.
Next fall he plans to enroll at Bentley College, where he will study business and play a Division II tennis schedule.
“We don’t let the tennis get in the way of the friendship,” Brogan said. “Both of us made a conscious effort, I think. We’re both competitive but we don’t let it spoil something better.”