Nick Mathieu dabbled in baseball and soccer, but when he started playing tennis he was hooked. He loved the individual aspect of the sport, the lack of outside influence.

“It was a matter of how hard I wanted to work,” said Mathieu, who convinced his father to hit at Maine Pines in Brunswick in the predawn hours before school.

“Five days a week I would go in with my dad, from 4 to 7 a.m.,” he said. “We’d open up the club and he’d feed balls to me for three hours.”

Mathieu completed a remarkable high school career at Mt. Ararat in Topsham. He reached the final of the state singles tournament all four years, winning three-set matches as a junior and senior after twice being runner-up.

For the second straight year, he is the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Player of the Year in boys’ tennis.

“He’s a good athlete who could have done anything,” said Mt. Ararat Coach Don Foley. “He could have played lacrosse, baseball. His brother is very good at track. But (Nick) concentrated on tennis. That’s what he wanted.”

In four years, Mathieu went 85-2. He lost only to Brendan McCarthy of Falmouth in 2014 and Isaac Salas of Waynflete in 2015. He plans to continue playing at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire and study business with a concentration in finance and a minor in biology.

“My goal going in (to high school) was to win all four, honestly,” he said. “I figured it was good to aim high. I’d still do well even if I didn’t reach it.”

There were sacrifices. Mathieu said he spent more time in the gym lifting weights, cross training and doing core and balance work than he spent with friends. He credits improved fitness for still feeling fresh at the end of his 2-hour, 20-minute 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Nick Forester of Falmouth in the singles final.

If he has any regrets, it’s the time he spent traveling to tournaments nearly every weekend from seventh to 10th grade.

“I’m happier now,” he said. “Looking back, I definitely wouldn’t have done as many tournaments as that. Now it’s more at home, training for the select big tournaments.”

He has several sprinkled throughout New England this summer. He’s also coaching and giving private instruction. But this weekend he’ll be on the Roach River north of Greenville, casting flies for brook trout and salmon. The trip is a birthday present from his parents.

“I have a balance,” he said. “Whenever I’m not playing tennis, I’m fishing.”

Foley, who coached another four-year singles finalist – three-time state champ Mike Hill – has known Mathieu since he was 12 and admires his passion.

“He gets very energized, let’s put it that way,” Foley said. “I told him the nearest comparison tennis has to another sport is boxing, and that tennis final was like a boxing match, one blow after another, back and forth, all day long.”

Telegram All-State Team

Brandon Ameglio, Waynflete senior: Ameglio knocked off the fourth and fifth seeds in singles tournament to become the second unseeded player in recent memory to reach the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champ Nick Mathieu. He’ll continue playing at Connecticut College.

Declan Archer, Kennebunk freshman: Archer was unseeded but reached the singles quarterfinals before being derailed by eventual finalist Nick Forester. Playing No. 1 singles, he went 10-2 in team matches for a team that finished 2-10.

Nick Forester, Falmouth sophomore: An ambidextrous player who returned from a knee injury to lead Falmouth to the Class A state title, he reached the final of the singles tournament and extended defending champ Nick Mathieu to three sets in a hard-fought championship match.

Matthew Jarmusz, Morse senior: Jarmusz advanced to the singles quarterfinals before falling to No. 3 Dariy Vykhodtsev. He helped lead Morse to a 12-2 record and into the Class B South semifinals. In four years of team play, he never lost a match.

Thomas Jarmusz, Morse senior: Jarmusz won a third-set tiebreaker to reach the quarterfinals before losing 6-3, 7-5 to Brandon Ameglio. He was unbeaten in team play. He’ll attend Ithaca College with his brother.

Nick Mathieu, Mt. Ararat senior: A two-time singles state champion and four-time finalist, he won the last three games in the singles final to beat Nick Forester, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. He had an 85-2 career record. He plans to continue playing at Colby-Sawyer College.

Cole Ouellette, Lewiston senior: A two-time state champion in hockey who plans to continue in juniors, Ouellette’s athleticism helped him reach the singles quarterfinals before falling 6-1, 6-1 to Nick Mathieu. He led Lewiston to the Class A North title over No. 1 Brunswick.

Dariy Vykhodtsev, Thornton Academy sophomore: A singles finalist as a freshman, he returned to the semifinals this spring before falling 6-3, 6-4 to Nick Forester. He was unbeaten in team play as the Golden Trojans finished 15-1.

Coach of the Year

Noah Capetta, Camden Hills: Capetta led the Windjammers to a second consecutive Class B state championship with 5-0 shutout of Yarmouth. In Capetta’s four years at the helm, Camden Hills has reached the state final four times, compiling a record of 58-6. “I love sharing my passion for tennis and the life lessons that I’ve learned through practicing, playing and teaching tennis,” Capetta said. He was previously an assistant at Greely and at his alma mater, Hermon. He said tennis is always a challenge because graduation and the end of the school year always coincide with the last week of playoffs. “I’ve been lucky to have a group of players who are dedicated to the team and are able to keep many balls in the air.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH