High school tennis teams take center stage today, as the playoffs begin with preliminary round games across the state. Four local teams in total ”“ two boys teams and two girls ”“ will take to the court today and tomorrow, trying to keep their seasons from coming to an end.

The two boys teams playing in the prelims have had very different recent history. The No. 9 Massabesic Mustangs, who take on No. 8 Cheverus on Wednesday, reached the postseason for the first time in any of the players’ careers. The No. 11 Kennebunk Rams, who face No. 6 Portland today, were the last team into this year’s Western Class A playoffs after reaching the regional final a year ago.

The Rams had to deal with the loss of No. 1 singles player Josh Behrens to graduation and a schedule full of new opponents after moving to the Western Maine Conference from the SMAA, but they won three matches in a row before falling in their season finale to qualify for the playoffs. Their top two singles players ”“ Alex Pearson at No. 1 and David Behrens at No. 2 ”“ played at singles last season.

Despite losing four starters from a year ago ”“ No. 1 and No. 2 singles players and both players from the No. 1 doubles team ”“ the Mustangs were able to improve on last season’s 4-8 record to go 6-6. The Mustangs have upperclassmen at all three singles spots ”“ Jake Collupy, Justin Langlois and Kyle Duffy ”“ and at three of the four doubles spots.

The Thornton Academy Trojans earned a bye to Thursday’s quarterfinal round after clinching the No. 4 seed in Western Class A with a 10-2 record. The Trojans opened the season with eight-consecutive victories and will look to at least replicate last season’s run to the semifinals. The Trojans returned all but their No. 3 singles player and No. 1 doubles team, but filled those spots with newcomer Jared Waterhouse at No. 3 singles and the tandem of Dylan Gooch and Simon Belliveau, who played together on the boys JV squad last year. Thornton boasts Victor Menezes, who reached the state singles tournament round of 32, at No. 1 singles.

The Thornton Academy girls team also received a bye and the No. 4 seed for the playoffs. Unlike their boys tennis counterparts, the Trojan girls are a newcomer to the postseason. After not competing in the playoffs her first three years, senior co-captain Alyssa DeMario finally gets to experience the tournament. DeMario, the Trojans’ No. 2 singles player, is joined at singles by two talented underclassmen: freshman Eva Sachs at No. 1, and sophomore Grace Pickering ”“ who went 11-0 in the regular season ”“ at No. 3.

No. 7 Sanford and No. 12 Biddeford are both making return trips to the postseason. The Spartans will host No. 10 South Portland today, while the Tigers will travel to No. 5 Cheverus.

Sanford’s match against the Red Riots will be a rematch of last year’s prelim, which the Spartans won 5-0. Sanford got strong play this year from No. 2 singles player Misa Mai and the No. 1 doubles team of Ciara Negron and Lauren MacPherson, while senior Kathryn Doiron had a solid season in her first year as the No. 1 singles player.

The Tigers took the final spot in the Western Class A tournament after edging the Red Riots 3-2 in their regular-season finale. The veteran Tigers lot to Cheverus in their only regular-season matchup back on May 20.

Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.

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