Thornton Academy’s Dariy Vykhodtsev returns a shot in 2017. ALEX SPONSELLER/ Journal Tribune

Thornton Academy’s Dariy Vykhodtsev returns a shot in 2017. ALEX SPONSELLER/ Journal Tribune

SACO — The Thornton Academy boys tennis team had a historic 2017 spring, going undefeated in the regular season and once again advancing to the Class A South final against eventual champion Falmouth.

The Trojans continued to cement their place as one of the elite programs in Maine, and complied a 44-2 record over the past three seasons — the best run in school history.

A major component of TA’s success has been singles player Dariy Vykhodtsev.

Vykhodtsev, a sophomore, has impressed in each of his first two seasons in high school. He finished in second place in the state singles tournament in 2016 and made it to the semis in 2017. He also finished both regular seasons undefeated, and was named to the Southwestern Maine Activities Association’s first team each year.

Vykhodtsev led the Trojans on the court, but TA coach Andrew Carlson was equally impressed with his leadership off of it.

“I think the difference between his sophomore season and his freshman season was his emergence as a leader on the team, both on and off the court,” said Carlson. “Tennis is a very individual game and he found a way to step outside of his individual success and mentor some of the other guys in the program. That showed a real understanding and maturity of his role on the team moving forward.”

Despite failing to win their second straight state title, the Trojans experienced development as a team throughout the 2017 campaign, much thanks to Vykhodtsev’s selflessness in big matches.

“He was more concerned in the playoffs about how the other guys were doing than how we was going to do. That may show a confidence in his game but it also shows his support of his teammates … that is what we are looking for from him moving forward. High school tennis is about getting three points and Dariy understands that,” said Carlson.

Although winning a team state title is Vykhodtsev’s goal, he still hopes to claim a state singles title as well. Shortly after losing in the conference final to Falmouth, he decided it was time to evaluate new solutions to put his game over the top.

“As soon as the (conference final) was over he said, ‘my tennis is OK but I got physically outworked, so what can I do?’ For example, Dariy is going to step up and try to make the varsity soccer team. He isn’t doing it to become a better tennis player, he’s doing it to become a better athlete,” said Carlson. “That athleticism will hopefully help him win a state championship, and hopefully that athleticism will help his teammates develop an overall better athletic ability. That’s a pretty mature way of looking at it.”

Opponents will have to face Vykhodtsev for another two seasons. He hopes that he, along with his teammates, will continue to grow and remain atop the state of Maine for years to come.

“It gives you a solid foundation to play on. We realize that there is a very small handful of players in Maine that can push him and compete with him. It’s a great foundation and we have some really good guys coming back,” said Carlson. “Dariy has vocalized that he wants to continue to work with those guys in the offseason because he realizes the more he hits with guys the more he can give them feedback. His teammates really appreciate that and appreciate him.”

— Associate Sports Editor Alex Sponseller can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 323. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

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