SOUTH CHINA — Brock Glidden plays soccer at one speed, straight ahead and relentless. The Erskine Academy senior’s fall season can best be summed up in a blur, the kind of player who never shies away from challenges, contests every ball in the air and keeps coming at the opposition as a one-man wave.

On the wrestling mat in the winter, it’s more of the same from Glidden, whose season for the Eagles ended in a qualification for the state championship meet last month.

So how does a wrestler and a soccer player, fiercely competitive in both, like tennis?

“Tennis is a little different,” Glidden said Wednesday during practice for Erskine’s season opener at Medomak Valley on Thursday. “It’s definitely not as physical as soccer and wrestling. In tennis, you’ve just got to smile and tell them, ‘Good job.'”

A look at both Erskine tennis rosters, on the boys and girls sides alike, shows that Glidden is not a rare case. Senior Michael Sprague is another standout soccer player and wrestler, and classmate Kayla Hubbard is one of central Maine’s best girls soccer players. There are field hockey players, basketball players, swimmers and more on the Erskine tennis rosters this spring.

It’s just the way head coach Ryan Nored likes it, too. In every family, real or perceived, you need different personalities to tie it all together.

“The fact that I can have the girls 105-pound state (wrestling) champion, right next to one of our best mathletes, right next to our theater director, right next to our best soccer player, right next to one of our super basketball players, right next to one of our best swimmers — that’s what makes the family aspect,” Nored said. “The kids love it. It’s more of a tight-knit group. It’s awesome.”

There is a stigma still attached to tennis, something the Eagles’ top boys player Nick Howes knows but hopes is changing.

“People are starting to accept that tennis is a sport a little bit more. You hear people scoff at it sometimes — ‘You play tennis?’ — but it’s a great community.”

Tennis has one thing going for it, above all else.

“It just seemed like a fun sport,” Glidden said. “I heard tennis was a lot of footwork, and so is soccer and wrestling. I thought I could try it. I love it now. It’s one of my favorite sports, definitely.”

Howes and junior Ellie Hodgkin feel an ownership stake in Erskine tennis. Both have poured their focus into tennis at this point in their respective high school careers, and they’ve taken an active role in getting more Erskine kids to come out for the team.

Their efforts have provided the Eagles with a deeper roster — 40 tennis players in all — with more compeitition for varsity spots.

After narrowly missing out on the Class B tournament last year, the boys graduated only one player and have an eye on making the playoffs this season. Hodgkin made the state singles Round of 32 in 2017 and is the starting point for the girls to return to the postseason.

“Some of the greatest athletes in the school are here,” Howes said. “You don’t think of wrestlers as tennis players, but it translates pretty well. Everybody’s growing and gaining those skills.”

“It just seemed like a fun thing to do, becaue I didn’t really have a spring sport,” sophomore Lucy Allen said. “I thought it would just be something to pass the time, but I definitely like it more than that.”

If nothing else this season, Erskine has the competitive nature of athletes from across the sports landscape to fuel its postseason hopes.

Nored is counting on it.

“Kids want to win,” he said. “They want to be competitive and win. You have these competitive kids out here now, none of them want to lose. They all fight for their spots. The competitive nature is needed — if you don’t have it, it shows.”

Rest assured, though, the competitive fire which burns so brightly doesn’t affect the team’s chemistry. Think of it like the brothers who constantly roast one another at family dinner but turn an angry eye toward any outsider who might try to do the same.

“Even though we’re all out here competing for spots on the team, which makes it kind of competitive, we all want to help each other and get better equally,” Hodgkin said. “We don’t even see the competition. We just all want each other to get better.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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