SOUTH PORTLAND – The past of South Portland girls tennis is decorated with 10 state titles, multiple SMAA and Western Maine championships and even a Maine Principals Association Sportsmanship Award.

Those accomplishments don’t push Elizabeth Scifres though as she prepares for her 20th season at the helm of the high school’s varsity team.

“The history of championships is personal to me, as I was a part of four of them, but that is not a motivator – it’s a memory,” said Scifres, who started her coaching career as an assistant at South Portland in 1999. “My goal is to help students learn to compete at the highest level they can. I take great pride in hearing that we are perennially known as a team with the highest level of sportsmanship.”

A successful year under Scifres is one in which athletes improve their skills and strategy. Getting into the playoffs is always good, too, she said.

The Red Riots are coming off of a 5-8 season, and they’ll look to replace six seniors from last year’s roster. Senior co-captain Abby Trieu, the team’s first singles player, does return, along with sophomores Zoe Collins and Lucy Hartley to form a nice foundation. Chaomei Wang, a senior co-captain, and senior Sjela Brkic are two players moving from junior varsity to varsity who could also make significant impacts on the program both on and off the court.

Personnel-wise, this group is cohesive, Scifres said, and they’ve shown the willingness to put in the work at practice. The team has focused its efforts on endurance, performance-enhancing conditioning, basic strokes and strategy as they prepare for their first match of the season Monday, April 22 at Falmouth High School.


It’s always hard to predict the outcome of matches, but 2019 feels like a building year, Scifres said. And that’s OK with her. After all, she’s been building on her tennis experiences her whole life.

“I have played tennis since I was able to walk,” she said. “I grew up riding the bus to away matches with my mother and her team. Later, I would walk up to the courts for summer tennis camp, or with neighborhood friends, to play a few sets.”

Scifres’ mother was an avid tennis player who played for South Portland in the 1960s and then coached the Red Riots in the 1970s and early 1980s. Her daughter followed in her footsteps, as Scifres played at South Portland in the 1990s and worked at the same South Portland Recreation Department tennis camp that she attended as a child.

“I run that tennis camp … to this day,” Scifres said. “Tennis is in my blood. I love the sport.”

She also appreciates the life lessons – personal ethics, self-control, determination, resilience and grit – the sport teaches those who approach the game the right way. It’s one reason why she doesn’t cut players from the team. Not everyone is going to play varsity, sure, but everybody will learn, compete and hopefully have a positive experience, Scifres said.

She and assistant coach Resty Sapuan make sure they take an interest in the athletes’ lives off of the hardtop, too.

They’ll talk about what is current in the student’s world, what’s going on at school and what their hopes and dreams are, among other topics. Scifres still chats with former players – she’s found her players have given her as much as she’s given them over the years.

Twenty years. Twenty teams. Each one looking to create its own history.

“I enjoy my team,” she said. “I’m pretty well known for saying that, ‘This is my favorite team,’ every year.”

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