Falmouth High tennis coach Bob McCully hands out the spring schedule to seniors Aiden Hendry, left, Willie Parker and Jack Forester at a practice last week. The Yachtsmen enter the season with a 48-match winning streak, but McCully says he doesn’t know what to expect from his young team. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Cape Elizabeth junior Caroline Gentile didn’t know anyone in town when her family moved from Florida prior to her sophomore year. Now, more than a year into a pandemic, she’s finally trading groundstrokes with people other than her mom.

“It had been such a long time since I had gotten to play,” Gentile said during a break from practice last week. “I hadn’t gotten to play with other girls because I didn’t know anyone who played tennis.”

Gentile will follow senior Blair Hollyday in the Cape Elizabeth singles lineup. Being new to the Maine tennis scene, Gentile doesn’t know what’s in store this spring.

“I’m honestly just happy to play,” she said. “I don’t really know about any of the teams, or what to expect.”

In that respect, she has plenty of company. Not even Bob McCully, in his 50th year as a high school coach, knows what to expect from his Falmouth boys’ team or from opponents he hasn’t seen since June of 2019.

A year ago, McCully figured a senior-laden Kennebunk squad would pose a threat to Falmouth’s 48-match winning streak and three consecutive Class A titles. He also figured a few of the rangy basketball players he coached in middle school would join the tennis team so he could mold them into doubles specialists.

Having no season meant the Kennebunk threat disappeared and the basketball players opted for offseason hoops. McCully’s best player transferred to a tennis academy in South Carolina, another went to a skiing academy and a potential standout opted for track over tennis.

“I have no idea what to expect from anybody,” said McCully, who counts 10 freshmen among a roster of 17. “We’re going back to some basic stuff. They’re good kids. They’re athletic. But they just haven’t played a lot of tennis.”

Senior Aiden Hendry inherits Falmouth’s top ladder spot, a position last held by two-time singles state champion Nick Forester. This spring will mark Hendry’s first competitive high school matches since 2018. He missed his sophomore spring in 2019 because his job as a Sea Dogs bat boy conflicted with the tennis season.

Seniors Jack Forester and Willie Parker, who partnered at second doubles in the state championship match against Camden Hills two years ago, represent the only bridge to Falmouth’s pre-pandemic dominance.

Falmouth seniors Willie Parker, left, Aiden Hendry and Jack Forester are part of a team riding a 48-match winning streak entering the 2021 season. Ten of the 17 players on this year’s team are freshmen. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“So many things have changed and so many people have graduated,” Forester said. “I don’t really think we’ll know how we stand until we do our first match.”

Parker said he is feeling what he calls “underdog energy.” The description seems absurd when used in conjunction with one of the state’s most dominant tennis programs, but there you go.

Oddly enough, it may also fit with the Falmouth girls, whose last match ended in tears as Scarborough rallied to a 3-2 victory in the Class A South finals of 2019 to snap the nation’s fifth-longest winning streak at 187 consecutive matches. Included in that streak were 11 state championships.

“Obviously, everybody was upset after that,” said senior Nina Woodbury, who played first doubles in that painful loss. “But soon after, we were like, we’ve had such a long run that was amazing and so impressive and it’s okay. It had to come to an end at some point. We accepted it.”

Whereas in prior years nobody mentioned The Streak for fear of jinxing it or adding even more pressure to keep it going, the ensuing 21 months have erased it from the team’s collective consciousness.

“No one has said a thing about it,” said Larry Nichols, who moved up from assistant to head coach. “Not even a hushed thing. It’s just not even on their radar. I think the concept of just having a season is what’s dominating, which is a good thing.”

One thing that hasn’t waned in Falmouth is the popularity of tennis. Some schools may be struggling with numbers, but Nichols has 35 girls and decided not to cut anyone. Although only seven girls play in a varsity match, he has split the roster into a competitive and a developmental group and each group has its own practice time.

Up the road in nearby Yarmouth, Bill Shardlow is trying not to lament what could have been with the six juniors who helped win the 2019 Class B state title and focus instead on getting to know all his new players. The task is even more challenging because he has taken over the Yarmouth girls’ program following of the retirement of Ann Harradon.

“The season will be a series of question marks until the dust settles, especially early on,” Shardlow said. “Our goal never really changes. We try to have fun, improve every match, and learn to compete doing our best.”

Back in Cape Elizabeth, Coach Sarah Boeckel acknowledged the lost season, the limited interaction and the new safety protocols including mask-wearing during play.

“It’s definitely been tough, for sure,” she said. “But we’re lucky to be playing, lucky to be on the court, lucky to have a season.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.