Falmouth senior Xander Barber returns a shot during his win over teammate Sam Yoon in the boys’ state tennis championship match. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald

He cruised through the regular season. He crushed all competition in the state singles tournament. He led the Falmouth High boys’ tennis team to the Class A state championship.

And yet, what most impressed longtime Falmouth Coach Bob McCully about Xander Barber was how he handled the one blip on his spring season, a surprising loss to two-time singles state champion George Cutone of Kennebunk in Falmouth’s 4-1 regional final victory.

There were no excuses bemoaning a lack of sleep following a graduation celebration that lasted until the wee hours the previous night. Just praise for Cutone’s scrappiness and level of play.

“I was very pleased with the way he handled it,” McCully said. “It was a very mature and appropriate response.”

For winning the state singles title, leading his team to a state championship and doing it all with good nature, Barber is our choice as 2023 Varsity Maine Player of the Year for boys’ tennis.

“He’s been great to work with,” McCully said. “He’s played a lot of tournaments and gotten a lot of recognition, but he really wanted the experience of being on a team. It was a really good group of guys and he fit right in.”


Barber, 18, spent his first three years of high school in North Carolina. He moved to Maine last summer after his father began working as the tennis pro at The Woodlands in Falmouth. Xander started swinging a racket as soon as he could hold one and rose steadily through United States Tennis Association junior rankings.

Entering the spring season, those rankings listed Barber as No. 1 in New England and eighth nationally among boys 18-and-under. He will continue his tennis career at Dartmouth College, where his uncle, Bob Dallis, is head coach of the women’s program.

Barber entered a pro tournament held this weekend in Boston, and next weekend will be a hitting partner for another pro event on grass in Newport, Rhode Island. In August, he plans to compete at USTA Nationals for boys 18-and-under in Kalamazoo, Michigan – where the singles and doubles winners gain entry to the U.S. Open.

Even with that impressive resume and knowing that very few of his high school matches would be challenging, Barber said he was eager to play for the Navigators.

“High school (tennis) is something I really looked forward to,” he said. “USTA tennis, which I do 99 percent of the year, is a lot of individual tournaments. The team format is a lot more fun. It was great to have the team environment, just to play a bunch of matches and have fun.”

With Barber at No. 1 singles, Falmouth went 16-0 and posted nine shutouts. In the state singles tournament, he breezed through five matches, never dropping more than one game, and capped it off with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over sophomore teammate Sam Yoon in a 53-minute final.

Barber and Cutone, who won the state singles titles as a freshman and sophomore but skipped this year’s event in order to play at a national tournament, met twice this spring. In mid-May, Barber defeated Cutone 6-2, 6-4. In early June, Cutone defeated Barber, 6-3, 6-4.

Both matches drew scores of spectators, inside at Foreside Fitness in Falmouth during the regular season and at Apex Racket & Fitness in Portland during playoffs.

“I’m glad I got to play him,” Barber said. “It’s not really about winning or losing, it’s more just getting some good matches in and having fun and having the high school tennis experience. And both those matches, a bunch of people were out there watching, which was really cool.”

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