GORHAM—The Rams picked up a 5-0 win over visiting Westbrook on Friday evening, May 3, looking especially sharp – with straight-sets victories – in both doubles matches, and at second and third singles. Rain forced the squads to play indoors, in the USM Field House.
“I told these guys, ‘Look, it’s May 3. We want to be playing our best tennis down the stretch, end of May, into June,” Westbrook head coach Sam Johnson said. “So we’re going to practice tomorrow, and Sunday, and get a little doubles tournament going. These first few weeks, we’ve been trying to figure out the ladder: Who’s playing doubles, who’s playing singles.”
“We graduated our roster,” Johnson said, chuckling, “so we’re reshuffling that deck.”
“They lost a lot of kids,” Gorham head coach Aaron Landry said, asked about his expectations of the Westbrook bout. “But they’re a pretty solid team. Very athletic second-doubles team. They’ve got good promise for the future, for sure.”
Landry’s lineup also took a hit upon graduation last year, losing several central players. Still, they return more experience in 2019 than the Blazes.
Jack Shibles, the lone Westbrooker returning with varsity experience, put up a strong fight at first singles, where he took his first set vs. Gorhamite Andrew Brent 6-1. Brent claimed the second and third sets 6-2, 6-2, though.
“Andrew is a good player,” Landry said. “If he puts the work in with his lower body, his game is going to go. Because he’s got the strokes, he’s got the form.”
Over at second singles, Gorhamite Sam Pocock bested Westbrooker Gavin Wallace 6-2, 6-4. And at third singles, Dom Garcia of the Rams defeated Jackson Thayer of the Blazes 6-0, 6-4.
“At [second and third singles], I feel like consistency just kind of won out,” Landry said. “I think my guys were a little bit more consistent.”
“Jackson, down 0-6 in that first set, and then down 0-3 in the second set, he could’ve folded there,” Johnson said. “But he didn’t. He was actually down 1-5 at one point, at match point, and he fought all the way back. I’m really impressed with his ability to hang in there.”
At first doubles, Andrew Rent and Brady King (Gorham) defeated Sang Huynh and Brad Wallace (Westbrook) 6-1, 6-1.
“These guys are just athletic,” Landry said of Rent and King. “So when they play aggressive, that’s when they’re the best…They’re developing shots, getting more confidence in them.”
“Sang and Brad are continuing to try to gel, still trying to figure out the chemistry and the dynamic,” Johnson said. “Brad is still pretty raw. But he’s developed his serve quite a bit in the last couple weeks, and he’s long and very athletic, so that bodes well for him as a doubles player. Sang has got a high tennis IQ; he’s kind of like having a coach out there.”
“I would have liked a little more consistency at first doubles,” Johnson said. “They had a couple of circus shots, but then there were some gimmes – some layups, so to speak – that they didn’t capitalize on.”
Finally, at second doubles, Cam Myles and Luc Lamontagne (Gorham) took down Omar Abduljaleel and Nathan Tshibemba (Westbrook) 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
“Westbrook really wanted to be at the net,” Landry said of second doubles. “And when we let them get to the net, they were very effective. They’re quick, they’re big, they can hit overheads. So if they can get the ball when they’re both at the net and the ball’s up, they’re going to make you pay.
“We had to push them back, and then get into position,” Landry said. “Luc and Cam really are starting to figure out when to be aggressive, when to play the positioning game and when to close points out…Which is a big transition from just bouncing, getting it back in.”
“We’ve been kind of mixing and matching our doubles teams a little bit,” Johnson said. “But I think we found something with our two seniors, Nathan and Omar. I think those guys played as well as any of our doubles teams have played all year.”
Gorham advanced on the win to 2-1. The Rams traveled to Thornton on Monday, May 6; they host Scarborough on May 8. Westbrook, meanwhile, slid to 0-4. The Blazes visited South Portland on the 6th, and venture to Cheverus on the 8th.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Andrew Rent competes at first singles for the Rams.
Brad Wallace returns for Westbrook at first doubles.
Gorhamite Brady King competes at first doubles.
Andrew Brent came back from a set down to win two sets to one at first singles.
Jack Shibles put up a good fight at first singles for the Blazes, but did ultimately fall.
Gavin Wallace vies at second singles for the Blazes.
Sam Pocock won at second singles for the Rams.
Ram Dom Garcia volleys at third singles.
Jackson Thayer returns for the Blazes at third singles.
Omar Abduljaleel unwinds into a serve for Westbrook at second doubles.
Luc Lamontagne competes at second doubles.
Westbrooker Nathan Tshibemba competes at second doubles.
Cam Myles battles at second doubles for the Rams.
Sang Huynh volleys at first singles for the Blazes.