Lisbon boys tennis team gaining confidence on court after years of struggle

May 6—LISBON — The foundation of the 2021 Lisbon boys tennis team was started four years ago.

Gaige Elwell and Zach Berry were freshmen when a classmate, Gerrit Smit, pitched the idea of going out for the team.

“My childhood best friend Gerrit (Smit) played tennis when he was younger, and I would go over his house all the time and we would end up playing (tennis),” Elwell said. “He was the one who actually told us to try out, ‘Let’s get this team going,’ and we did. We ended up loving it, and our sophomore year we recruited some people who are still on the team right now.”

Smit has since moved to Auburn.

Elwell and Berry are now seniors — two of five on this year’s team, joining Zander Dubay, Dan Poulin, and Dustin Verrill. Overall this year, coach Paul Giggey has 13 players, compared to six in 2019 (the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic). In past years, the team almost didn’t have enough players to field a full team and often had to forfeit doubles matches.

This season’s depth has increased the Greyhounds’ confidence, and the results have shown as much. Lisbon has a 3-1 record with wins over Dirigo, Carrabecc, and Mountain Valley. The last time the Greyhounds won more than one match in a season was in 2013.

Giggey said that this year’s players are aware that the program has struggled to earn wins in previous years. From 2014-2019, the Greyhounds won only two matches while losing 65.

“Forfeiting is not an issue anymore,” Giggey said. “Now we are having players that have played four years in a row again, with the exception of last year, and that builds confidence. The younger players are seeing that, they see what it takes, they see the effort and commitment, because tennis is one of those sports, the more you put into it the more you get out of it.”

More players and more experience have made practices more competitive this season.

“Having the numbers helps everybody get better,” Berry said. “It helps with more competition between the doubles (teams) and the singles (players). It helps everyone.”

Unlike communities around it, Lisbon’s recreation department does not have a tennis program rec tennis program.

To stay sharp during the offseason, Elwell rounds up friends to practice with.

“For me, personally, I called up a couple of friends this (past) summer and was like, ‘Hey, if we have a tennis season next year, I really want to get the rust off and everything,'” Elwell said. “Over the summer, I got with a couple of friends and practiced. I went to an indoor court myself and tried to get ready for the season.”

Giggey said the team’s growth was evident in a loss to Winthrop, which went to the Class C South regional final in 2019.

“We were in every match. We had a couple that went 8-4, but it was closer than that,” Giggey said. “We went to deuce many times. It was close enough that all the guys said, ‘We want to see these guys again and play them again because we now know what to expect from those players.'”

The only time Lisbon went to the playoffs was in 2018, when it lost to Waynflete 5-0. Giggey said that he believes this year’s team can be a surprise in the playoffs.

Mental fortitude may be the key to the rest of the season.

“We have the ability to really buckle down and do our work and everything; it takes all of us saying, ‘Hey, we can do this,'” Elwell said.

No matter what happens the rest of the year, the seniors believe they have left a mark on the program.

“Having the wins is definitely big on the legacy,” Berry said. “We saved the program, and I hope the young guys stick with it. I am sure they will.”

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