No athletic squad likes the term “rebuilding year,” but it appears that is what is on the horizon this spring for the Georges Valley High School girls tennis team.

Led by coach Maynard “Bud” Philbrook, in his 12th season, and after losing several key members of last year’s team along with the realignment of the Mountain Valley Conference, the Buccaneers have their work cut out for them if they hope to stay competitive this season.

The 2009 Buccaneer tennis squad consists of seniors Adriana Lombardo, Emma Vachon, Meredith Joyce, Amber Weaver, Casie Weaver, Gabi Poor and Chelsea Philbrook; junior Hayley Brooks; sophomores Erika Brooks and Jaime Brooks; and freshmen Lizze Lombardo, Bethany Schulberg, Alyssa Jones, Amelia Reinhardt, Megan Richard, Brianna Bodman, Michaela Garrett, Afton Hupper, Dora Thompson, Lindsey Joyce, Erika Tardif, Kasie Waters, Shale Peters and Natasha Shaeklett.

Lost to graduation from last season were Jessica Gerrish, Ivy Gray-Klein, Rachel Sprague, Margaret Hoyt, Brittany Anthony and Courtney Ausplund.

Last year the Bucs finished with a 3-9 record, and did not qualify for postseason play.

Philbrook said while the numbers for this year’s team are encouraging, many of the girls are first-time players and have not played organized tennis at any level before.

“Most of them are just learning how to play, so I anticipate it to be [a] rough [season],” said Philbrook. “I don’t have a lot of time to teach and we only have a couple weeks to get ready. So I expect a lot of rebuilding for this year.”

Vachon and Joyce are co-captains on this year’s squad, with Vachon opening the season as the first singles player and Joyce second singles. Lombardo will fill the third singles slot. All three have varsity experience from last season. Weaver is the only other player on the team that played on the varsity team last year.

Philbrook added that some of the girls are progressing nicely, but admitted it will be a challenge for many of them to be competitive against their talented competition this season.

Georges Valley got a tough draw when the MVC split in half with a North and South Division, meaning that instead of playing most teams in the conference once, they will be facing Boothbay Region, Winthrop, Hall-Dale of Farmingdale, Wiscasset, Monmouth Academy and Lisbon of Lisbon Falls each twice over their 12-game schedule. Winthrop, Boothbay and Hall-Dale all made the playoffs last season in Class C, as did Winthrop in Class B.

“We’re going to be playing the best schools since our schedule has changed, and we’re going to be playing schools that have tennis programs all the way up through [high school],” he said. It’s going to be tough.”

The veteran coach hopes his athletes don’t get discouraged and do their best to compete, especially the large crop of underclassmen.

“What I’m hoping is that some of these girls that are starting out this year stay with it, and every year we get better,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”

In a nutshell, Philbrook is hoping that, while in the short term the team may struggle, it is those struggles that will help the Bucs become stronger and more apt to compete at a higher level in the long term.

“I’m just looking for them to get better [every match],” he said. “If we can play some close matches or maybe even win one, that would exceed my expectations this year.”

Georges Valley kicks off the regular season on Monday, April 26 by hosting Wiscasset.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.