After a 4-8 season last year, the Rockland District High School girls tennis team returns eight seniors and a solid group of experienced players. Second-year coach Nick Blais has high hopes for the team this spring and thinks the Tigers can pull out around seven wins — and they already have two in three outings, losing only to state Class B championship contender Camden Hills.

“I would really love to see my girls make it to playoffs, seeing as it is the last year of Rockland District High School, but improving on our number of wins from last year should also be very doable,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a fun season.”

The Tigers include seniors Natasha Seavey (singles), Taylor Stevens (singles), Chelsea Hawksley (doubles), Sarah Henry (doubles), Ciera Bedard, Cat Grotton (doubles), Misty Seekins and Tina Payson; junior Allison Ward (singles); and sophomores Phoebe Ferraiolo (singles), Vieno Carter (doubles) and Kara Weisky (doubles).

The team lost Allie Curtis, Haley Wotton, Jenny Herbert and  Nayra Goncalves to graduation.

Coach Blais certainly hopes to improve on the team’s eight-loss record last year. However, he said that may not be so hard as most of those defeats were by close margins.

Blais said the Tigers are athletic and capable of being a tough competitor for any Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B foe.

“Our biggest strengths this year are overall athleticism, motivation to improve, and a strong desire to win,” Blais said. “These are the key factors that are going to get us through this season and will likely result in many victories for our team.”

Blais also said that even if the players’ skills don’t pull through he teaches his athletes to press on.

“One thing that I drill into the heads of my players is to never give up … and to never say die,” he said. “They have wholeheartedly bought into this idea and this more than anything else will allow us to succeed.”

Individually, Blais said he has strong team leaders. His top four athletes have all played on last year’s team as exhibition or doubles competitors and now, “they are all extremely motivated to improve their tennis skills,” he said.

He added that his top three, Ferraiolo, Seavey and Ward should come out fighting.

“They’ve improved a lot over the past year and, most importantly, they are all very athletic singles players which will allow them to challenge most other players in our division,” he said.

Blais has high hopes for his first doubles team as well. He said Hawksley and Stevens are strong.

“They both have a lot of power behind their shots and, most importantly, they are smart players,” Blais said.

The coach said there are rare things the team needs to work on, though. For one, more effective serves.

“Major things that we need some improvement on are definitely the quality and consistency of everyone’s serves,” Blais said.

He also said the team needs to play smarter tennis.

“Tennis really is a mind game, more than a physical game,” he said. “The idea of knowing where you want the ball to go before you hit it … when to hit the drop shot, or approach the net. Those subtle, yet important skills, can definitely use some improvement.”

Also, as in the past, the Tigers are weary of Camden Hills. The coach said the ‘Jammers will be an obstacle, at the least, and were in a 5-0 season-opening win over the Tigers.

“As everyone knows, Camden [Hills] has always been a major rival of Rockland and everyone also knows that their tennis team has gone undefeated for many years,” he said. “But, overall, they will be our biggest challenge, especially since they are the only team we have to play twice this year.“

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at fritz@villagesoup.com.