NEWPORT–Coming into the opening round of the play-offs, the North Country boys tennis team was ranked fourth overall in Division I.
Their opponent, Champlain Valley was slated as the thirteenth seed.
How very misleading these numbers turned out to be.
The Falcons came out, gave everything they had, but still ended up on the losing end of things, falling 6-1 to bow out of the opening round of the play-offs.
"I told them before that I wanted to see them play the best tennis they possibly could, and that is all I expected from them," said coach Gary Atchinson. "If it was good enough to win so be it, if not...
"We weren't surprised. We figured it was going to be a dog fight from the get-go, so it didn't catch us by surprise. It was 6-1, but it could have very easily been 4-3."
The Redhawks brought a strong serving, well-disciplined crew to Prouty Beach, and in the early going they were clearly the better team.
In the number one's match, Dave Durivage fell behind, losing the first set 6-0 to Liam Kelley.
But as the match progressed, Durivage got stronger.
"After the first set I felt like I couldn't find a weakness, but something changed in the second set and things started to go my way," said the elder Durivage.
He came back to win the a very tight second set 7-5 to force the tiebreaker.
Durivage had the advantage in the first half of the race to ten, but Kelley pulled ahead late for the 10-7 win.
Dave didn't have much to say about the tiebreaker, simply stating, "I got up 7-5 and lost 10-7, which seemed to happen a lot to me."
Travers Parsons-Grayson played the longest match of the day, squaring off against Joey O'Brien in number two single’s action.
Travers lost the match 6-3, 6-3, but the score in no way indicated how hard he fought in this match.
The combatants played close to two straight hours of back and forth tennis that was as exciting to watch as is was draining to for them to play.
Rally after rally, point after point, game after game, Parsons-Grayson and O'Brien gave each other all they could they handle, with most of their exchanges being long marathon-esque battles for the upper hand.
Said Parsons-Grayson, "I was pretty exhausted after those long rallies. I had a lot less energy when I wanted to do things and I made a lot of unforced errors."
O'Brien in the end was the victor, and Travers was brutally honest in his assessment of his own play on Wednesday.
"I would say he was more consistent than me. I could hit the ball harder more consistently, but I did not have the confidence" said the sophomore as sweat dripped down his face. "I think that if I could have come the net more I think I could have beat him."
Thomas Durivage had his hands full with Henri Pierre, dropping his match 6-3, 6-3.
"He was a solid player, he didn't miss much, and he preferred his backhand which was odd and was difficult to play against," Thomas said. "I originally tried to play my normal style, but I had to adjust to try and hit balls to his forehand, which was a tough adjustment for me."
The first match to wrap up was the number one doubles where Kody Halikas and Fred Petzoldt ran into the power serving duo of Tyler Murphy and Asa Cloutier, losing 6-3, 6-0.
"With the one guy (Murphy) he had a hard serve and it was tough getting that return," Petzoldt said about the most difficult part of his match.
It is easy to understand why it was so difficult to handle the big man. The six foot three, two-hundred and thirty-five pound Murphy's serve was electric, emanating an almost whip-cracking sound whenever he delivered it.
Said Murphy on his power serve, "It has really helped a lot. We pretty much play a serve plus one so we go and hit our serves well which makes it really easy on our net guy."
When the doubles players exited the court, the lone bright spot for the Falcons ‘ score sheet on Tuesday, number four single's player Zach Tweed, entered with his opponent David Keyes.
In the second match of the day to go into the race to ten, Tweed played a calm, focused brand of tennis to earn the win on the strength of the 10-4 tiebreaker victory.
"It was a close first set, I got a little unlucky in the tiebreaker, but I fought back like a Junk Yard Dog, because that is what our team is, and came back and won," Tweed remarked.
In the final single’s match Maoz Knight fell 6-4, 6-4 while the number two doubles team of Steve Raboin and Peter Steuwe lost 6-3, 6-0 to close out the day.
Sure it was disappointing to see such a great season come to an end, but the boys were proud of their efforts in the 2012 campaign.
"It was a great season, definitely the best season I have ever had at North Country," said Thomas Durivage.
Dave Durivage looked at the 2012 campaign as a year where the team exceeded expectations.
"The team's effort was great. In an interview in the beginning of the season I said I wanted (the team) to break .500 and we did way more than that."
Travers, again honest as a judge, gave a balanced answer about how he thought the season went.
"I think we played really well, but we had an easier schedule than most. I think we played better as a team than we've ever had before."
Tweed was on the same page as Parsons-Grayson saying, "We played a decent schedule, not as good as we could have, but we beat everybody we should have. It was a good all around effort as a team and I am proud of what we have done."
Knight had the final word on the the Falcons' season.
"I think we were really balanced. Even if the number one or number two lost, we could make it through with our doubles and lower singles. Everyone player really worked hard. And again, I think the balance really helped."
Knight, Raboin, and Dave Durivage are moving on, but the Falcons have great core of players to build upon for 2013, and Atchinson looks at this play-off experience as something that can only help in the future.
"A thing to feel good about is that we didn't play in the tournament last year and for some guys this is their first experience with tournament tennis.
"CVU was loaded with juniors and seniors and we had but three seniors, so we have a good nucleus to work with next year that got some valuable experience this year."
For fans of the Falcons tennis team, 2012 was one to be proud of, and 2013's season can hopes to be as bright