Thomaston native MacKenzie Blair Contributes Right Away at Merrimack. Story by John Torsiello.
Former Thomaston High School tennis star Mackenzie Blair is making an impact at Merrimack College. John Torsiello has her story.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Sometimes it takes athletes awhile to feel their oats as they move up to the collegiate level of competition.
But Thomaston’s Mackenzie Blair jumped in sneakers first and was a key member of the Merrimack College women’s tennis team this past fall.
Playing fourth, fifth or sixth singles, Blair posted a 9-7 record, and teaming with Rachel Muller and later in the season Danielle Dunn, she logged a similar record playing second or third doubles.
She excelled at the Northeast-10 tournament, where she helped the Warriors to a runner-up finish. She won her doubles match with Dunn in a win over Saint Michael’s, and then won in both singles and doubles as Merrimack upset top-seeded Adelphi in the tournament’s semifinals. She wound up losing both her singles and doubles matches to powerful Stonehill in the finals. Merrimack, a Division II school in Andover, Ma., finished 11-5 during the regular season.
Earlier in the fall, Blair won a match in the ITA East Regional Championship held at Queens College in New York, beating Danielle Bloeker of Molloy College, 6-1, before losing to Jess Geary of LeMoyne College, 6-4, in the second round. She and teammate Muller lost their first round doubles match at the tournament, 7-5.
“My college career is going great so far,” she said this week, “but adjusting was a little difficult at first because it is a whole new atmosphere. But my team and coach made the transition a lot easier. I am surprised to be a key member of the team. I have only been playing for a short period of time and coming this far is a great accomplishment.”
Blair was a standout at Thomaston, where she helped the Golden Bears win their first Berkshire League tennis title last spring as a senior. She was four-year letter winner at Thomaston, and as a freshman went 14-2 at number four singles, while leading team to 14-2 record.
As a sophomore, she anchored the number one singles spot and finished 12-4. As a junior she once again played number one singles, won the Coaches' Award, and was named team captain. She shone her senior season when she was the Berkshire League tournament champion as an individual and was a Berkshire League All-Star, finishing 13-3.
The 18-year-old daughter of Hollis and Mary Blair still keeps in touch with her high school teammates and coach, Jeff Dauphinais.
“The most important lessons I took away from high school tennis was to put into perspective that tennis is a big mental sport, and once your head is out of the game so are your fundamentals. Like my coach always said, never give up.”
Her rise to prominent collegiate player is somewhat surprising, given the fact that she didn’t start playing the game until her freshman year at Thomaston High school.
“When I first picked up a racquet I had no idea how to hold it or even how to play the game in general. I was terrible.”
But gifted as an athlete and willing to put in the hard work it took to become a true player, Blair became increasingly more confident and talented at the sport until she stood collecting the winner’s medal after she beat Litchfield’s Sabrina Cofer in the championship match of the BL individual tournament at Wamogo High School last spring.
She explained her choice of Merrimack as the place where she will continue to home her tennis skills and education.
“Merrimack was actually the last school I looked at, as I was heavily considering on going to Salve Regina University. But once I visited Merrimack I really enjoyed the campus and the people.”
She’s looking forward to the start of the spring season.
“My goals for the spring season is to just improve all together as an athlete so I can not only be better for myself but for my team as well.”
The Sports Medicine major said upon graduation she hopes to attend graduate school and eventually become an occupational therapist.
While the actual tennis matches in college are a lot more demanding than in high school, so is the training. Blair lifts weights three times a week to build up her strength and conditioning and practices for two and half hours every day except for a break on Mondays.
The spring season for Merrimack kicks off Feb. 28 with a match against the New York Institute of Technology.
With another season under her belt, who knows how good Mackenzie Blair will become at the sport she is still a relative newbie at as she matures physically and mentally.