The rarified air at the top of the Berkshire League world had been familiar territory for the Shepaug Valley High School girls' tennis team in recent years.

The five-time defending league champs have dominated their area rivals, several seasons without loss of a match.

However, graduation the past two Junes stripped the Spartans of most of their experienced girl-power and resigned coach Joanne Kelly to lower the learning curve this spring.

The result was a still satisfying 8-8 record and qualification of the state class `S' tournament.

The Spartan girls dropped a 5-2 opening-round match Tuesday to Seymour to bow out of competition, but not before earning some of that vital experience the younger players will need to return to Berkshire prominence.

Season's close marked the Spartan tennis adieu for seniors Alana Crumrine, Callie Huber and Meghan White.

While the Spartan girls sorted out their experience issues, coach David Bilmes' Shepaug boys' squad demonstrated its own prowess.

The Region 12 racquet aggregate played its way to a 12-5 record and third place in the Berkshire League, highlighting its season with home-and-away sweeps of Thomaston, Gilbert, Litchfield, Northwestern and Housatonic Valley Regional.

Linden Crumrine re-established himself as one of the Berkshire's top singles players and the first-year doubles tandem of sophomores Jack Brotherton and Kellen Rikhoff challenged for league honors.

The end of the 2011 season signalled the final Shepaug trennis for seniors Linden Crumrine, Adam Geiss, Tyler Palmese and Ian Roulat.

Photos and story by Norm Cummings