The Bangor boys tennis team knows all about the juggernaut within its sport that resides in Lewiston.
Since defeating the Blue Devils 3-2 to win the 2002 Eastern Maine Class A championship, the Rams have fallen to Lewiston five times in the last six regional finals — including last spring when coach Ron Chicoine’s team defeated Bangor 4-1 en route to its sixth consecutive state championship.
But a new year means new opportunity, though with Lewiston and Bangor both at 12-0 and tied for the top seed in Eastern A — Lewiston was seeded first based on a coin flip — there are other matches to be played before either team can anticipate another matchup in the finals.
Bangor will bring a lineup featuring five seniors to this year’s postseason hunt, which begins Thursday with a quarterfinal against No. 7 Gardiner, which is just 7-5 but lost to Lewiston only 3-2 during the regular season.
“They know what to expect,” said Bangor coach Cindi Howard.
Senior Will Cutshall and senior second seed Ian McDonnell anchor Bangor’s singles play, as both have moved up one spot from a year ago. McDonnell is coming off a strong showing in the state singles tournament, as he reached the round of 16 after being knocked out in the first round a year ago.
Senior Josh Turcotte plays third singles for the Rams, while freshman Patrick Stewart and senior Alex Price are at first doubles and junior Noah Frost and senior Chris Beland play second doubles.
Bangor also has gotten strong play in both singles and doubles from freshman John Sweczyk.
“We started the season a little slow,” said Howard, “but we’ve really come around.”
Brewer (10-2) enters postseason play seeded third in Eastern A, edging Mount Ararat for that seed in a coin flip. The Witches, led by Evan Nadeau, Nick Morris and Nate Morris, are seeded for a possible semifinal against Bangor if they can survive a quarterfinal date against No. 6 Brunswick (7-5).
Bangor defeated Brewer twice during the regular season.
In Class B, Ellsworth is the lone unbeaten in what appears to be a deep field. Coach Brian Higgins’ Eagles, led by Spencer Small, Evan Reese and Alexander Keefe, are 12-0, but 11-1 Presque Isle is the top seed. The Wildcats feature Alex Carter, Ben Picard and Caleb Mathers.
John Bapst, led by sophomore BobTom Flynn, is 10-2, while 11-1 Waterville and 10-2 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro — featuring state singles semifinalist Joaquin Perez-Marsa — are considered the strongest threats from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.
In Class C, George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill is the defending EM champion and has won six regional titles in the last seven years. The Eagles (11-1) are poised to extend that run with a nucleus that includes Elias Springer, Michael Senter-Zapata and Dillon Morris, though Penquis Valley of Milo, led by Ryan Bailey and Logan Greenlaw, also is 11-1 despite forfeiting matches at third singles throughout the spring.
Other contenders include 2008 regional finalist Madawaska, led by Nathan Beaulieu and Christian Lizotte, and Stearns of Millinocket, which has Josh Chubbuck-MacDonald at first singles.
While the Lewiston boys have been dominant for the last six years, the Lewiston girls’ stranglehold on the Class A state title is only slightly more modest — three years.
The Blue Devils enter this year’s postseason atop the Eastern A standings at 12-0, with Bangor second at 11-1. Bangor features Emma Coffey, Annie McKay and Emily Chick in singles, with Eliza Woodcock and Mary Grace Schley at first doubles and Adriana Capuano and Michaela Whitney at second doubles.
In Class B, Caribou and Waterville are coming off 12-0 regular seasons. Caribou, most recently the regional champion in 2004 and 2005, is led by Jenna Selander, who reached the top 16 of the state singles tournament.
Other contenders in the division are 10-2 Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island and defending champion Camden Hills of Rockport, which is 11-1 with its only loss coming to Waterville. The Windjammers also boast a top singles player in Emma Blakeley, another state singles round of 16 qualifier.
In Class C, George Stevens is top-seeded at 9-3 and in search of its second straight regional crown. Sotherd Steer and Katie Herklotz anchor the Eagles. Deer Isle-Stonington and Dexter, a regional finalist last year, each is 11-1 and looms as a threat to a GSA repeat. Deer Isle-Stonington is led by Chelsea Ciomei, Esther Adams and Heidi Grego, while Dexter features Chrissy and Cally Mountain and Sarah Murray.
Regional semifinals are Saturday, with Eastern Maine finals June 10 at Colby College in Waterville. The state finals will be played at Colby on June 13.