ELLSWORTH, Maine — It was a tennis match with no shortage of competitiveness.
Two of the five matches went the maximum three sets, while a third ended prematurely with the players tied at one set each.
And three of the matches included sets decided by tiebreakers.
But it was second-seeded Ellsworth that remained undefeated Saturday and still in contention for its first Eastern Maine Class B championship since 2002, fighting off stubborn No. 3 John Bapst of Bangor 4-1 in a regional semifinal.
“We just had to dig in and leave everything on the court,” said Ellsworth senior Nick Reese. “They played great, we just had to go out there and give it our best.”
The win advances coach Brian Higgins’ Eagles (14-0) to Wednesday’s 1 p.m. regional championship match against Presque Isle at Colby College in Waterville. Presque Isle, the No. 1 seed, edged No. 4 Waterville 3-2 in its semifinal.
Ellsworth clinched its semifinal victory with wins in each of the first three matches contested, the two doubles contests and third singles.
Seniors Justin Harding and Brandan Albee were dominant at second doubles with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Kevin Given and Matt Ryan, but little else came easy.
“Pretty much our game plan was to take it point by point and be strong at the net,” said Harding, a senior.
Freshmen Dillon Toothaker and Tyler Small capped off a doubles sweep for the Eagles, coming on strong in the second half of the first set to score a 6-4 victory before outlasting John Bapst’s Ryan Lad and Ian Szydlo 8-6 in a second-set tiebreaker.
The Ellsworth tandem held a 5-2 lead in that second set, but Lad and Szydlo won the next four games to take a 6-5 lead before Small held serve to force the tiebreaker.
“I thought Ellsworth’s doubles were very strong,” said John Bapst coach Gene Matthews, “but our first doubles gave them all they could handle.”
Ellsworth secured its third point as third-seeded Alexander Keefe outlasted John Bapst’s Lucas Hubbard at third singles in three sets.
Keefe rallied from a 3-0 first-set deficit, winning six of the next seven games to earn a 6-4 victory. He then served twice for the second set only to have the persistent Hubbard break to 5-5 and 6-6 and then win a 10-8 tiebreaker to square the match.
Keefe was visibly disappointed after that second-set loss, but regrouped to take early control of the third set with a service break in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. That marked the first of four straight breaks of serve before Keefe served out the match at love to win the final set 6-3.
“I was amazed [Keefe] was able to pull it together and play his game,” said Higgins. “His frustrations came out at the end of the second set, and that sort of settled him down a little bit.”
Reese then won a point at second singles, as with the team competition already decided John Bapst’s Alex Gale retired after splitting the first two sets in order to fulfill a prom commitment.
John Bapst sophomore Bobtom Flynn, a state singles Round of 16 qualifier late last month, earned the Crusaders’ lone point by rallying past Ellsworth senior Spencer Small 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 at first singles.
“Our best hope was to win the three singles,” said Matthews, whose team ends its season at 11-3. “And all three were close.”