HAMPDEN, Maine — Having an undefeated record certainly placed the Ellsworth boys tennis team in the favorite’s role for Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class B championship match against Presque Isle.
But Eagles’ top seed Spencer Small knew such an unblemished mark only makes the favorite an even bigger target for a potential upset, something he experienced from the underdog’s perspective a year ago.
“Last year we didn’t have such a good record yet we went into the playoffs and defeated Waterville, which was undefeated,” said Small. “I was scared so much that a low seed was going to come in and beat us, so I kept telling everyone not to count their chickens before they hatch.”
Not to worry, Spencer, as No. 2 Ellsworth improved its record to 15-0 and won its first regional title since 2002 by defeating the top-seeded Wildcats 5-0 in a match moved from Colby College in Waterville indoors to Bangor Tennis due to inclement weather.
“Probably at midseason I thought we had a chance to win Eastern Maine,” said Ellsworth coach Brian Higgins. “Right after we’d gone through four or five games, I thought ‘wow,’ we’re pretty good.”
No. 2 Waterville (15-0) won its third Eastern B girls title in the last four years with a 3-2 victory over top-ranked Caribou.
Ellsworth will face Yarmouth in the Class B boys state final set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Colby College. Waterville will play Falmouth in the girls state championship match.
Ellsworth won five straight-set victories over a Presque Isle team new to the championship-match experience.
“I thought we played very well,” said Wildcats coach Tim Dolley, whose team finished 13-2. “This is our first-ever Eastern Maine championship match, and I thought the kids came out and gave everything they had. I knew it was going to be a hard match coming in, but I don’t think the score reflected our play. Basically all I asked them to do was have fun out there, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Ellsworth featured a mix of three seniors, a junior and three freshmen, and all contributed to the victory.
Senior Justin Harding and freshman Brandan Albee were dominant at second doubles with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Mike Picard and Connor Shaw, and freshmen Dylan Toothaker and Tyler Small completed the doubles sweep with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kyle Gilson and Chris Cawley.
Third seed Alexander Keefe clinched the match with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Caleb Mathers, while second seed Nick Reese topped Ben Picard 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 and Small defeated Alex Carter 6-3, 6-2.
“I think everyone played well today,” said Spencer Small. “We had to if we were going to defeat a team as good as Presque Isle.”
In the girls’ match, Waterville’s experience and doubles strength proved pivotal in its battle of the unbeatens against a Caribou team that did not field a single senior.
“I think they’re playing right now the way they’ve been playing all season long,” said Waterville coach Donna Nale of her team. “They just have a lot of confidence and they have a lot of skill. We’ve worked on the basics from Day 1, we stick with them and if anything starts to fly a little bit we always refer back to the basics and that pulls us through.”
Waterville’s Katie Jacobs and Lexi Russo pulled away from Elizabeth Barbosa and Missy Nadeau 7-5, 6-1 at first doubles, then the Purple Panthers’ second doubles team of Nikki Shanos and Kelsie Stevens edged Aly Michaud and Katie Keaton 6-4, 7-6 (7-1).
“We kind of thought we had them at the top of the order and maybe not so at the bottom of the order,” said Caribou coach John Habeeb, whose team ended its season at 14-1. “I thought our doubles played fairly well. We had a lead in the first set of first doubles, and second doubles was 6-4, 7-6 so we were right there. We just came up on the short end of the stick.”
Alex McAuliff gave Waterville its third point with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Carlee Pinette at third singles.
Laura Collins scored Caribou’s first point with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Jen Nale at second singles, and teammate Jenna Selander bested Katherine Batten 6-2, 6-4 at first singles.