HERMON — High school athletes derive motivation from many sources — but primarily the quest for competitive success.
Nick Boomer shares that inner drive, but the Hampden Academy senior also admitted to an additional motive after helping the undefeated Broncos defeat Bangor 3-2 in an Eastern Maine Class A boys tennis semifinal played at Hermon High School on Monday.
“We really wanted this one bad because we kind of wanted to miss school on Wednesday, too,” joked Boomer, whose second-ranked Broncos next will face undefeated eight-time defending EM champion Lewiston in the regional final Wednesday at Colby College in Waterville. “And we wanted another chance to play Lewiston to see if we could get back at them.”
The Hampden-Lewiston clash will be a rematch of last week’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship match won by the top-ranked Blue Devils 4-1.
“You’ve got two teams that were undefeated during the regular season, and fate has it that maybe we should meet in the finals,” said Hampden coach John Plourde. “So we’re going to wipe out that 4-1 loss and go out with a renewed sense of purpose and energy and urgency and give it our very best.”
While Hampden defeated third-ranked Bangor twice during the regular season by 4-1 scores, there were enough close matches during those earlier battles to suggest some unpredictability in their postseason meeting.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was really nervous coming in,” said Plourde. “Bangor is a bit younger, we’ve got a lot of seniors and two foreign players, and we beat Bangor twice during the season, but those 4-1 scores really weren’t reflective of how the matches went. And with the old adage of how difficult it is to beat a good team three times in a row, I felt all the pressure was on us.
“I tried to make sure our kids didn’t feel that, and while we came out with a lot of confidence we got behind early in the first set, but the kids settled down and got a bit more aggressive.”
Boomer and classmate John Wilson scored the clinching point of the match with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Chris Howat and Connor Griffin at first doubles, giving the Broncos a 3-0 lead.
That win came just after Hampden’s second doubles tandem of Kent Reichel and Nico Palacios defeated Kris Bears and Robby Brookings 6-1, 6-1 and Thomas Hoffmann topped Bangor freshman Sam Bolduc 6-2, 6-2 at third singles.
“I think their doubles are very, very strong,” said Bangor coach Cindi Howard. “They work well together as teams, and their third singles is a seasoned player.”
Hoffmann, another senior, jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in each of his sets, mixing effective baseline play with approaches to the net.
“I thought I played pretty well,” he said. “My volleys were a little off at times, but my overhead was better and I served pretty good. [Bolduc] hit some good approach shots and when he got to net he was tough. He’s a good player.”
Bangor got its victories from juniors Patrick Stewart and John Szewczyk. First Szewczyk battled to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Matt Meo at second singles, then Stewart rallied for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Philipp Schoenberger, a German exchange student playing first singles for Hampden.
The Stewart-Schoenberger match marked the third time those players had gone to three sets this spring, with Stewart taking a regular-season clash and Schoenberger winning a final-set tiebreaker when the two met in the state singles Round of 48.
Bangor, which started six juniors and a freshman in Monday’s match, finished its season with a 10-4 record and figures to be one of the early favorites in Eastern A next spring.
“I look forward to next year,” said Howard. “I’ll have pretty much the whole team back and we should be that much stronger.”
For a more veteran Hampden team, the future is now.
“I thought we’d be good this year because only lost two players last year and we had a foreign exchange student I knew was pretty good,” said Hoffmann. “I expected us to go far, but I’m impressed with how far we’ve gone and hopefully we can keep going.”