WATERVILLE — Dustin Murphy and Luc Victor weren’t used to the cheering.
But there they were Wednesday afternoon, suddenly the center of attention — a rare experience for a second doubles combination on a high school tennis team.
And with a crowd of fans watching them, more than ever had seen them play at one time before, they rallied from a 3-0 third-set deficit in a deadlocked match to give undefeated Ellsworth the Eastern Maine Class B championship on the Colby College courts.
“It was nice to have a whole bunch of people watching,” said Murphy after teaming with Victor to outlast Presque Isle’s Brock Cassidy and Mike Picard 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 and give the Eagles a 3-2 team win and their second regional crown in three years.
“First, you’d hear their fans, and then you’d hear our fans. It was kind of cool having all those people rooting for us.”
No. 4 Waterville won the Eastern B girls title by edging No. 2 Mount Desert Island in similar 3-2 fashion, with freshman Olivia Lopes snapping a 2-2 tie with a nearly four-hour 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over Julia Christie at second singles.
Both regional champions will face Falmouth in the state finals here Saturday.
Top-seeded Ellsworth (15-0) jumped out to a 2-0 lead barely an hour into the boys match, with Tyler Small defeating Caleb Mathers 6-1, 6-0 at first singles and the first doubles tandem of Brandan Albee and Adam Toothaker cruising to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Osman Castro and Andrew Legasse.
But No. 3 Presque Isle (13-1), which won three of the five first sets played, got wins from its second and third singles players to even the match. No. 2 Connor Shaw defeated Dillon Toothaker 6-3, 6-2, then third-seeded Emerson Castro defeated Tyler Beardsley 7-5, 6-3 to leave the match in the hands of the second doubles team.
Cassidy and Picard cruised to victory in the first set, then Ellsworth took a 5-3 second-set lead before Presque Isle rallied to force a tiebreaker, only to have Murphy and Victor extend the match.
“Usually we’re done fairly early so the match is not on us, but with the format of everyone playing at the same time and our match going the longest, this was totally different,” said Victor, a senior. “Sometime when we were switching ends during the tiebreak to go to the third set, I realized it was 2-2, which I didn’t know. I thought, ‘This is great.’”
Cassidy and Picard moved out to an early lead in the third set, but this time Ellsworth mounted the comeback, winning six of the final seven games to advance the Eagles to the state final.
“I think the first game after we were down 3-0 was the toughest, and after that we felt the momentum switch,” said Victor.
Lopes and Christie experienced a similar taste of high-intensity tennis in the girls match.
“Having so much pressure on you and people watching you, you just have to focus on the ball and the racket,” said Christie. “You play to try not to make mistakes, but [Lopes] was very consistent.”
The Lopes-Christie match lasted nearly four hours — including a final set played long after the other matches had ended and their teams were deadlocked.
“The pressure was on,” said Lopes, one of four freshmen among Waterville’s starting seven. “There was a lot of pressure, but I think the crowd helped me in the end.”
Lopes had to battle just to get to a third set against Christie, a steady baseline player, but emerged from the second-set tiebreaker victory with a dose of momentum.
“The third set I was getting a little tired, but I knew I had to keep on pushing,” said Christie, a junior. “But she still had a lot of oomph in her and that slowed me down a little bit, and she’s a good player.”
Grace Robbins gave MDI a 1-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Jayme Saulter at third singles, and the second doubles tandem of Mia Musetti and Caroline Brown topped Lauren Hallenbeck and Emily Dufour 6-3, 7-6 (2) to give the Trojans a two-match advantage.
Waterville’s Colleen O’Donnell then finished off a 6-2, 6-2 win over Mea Clark in a battle of freshman No. 1 seeds, and the Purple Panthers then tied the match as Lexi Russo and Brittany Saulter outlasted Megan Phelps and Hannah Worcester 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 at first doubles.
Waterville (14-1) won its second regional title in three years, while MDI ended its season at 13-2.