WATERVILLE — The George Stevens Academy boys tennis team opted to practice tiebreakers during its final workout before Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class C final — and that refresher course couldn’t have been more timely.
GSA top seed Johnny Xue and the first doubles tandem of Will Brokaw and Roy Xu finished off victories involving key tiebreakers moments apart to provide the margin of victory as coach Mark Messer’s top-seeded Eagles outlasted No. 2 Orono 3-2 at Colby College.
“We didn’t know all the rules for the tiebreakers,” said Brokaw, whose team plays eight-game pro sets during the regular season. “It helped out a lot.”
The win gave the George Stevens boys their fifth regional championship in the last six years and made for a clean sweep of the 2011 EM crowns by the Blue Hill school. The top-ranked Eagles also defeated previously undefeated and second-ranked Foxcroft Academy 5-0 in the girls final.
The George Stevens boys (13-2) and girls (12-3) will play for state championships Saturday, also at Colby.
Xue, a sophomore, needed two tiebreakers to edge Orono’s Gustav Mansson 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2).
Xue took a 4-1 lead in each set before Mansson rallied to force the tiebreakers. In the first tiebreak, Mansson took a 3-0 lead, but Xue scored the next six points to take control. In the second tiebreak, Xue won the first five points en route to the match-clinching victory.
“We practiced the tiebreaker so we’d know how they’d go in a match if we needed it,” said Xue. “I feel like it came in handy. It was a great time to practice the tiebreaks.”
Xue’s win came just after Brokaw and Xu secured a 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 victory over Orono’s Carson Foley and Tannar Francis, a match that turned when the GSA duo scored the final five points of the second-set tiebreaker to force a third set.
“In the third set, we could see the other scores, so we knew we had to win,” said Brokaw. “But after that second-set tiebreaker we gained momentum. We were down in that set [before the tiebreak], too, so it was big to come back.”
The teams split two 4-1 decisions earlier in the season, so a close match was anticipated in their third meeting.
GSA second seed Jasper Adam scored the first point with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Alex Caballero, but the Orono second doubles team of Conor McKaig and Anton Klose then earned a 6-4, 7-5 win over Jason Gao and James Chen.
Brewster Cherkis then gave 12-3 Orono a 2-1 lead with a three-set victory over Alexander Heilner 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 at third singles.
The girls final had less drama, save for the fact that George Stevens and Foxcroft did not meet during the regular season.
“There was some tension because we hadn’t played them, but we pulled through,” said GSA top seed Sotherd Steer. “We were expecting good competition, but we just stayed together as a team.”
Coach Tim Farrar’s club, which won its third girls regional title in the last five years, put the match away early with three straight-set victories.
The Eagles’ second doubles team of Grace Bugbee and Hannah Dietz defeated Tia Tondreau and Kate Morrison 6-1, 6-1, then freshman Charlotte Reiter topped Emma Malay 6-2, 6-2 at third singles.
GSA’s first doubles pairing of Maddie Theoharidis and Ramsay Williamson scored the clinching point, edging Foxcroft’s Summer Lian and Suzie Chen 6-4 in the first set before cruising to a 6-0 second-set victory.
The top two singles pairings featured three-set matches. Steer rallied for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Lindsey Kousaie, then second-seeded Tierney Hally outlasted Jen Seavey 6-7 (10-8), 6-3, 6-3 in a match that lasted nearly three hours.
“I think the girls played exceptionally well,” said Foxcroft coach Ryan Dankert, whose team was making its first appearance in a regional final. “We had never been to this level of the state tournament and my expectations for the girls was to do exactly what they’ve done all year and they gave everything they had but came up a little short against a very talented GSA team.”