HAMPDEN, Maine — Courtney Aldrich wasn’t sure what to do with herself after arising from bed early Saturday afternoon.
One of three seniors on the Lewiston High School girls tennis team, she not only had graduated the night before the Blue Devils’ Eastern Maine Class A semifinal against Hampden Academy, but Aldrich and her classmates also took part in Project Graduation activities at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville, only to return home about 5 a.m.
It was a schedule that led her and fellow graduate Kenzi Masselli to a slow start in their first doubles match against the Broncos, but their perseverance in winning a first-set tiebreak and then holding off Hampden seniors Logan Huston and Katie Harris in straight sets proved decisive as Lewiston defeated Hampden 4-1.
“I woke up at noon, and I was like, ‘OK, do I have breakfast? Do I have lunch?’” said Aldrich. Then we got here and started off slow, we got behind 3-0, and I said, ‘Kenzi, what are we doing here?’ If we lose, they’re going to blame it on Project Grad.’
“We were able to take the lead but then we had to go to a tiebreaker, and we knew we had to win the tiebreaker because if we had to go to a third set we totally would have been exhausted because we didn’t get a good night’s sleep.”
Third-seeded Lewiston (12-2) will continue its quest for a seventh consecutive state championship in Wednesday’s 1 p.m. Eastern Maine final at Colby College in Waterville against the winner of the semifinal between top-ranked Brunswick and No. 5 Mount Ararat of Topsham.
“I think the girls feel pressure, and a lot of it I think they put on themselves because of the previous teams we’ve had,” said Lewiston coach Anita Murphy, whose squad returned just two starters from last year, Aldrich and second singles player Paige LeBlond, who played second doubles together in 2011.
“Winning the last six state championships in a row puts on a lot of pressure. I don’t put pressure on them, they put it on themselves. I’m just so proud we’re 12-2 so far this year having lost my top four players.”
No. 2 Hampden Academy finishes its season at 12-2 — with both losses against Lewiston.
“This is the first time we’ve played them here at home,” said Hampden coach Rich Nutter, who has guided the Broncos to a 40-8 regular-season record over the past four seasons. “We’ve always played them on the road, and I thought we had a chance to beat them but it was going to be close. I figured we had to do well in the doubles, and our doubles gave them everything they wanted but just came up on the short end.”
Hampden entered the match expecting to have one point in hand with top singles player Ashley Woodside, a sophomore who was seeded ninth in the recent state singles tournament. And while Woodside scored a 6-0, 6-2 win over Morgan Bowen, it came after the team competition had been decided.
“I figured we had No. 1 singles,” said Nutter, “but second and third singles were going to be tough because Lewiston has very controlled players there.”
That proved to be the case as the Blue Devils struck for a quick 2-0 lead when Kirsty Beauchesne defeated Emily Gower 6-2, 6-2 at third singles and LeBlond topped SaraEllen Gilden 6-3, 6-2 at second singles.
But finding the match-winning point was a little more problematic as Hampden took early leads in both doubles competitions.
Hampden’s second doubles tandem of Kristi Reichel and Helene Sherburne scored a 6-2 first-set victory over Jessica Soucy and Becca Michaud, while Aldrich and Masselli rallied from a 3-0 opening-set deficit to take leads of 5-4 and 6-5 before being forced into a tiebreaker by Huston and Harris.
The Hampden duo won the first two points of the tiebreaker and forged a 4-4 tie before Aldrich and Masselli won the next three points to clinch the set.
Aldrich and Masselli built on that momentum and moved out to leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the second set, then withstood a comeback from Huston and Harris to win the second set 6-4 and clinch the team victory.
“We were definitely tired, for sure,” said Masselli. “We slept from the time we got home basically to when we had to leave to come up here so we were a little slow at the beginning. We were making unforced errors and weren’t really playing too smart, but we figured out some techniques we could do, like backing up instead of playing at net on some points, and that helped.”
Soucy and Michaud did require three sets to earn their win, topping Reichel and Sherburne 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.