WATERVILLE, Maine — Brandon Albee, Tyler Small and Dillon Toothaker stepped onto the tennis courts at Ellsworth High School in the spring of 2009 with lofty aspirations.
Now as that trio of four-year varsity players approaches graduation, those tennis hopes have been realized — for each had an Eastern Maine Class B championship plaque to hold at Colby College early Wednesday afternoon after the top-ranked Eagles defeated No. 2 Mount Desert Island 4-1 to secure their second straight regional crown and third in their four-year careers.
“For us as seniors it’s huge to win this three out of our four years,” said Albee. “We got knocked out in the semis our sophomore year and it was heartbreaking because we wanted four from the get-go.
“We told everybody our eighth-grade year that we were going to come in and we were going to win and we’ve done it.”
The top-ranked Waterville girls team matched Ellsworth’s accomplishment, winning its second straight Eastern B crown and third in four years with a 4-1 win over No. 2 Caribou.
“We deserved it, we worked really hard and it paid off,” said Waterville top seed Colleen O’Donnell, one of four sophomores in the Purple Panthers’ lineup. “Last year all the singles players were freshmen, and this year we’re more experienced and we’ve gotten a lot stronger.”
The victory over second-ranked MDI continues an undefeated season for coach Brian Higgins’ 15-0 Ellsworth club, which will face Western Maine champion Falmouth for the state title Saturday, also at the Alfond-Wales Tennis Facility on the Mayflower Hill campus.
The Small-Albee-Toothaker trio also extended its career record in team matches to 57-4, with two of the defeats in the 2009 and 2011 state finals.
“As freshmen we had three senior leaders who taught us how to be leaders on the court,” said Small, “so over the years we’ve kind of taken what they taught us and utilized it.”
Ellsworth defeated MDI 5-0 twice during the regular season and had little difficulty defeating the Trojans for a third time.
Small, seeded sixth in this year’s state singles tournament, defeated Luke Horton 6-0, 6-0 at first singles, and the Eagles’ first doubles tandem of Albee and classmate Dustin Murphy topped Andrew Dalton and Woofie Kaiser by an identical score to give Ellsworth a quick 2-0 lead.
Freshman cousins Evan and Alec Toothaker earned the match-clinching point with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Caleb Cough and Kyle Greaves at second doubles, then senior Tyler Beardsley — like Murphy a third-year varsity player — topped Ian Sampson 6-2, 6-4 at third singles.
Garrett Lee, along with Greaves the lone seniors in the MDI lineup, provided the Trojans their point by rallying past Dillon Toothaker 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 at second singles.
That marked just the second individual match Ellsworth has lost this spring. The Eagles are now 73-2 in that category.
“They’re an outstanding team,” said MDI coach Ben Rowell, whose team finished with a 9-6 record. “They’ve got five seniors out of seven who have been doing this for a long time, and they deserve it.”
The Waterville girls returned intact from the 2011 squad that edged Caribou 3-2 in the quarterfinals en route to the regional title, and that experience showed as coach Jill Cristan’s club scored four straight-set victories.
Brittany Saulter, the lone senior in the Purple Panthers’ lineup, teamed with junior Melanie Bureau to give Waterville a 1-0 lead by defeating Clara Collins and Emma Duplissie-Cyr 6-0, 6-2 at second doubles, then sophomore Olivia Lopes topped Ashley Richards 6-1, 6-1 at second singles.
O’Donnell, a quarterfinalist at the recent state singles tournament, topped Carlee Pinette 6-2, 6-3 to provide Waterville the clinching point, then sophomore Jayme Saulter outlasted Katie Keaton 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) at third singles.
Caribou, which like Waterville entered the match with a 14-0 record, got its point at first doubles where junior Alexa Massey and freshman Erin Patton defeated Lauren Hallenbeck and Emily Dufour 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
“We knew if we were going to do anything against Waterville, it would have been in the middle of the lineup with two and three singles and first doubles,” said Caribou coach John Habeeb. “Our first doubles played well, but their second singles was very, very good and we had a chance at third singles if we could have won the tiebreak and gone to the third set with a little momentum going our way.
“Our girls fought as hard as they could and I’m sure they’re a little disappointed, but we’ll get on the bus and a half-hour down the road we’ll talk about the season and how good it was.”