BANGOR, Maine — Tennis is a sport not known for its players’ height but for their quickness and agility around the court.
The George Stevens Academy boys tennis team was not informed of this minor detail, as it sported four players standing over 6 feet tall competing in the Eagles’ Eastern Maine Class C title match against Madawaska at the Bangor Indoor Tennis Club Wednesday.
The general physique of the players isn’t ideal, but it may have been their saving grace en route to a 5-0 sweep and the Class C title.
The big win came from the GSA tandem of Nick Dillon and Ed Laymeyer, who beat Madawaska’s Sam Deschaine and Ethan Wetmore 6-2, 6-2.
Dillon and Laymeyer are two of the tallest players on the squad and put the height to good use.
“What we took advantage of was our size and that we were more aggressive as a team,” Dillon said.
The result of their advantage was the ability to put power into returning lob shots, and with that power came the inability for the Owls to answer the blasts.
“We served well, had some great volleys and played net a lot,” Laymeyer said of the pair’s overall play.
The effort by GSA’s second doubles duo may have been the best overall match they have put together all year.
“We have had games where one of us is playing well, but today both of us played solid,” Dillon said.
Both doubles teams came through for the Eagles, as GSA’s No. 1 doubles team of Jason Gao and Roy Xu won its match over Greg Faucher and Aaron Thibeault 6-1, 6-4.
Gao and Xu missed opportunities to put Faucher and Thibeault away in the second set, as their aggressive play backfired in the most opportunistic positions to let the Owls tandem back in. The Eagles took their play down a bit and focused on hitting their spots to overcome the mistakes and eventually take the win.
Eagles coach Larry Gray had confidence in his players from start to finish, but he knew big efforts from his two doubles teams would be needed.
“The doubles were the table setters for us today,” said Gray. “If we could get two wins at doubles, then we feel pretty confident that it’s hard to knock off three of our singles players.”
The theme of overcoming surges from Madawaska continued into singles play for the Eagles. GSA captain Jasper Adam faced an early stumbling block in his match against Jake Goudreau, as Goudreau produced forehand and backhand slices that Adam was not ready for.
“I hadn’t really faced a lot of that this year,” Adam said. “I had to adjust to that and learn how to control the ball more and not hit it into the net.”
Once Adam made the adjustment, he was able to play his game and worked to get his first serve in to take pressure off himself. The biggest key for Adam were the powerful forehands he was able to get off that Goudreau could not catch up with.
“I was really hitting it with good pace and put it crosscourt where I wanted to hit,” he said.
Adam was able to take the match 6-1, 6-0 to clinch the title for the Eagles.
The other GSA singles players, Alex Heilner and Johnny Xue, each took their matches.
Heilner won 6-2, 6-1 by combating the hard serves of Matt Deschesnes with volleys that wore Deschesnes down, moving him from side to side.
Xue dominated the first set 6-1 but scuffled a bit in the second against Ian Lee. Xue was forced to his second serve throughout the second set, which wore down the Eagles’ No. 1 player. Lee stepped his game up with a number of miraculous returns off Xue drop shots and lengthy volleys. Xue found his composure and settled down in the final game, slowing his serve down and putting more effort into his forehands to win the second and final set 6-4.
Coach Gray was confident in his team, noting their experience from last year was essential in getting here.
“We’re young in maybe not having a lot of seniors, but we are not young in experience,” he said. “I’d say at least five of these kids significantly contributed a year ago.”
That experience fell on the shoulders of players such as Adam, Heilner and Xue, who have developed within the program together over the past few years. The veteran leadership and gritty play of first-year players like Dillon and Laymeyer made the difference in getting here.
“We knew coming in this was a good program, so we were expecting a shot at this,” Dillon said. “We had a pretty good regular season, so we knew this was in our sight.”