HAMPDEN, Maine — Top-ranked Bangor began the season as the favorite to end Lewiston’s nine-year dominance of the Eastern Maine Class A boys tennis world.
The unbeaten Rams backed up those expectations Thursday, sweeping third-ranked Hampden Academy 5-0 to win their first regional championship in a decade.
“Being undefeated, we just had to make sure we didn’t get too cocky,” said Bangor first doubles player Connor Griffin, one of six seniors on a team that returned intact from the 2011 team that lost to Hampden in the Eastern Maine semifinals. “We really have tried hard to focus in practice and we wanted to make sure we took care of business today.”
Coach Cindi Howard’s club, now 15-0, will face Western A winner Gorham (14-1) in the state final at 1 p.m. Saturday at Colby College in Waterville.
Bangor is the last Eastern Maine team other than Lewiston to win the Class A state crown, that coming in 2002.
Hampden, which returned just two starters from its 2011 team that fell to Lewiston in the regional final, ended its season at 12-3, with all three losses coming against Bangor.
“Across the board I thought our kids played well,” said Hampden coach John Plourde. “We had some tough matches in the doubles, and I don’t think a 5-0 score is indicative of the closeness of that match but certainly I think Bangor’s experience showed today.”
Bangor’s 4-1 and 3-2 regular-season victories over the Broncos represented the Rams’ only nonshutouts of the spring — and four of the 10 individual matches had been extended to three sets, leaving some uncertainty about the outcome of the rivals’ third meeting.
Hampden’s best chance for the upset likely would have required success in doubles, but while the Broncos were competitive in both matches, Bangor earned a pair of straight-set victories that ended barely a minute apart to take a 2-0 lead.
First the Rams’ second doubles pairing of Kris Bears and Robby Brookings defeated Jack Bjorn and Myles Safford 6-4, 6-4, then Griffin and Chris Howat won a 7-4 second-set tiebreaker to finish off a 6-4, 7-6 victory over Kent Reichel and Ian Miller.
“I think our net play and our serving was pretty solid today,” said Howat. “We kept them off guard with our serves and our net play was aggressive.”
Bangor’s match-clinching point came from the only nonsenior in the lineup, sophomore Sam Bolduc at third singles.
Bolduc got off to a strong start as he tried to avenge two regular-season losses to Hampden’s Alex Townsend and scored a 6-1 first-set victory.
The second set featured numerous long rallies, but Bolduc never trailed and won 7-5 to hand Townsend his first loss of the spring.
“I had pretty solid groundstrokes in the first set, my serve was going in, everything was working,” said Bolduc. “I just went all out and kept playing, I didn’t give up and it worked out for me.”
John Szewczyk endured a 2-hour, 45-minute marathon against Hampden second seed Jordan Kilgour, finally winning the battle of left-handers 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
“It was a really tiring match,” said Szewczyk after his second three-set win in his three head-to-head victories over Kilgour this season. “[Kilgour] is really good, he’s the best player I’ve played in the regular season and playoffs. It’s always a really good match when I play him.”
Moments later, Bangor top seed Patrick Stewart finished off a 6-2, 6-3 victory over John Wilson that improved the Rams’ individual match record this spring to 72-3.
“We’ve been undefeated all season, and it’s really been a team effort,” said Szewczyk. “Our doubles teams are really strong, it’s always nice knowing you have two points in doubles, and [top seed] Patrick [Stewart] is one of the best players in the state and could be the best in Class A.
“It’s a whole group effort.”