ORONO, Maine — It was a point that perhaps represented an entire spring of competition between the rival Bangor and Hampden Academy boys tennis teams.
Second singles players Josh Audibert of Bangor and Ian Miller of Hampden returned shot after shot, first along the baseline and then near the net, before retreating back toward the baseline, from where Audibert finally delivered a forehand winner.
When Audibert then won the next point, the undefeated senior completed a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory that clinched top-seeded Bangor’s second straight Eastern Maine Class A championship.
“That point kind of described the entire match,” said Audibert. “It was definitely back and forth. I’m just happy I pulled it out at the end.”
The 4-1 win enabled the undefeated Rams (15-0) to join Class B Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and Class C George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill as regional champions.
All three teams will return to the University of Maine for state finals Saturday, weather permitting.
Bangor also defeated Hampden in last year’s Eastern A title match, but with the Rams graduating six of seven starters and Hampden losing five starters, neither anticipated a championship rematch when preseason practices began.
“I was hoping to still be competitive but I was not expecting these guys to be undefeated,” said Bangor coach Cindi Howard. “They really wanted it bad, they practiced hard and here we are. They did an awesome job.”
Hampden took a 1-0 lead at first doubles, where Dan Meo and Oakley Kilgour remained undefeated with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jackson McGarvey and Andrew Leighton.
It was a result typical of the tight matches contested throughout these teams’ third meeting of the season.
Bangor’s Mateo Laredo squared the match with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Sam Jordan at third singles, then Bangor took a 2-1 lead when Patrick Lee and Chandler Stewart won a second-set tiebreaker to finish off a 6-3, 7-6(1) win over Matt Harris and Logan Lafayette at second doubles.
But the title was still in doubt, with Miller winning the second set to tie his match with Audibert and Bangor top seed Sam Bolduc locked in a tight battle with Alex Townsend.
Audibert jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third set before Miller rallied for a 4-3 lead, then Audibert regrouped and won the final three games.
“I decided to try making him run more by hitting it to the sides because it was the third set and we were both tired,” said Audibert.
Bolduc, the lone returning player for Bangor from last year’s title team, then outlasted Townsend 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 to complete the match.
The Rams play Gorham for the state title in a rematch of the 2012 final won by Gorham 4-1. Third-ranked Hampden concluded its season with a 12-3 record.
In Class B, top-ranked MDI (15-0) used the leadership of its five seniors to secure its first regional championship since 2007.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Trojans’ third seed Andrew Dalton, one of five seniors in the lineup. “Starting out as a freshman, I know a lot of our team now hadn’t even picked up a racket before then and we didn’t even make the playoffs my first year.
“Just to see the growth of this team as a whole has been great, and to see each and every guy work hard out there — and not just the players out there on the court but also the guys behind them who are pushing them — that’s what’s made this team what it is now.”
Dalton was pushed to three sets before defeating Caribou’s Zac Gorence 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, while fellow singles players Luke Horton and Ian Sampson and the doubles teams of Caleb Cough and Sam Jacobson, and Woofie Kaiser and Sam Walker, all won in straight sets.
“The whole season we were ready to get back here,” said Dalton, whose team lost to Ellsworth in last year’s regional title match. “We were really excited to be there last year, but we felt we had some unfinished business today that we took care of, and we are more than excited about it.”
MDI will play Cape Elizabeth for the state title, while second-ranked Caribou ends its season at 13-2.
In Class C, George Stevens won its fourth straight EM title and seventh in the last eight years by defeating the only school to interrupt that streak — Madawaska in 2009.
The second-ranked Eagles (13-2) remained unbeaten against Class C competition this spring, got straight-sets victories from top singles player Johnny Xue — the lone senior in the lineup — along with Alex Heilner and Tate Yoder and the second doubles tandem of Leo Yuan and Nate Boechat.
“It was scary early,” said GSA coach Larry Gray. “We were down in every match on court to start off and we had a bus break down on the way, and I was thinking maybe this isn’t meant to be. But I give the kids credit, they fought back quickly and in three of the first four matches we came back to win the first set.”
No. 1 Madawaska (11-4) earned its point at first doubles where Aaron Thibeault and Sam Dechaine defeated GSA’s Ed Lameyer and Luke Theoharidis 6-4, 6-1.
GSA will face five-time defending state champion Waynflete of Portland for the state championship.