WATERVILLE, Maine — What a difference having your best tennis player available can make.
Camden Hills of Rockport junior Austin Pohlman, who missed his team’s regular-season loss to undefeated Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston while singing at an all-state music festival, was back for the rematch Wednesday. His presence proved pivotal as the Windjammers edged their midcoast rivals 3-2 to win the Eastern Maine Class B championship at Colby College.
Pohlman defeated Oceanside top seed Cameron Butler 6-2, 7-5 as Camden Hills won the first three completed matches to earn the program’s first regional title since a run to the 2005 state crown.
“We definitely had high expectations coming into this match,” said Camden Hills coach Noah Capetta. “We lost to Oceanside 3-2 during the regular season but we were missing our No. 1 player and we knew having Austin in the lineup would be a game-changer for us.”
The Waterville girls joined Camden Hills as Eastern B champions, winning their fourth straight regional crown and seventh in the last nine years with a 4-1 victory over top-seeded Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor in a battle of the unbeatens.
The champions will compete for state titles at 4 p.m. Saturday at Bates College in Lewiston. Camden Hills will play either Cape Elizabeth or Yarmouth and Waterville faces either Greely of Cumberland Center or Spruce Mountain of Jay.
Those Western B finals will be played Thursday at The Racket and Fitness Center in Portland.
One worry coach Jill Cristan’s Waterville club won’t face at states is the opponent that has quashed its state title dreams each of the last three years, as six-time defending Class B champion Falmouth is now in Class A.
“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, no Falmouth this year, so state championship,’” said Waterville top seed Colleen O’Donnell. “But we still have our heads in the game and know we have to focus. It’s not just going to be easy.”
Second-seeded Waterville and MDI did not meet during the regular season but were not unfamiliar foes — Waterville had eliminated MDI from postseason play each of the previous three years, in the 2011 regional final and in the semifinals the last two springs.
“You definitely know what you’re getting when you play Waterville,” said MDI coach Ben Rowell.
O’Donnell, a state singles semifinalist this spring, won at first singles without losing a game to MDI senior Madeline Cook.
The Purple Panthers then swept the doubles matches, with Chelsea Cayer and Fotini Shanos defeating Maeve Geary and Emily McCarthy 6-1, 6-3 at second doubles and Emma Cristan and Jayme Saulter scoring the match-clinching point with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Sierra Bloom and MacKenzie Myers at first doubles.
“We were pretty nervous going into this but I knew if we just played our game we’d do fine and we did,” said O’Donnell, Waterville’s No. 1 player. “We knew they were good and undefeated just like us, so we knew it would be tougher than what we’d been facing but we did fine.”
Junior Sarah Phelps scored MDI’s lone point by defeating Olivia Benissen 6-3, 6-4 at third singles before Waterville second seed Emily Dufour closed out the match with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Ivy Wallace.
“We had a great effort in singles at two and three,” said Rowell. “We knew it was going to be tough at one because Colleen’s a really good player, but Madeline fought out there and their girls just played a little better than us in doubles today.”
Camden Hills (13-2) secured its Eastern Maine boys crown with a roster void of seniors — three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen made up Wednesday’s lineup.
“This is far past our expectations,” said Pohlman. “In the two previous years we hadn’t gotten past the first round of the playoffs, so to get all the way to the Eastern championships and win them is great.”
The fourth-ranked Windjammers secured their victory with straight-set victories by Pohlman and both of its doubles teams.
James Annis and Colby Arau scored the first point of the match with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Kyle Waters and Logan Finnegan at second doubles, then Pohlman outlasted Oceanside top seed Cameron Butler 6-2, 7-5.
“In the first set I was trying to focus on his backhand because I know he has a big forehand he can move to either side of the court,” said Pohlman, a frequent playing partner of Butler during the winter at the Midcoast Recreation Center in Rockport. “I figured he could hurt me less with his backhand.
“He started playing a lot more consistently in the second set and we started having longer rallies — we had an almost 40-hit rally at one point. I just had to play it one shot at a time.”
Josiah Simko and Alex Forcillo scored the match-clinching point at first doubles, defeating Johannes Korhonen and Steven Eldridge 6-2, 7-6 (3).
Top-ranked Oceanside (14-1) earned the final two points with three-set victories at second and third singles. No. 2 Nate Philbrook defeated Matt Morse 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2 after third-seed Eli Thorbjornson edged Luke Bernstein 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
“I think we won’t have any regrets with this one, they played well,” said Oceanside coach Dan Wiley. “We played well, too, and would have liked to have had a win, but sometimes you play hard and you don’t come away with the victory. That’s the reality.”