HAMPDEN, Maine — George Stevens Academy has experienced considerable athletic success during the nearly completed academic year, highlighted by the Class C state championship in boys basketball.
But one of the school’s most consistent sources of sporting success is its tennis programs, and the Eagles are back on top again this spring after sweeping the Class C North boys and girls regional championships Tuesday at the Armstrong Tennis Center.
The undefeated GSA boys defeated Washington Academy of East Machias 4-1 to capture their eighth consecutive regional crown and 11th in the last 12 years, while the school’s girls squad bested Orono 4-1 for its fifth North/East championship in the last 11 years.
“I think what is so amazing about tennis is I’ve found that everyone on the team really loves it and that love for the sport has driven us all to be better,” said GSA senior Ben Politte, a third-year varsity starter who edged Washington Academy’s Yontz Sutton 6-4, 3-6 and 7-5 in a third-set tiebreaker with the match already decided.
“I don’t know why at GSA there’s that love for tennis, but a lot of people there really enjoy it and I think that’s why we do so well every year.”
Both GSA teams will advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. state finals at Colby College in Waterville.
The GSA boys (15-0) will face the winner of Thursday’s C South final between nine-time defending state champion Waynflete of Portland and Boothbay, while the Eagles’ girls squad (13-3) will face the survivor of Thursday’s South regional title match between Waynflete and Saint Dominic of Auburn.
Coach Mark Ensworth’s Eagles took a commanding 3-0 lead in the boys match, with Bryant Hsiung defeating Noah Huang at third singles without yielding a game, Rhett Cheng and Christian Jones topping Ian Squire and Finn Sunde 6-3, 6-1 at second doubles and Boris Chen clinching the match with a 6-3, 6-3 outlasting of Manuel Sanchez at second singles.
Sixth-seeded Washington Academy broke through as Eric Smith and Joey Moore scored a 6-2, 0-6, 7-5 victory over Arlo Stabler and Kent Fang.
“We’ve done well for a lot of years now so there’s definitely a lot of pressure to get back to where we usually make it,” said Politte. “But I think that pressure is only in the offseason because once you get there you’re having fun.
“We go and play rain, shine or whatever, and I always have fun with all my teammates.”
Washington Academy, making its first appearance in a regional final, finished its season with a 9-7 record.
In the girls match, come-from-behind three-set victories by second seed Julianna Allen and third seed Tatiana Heggestad helped propel George Stevens past previously undefeated Orono for its first regional crown since 2012.
“It’s a year early, to tell you the truth,” said GSA coach Tim Farrar, whose top seven included just two seniors. “I had Orono penciled in right from the beginning because I knew that they weren’t losing anybody. I knew early on that it was going to be [Mattanawcook Academy of] Lincoln, Orono and us in some order.”
Heggestad outlasted Orono’s Elise Kenney 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) to break a 1-1 tie, then Allen followed top seed Lindsay Nevin’s match-clinching straight-set victory over Olivia McCormack with an 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Lindsay Wells.
“After you get down you just have to remember that it’s not over yet and that you can come back because if you give up then you will lose,” said Heggestad. “It’s about focusing less on the score but rather the playing.”
Heggestad used her baseline play to rally from her first-set loss, then built a 4-1 lead in the third-set tiebreaker before Kenney hit back-to-back winners on each sideline en route to a run of three straight points.
Heggestad soon dropped a lob over her taller opponent to take a 7-6 lead, and when Kenney hit a return long on the next point the GSA senior claimed her second win over her Orono opponent in their three matches this spring.
“At that point I just wanted it to be over,” Heggestad said. Obviously I wanted to win and I was going to try my very hardest but it I felt like we had both proven ourselves to be very good players and it just needed to be over.”
Allen, a sophomore, didn’t let a shutout loss in the opening set detract her during the longest match of the girls’ competition, but used steady play to win the second set and then built on that momentum to close out her match.
They’ve both been playing well,” said Farrar.
Fifth-ranked GSA, which lost two regular-season matches to the third-seeded Red Riots, took a 1-0 lead as the second doubles tandem of freshman Chloe Politte and senior Yvonne Rogers topped Emily Witham and Leah Costello 6-2, 6-1.
Orono (14-1) tied the match at first doubles, with Daphne Murphy and Becca Gallandt defeating Lillie Maier and Courtney Bianco 6-2, 6-1.
Wells remained undefeated in team competition this spring with a 6-3, 6-1 win over McCormack at first singles.