WATERVILLE, Maine — Talent and experience were defining factors Wednesday as the Van Buren girls and George Stevens Academy boys successfully defended Eastern Maine Class C tennis championships at Colby College.
Second-ranked and undefeated Van Buren defeated top-seeded George Stevens 4-1 to win its second straight girls’ regional championship, while the second-ranked George Stevens Academy boys swept past No. 4 Madawaska 5-0 to win its fifth consecutive Eastern Maine boys crown and 10th in the last 12 years.
“We all like the game, we play during the summers, and we get together and play on the weekends,” said George Stevens senior and boys top seed Alex Heilner. “It’s not just practice time and game time when we play. We all enjoy it.”
The two regional champs will battle for state titles Saturday at Bates College in Lewiston, Van Buren (11-0) against either three-time defending state champion Waynflete of Portland or Winthrop, and the George Stevens boys (13-2) facing either six-time reigning state champion Waynflete or North Yarmouth Academy.
The Western C finals are scheduled for Thursday.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity to come back and have a second chance of going all the way to states,” said Van Buren sophomore Alexis Ouellette, whose service ace on match point in her second doubles match with teammate Isabel Parent clinched the Eastern Maine crown for the Crusaders. “We’re just so blessed to have each other as a team.”
Van Buren had returned intact from the 2013 squad that produced the school’s first regional crown, but the Crusaders were facing a George Stevens Academy girls program that not only had won four of the previous seven Eastern C championships but had defeated them during postseason play in 2011 and 2012.
“Even though we were the defending champs, I felt like we were the underdog because we had lost to them twice in previous years,” said Van Buren top seed Parise Rossignol, one of two seniors on coach Leah Levasseur’s roster. “We really wanted to get this win, and we were fortunate enough to do that.”
Second-seeded Courtney Parent gave Van Buren an early lead with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Maggie Keating, but George Stevens’ Sophia Chen leveled the match with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Chantal Deveau at third singles.
Van Buren clinched the title when its two doubles teams capped off straight-set victories within minutes of each other.
The first doubles tandem of Felisha Bouchard and Jacinta Deschaine rallied from a 5-2 second-set deficit to outlast Adrian Van der Eb and Maddi Politte 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).
Then Ouellette and Isabel Parent withstood a second-set comeback by George Stevens’ Abigail Frost and Claire Yue to earn the deciding third point with a 6-4, 6-4 win.
“We’re the same team as last year. We didn’t lose anybody and gained one freshman, and all our players had the same positions as last year, and that really helped us a lot,” said Levasseur. “We weren’t building, and we came out strong.”
With the team competition decided, Rossignol — the University of Maine-bound basketball player who dabbles in tennis during the spring — then outlasted George Stevens’ Charlotte Reiter 10-7 in a super-tiebreaker that decided their match after the teams’ top singles players had split two sets. Rossignol won the opener 9-7 in a tiebreaker, then Reiter won the second set 6-3.
“During the year, we had a couple of tough games, especially with Fort Kent, and it just comes down to mental toughness,” said Rossignol. “I think we have a lot of that and that’s what’s going to win you games and championships.”
The George Stevens boys squad improved its individual match record against Class C opponents this spring to 55-0 with five straight-set wins against a Madawaska team .
“I thought we played really well.” said George Stevens coach Larry Gray. “For us to 5-0 this team today was quite an accomplishment.”
Heilner did not drop a game in his victory over Ian Lee, while junior Tate Yoder topped Jake Gendreau 6-1, 6-3 at second singles and classmate Nate Boechat bested Michael Wong 6-1, 6-1 at third singles.
Senior Ed Lameyer and sophomore Luke Theoharidis defeated Sam Dechaine and Tim Deschenes 6-2, 6-3 at first doubles, with the Eagles’ second doubles tandem of junior Tim Dentino and sophomore Beowulf Urban a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Sam Cyr and Lucas Gendreau.
“It’s great to be here for the fourth time in my life,” said Heilner of his team’s impending return to the state final, “but it’s also great for the team. This is what I was looking forward to at the beginning of the season. I had high hopes for our team, it’s a great bunch of guys, and now we’re here.”