WATERVILLE, Maine — When Luke Gilman got his first look at the draw for this year’s high school tennis state singles tournament, his excitement over qualifying for the 48-player field was tempered by a potential second-round match against the event’s No. 1 seed.
But when top-ranked and two-time finalist Justin Brogan of Falmouth had to retire six games into their Round of 32 match with an ankle injury shortly before inclement weather suspended play Friday, opportunity suddenly presented itself for the Cape Elizabeth High School junior.
He’s taking full advantage.
The unseeded Gilman, who plays third singles for the Capers, now finds himself among the four semifinalists left contending for the state championship after scoring a pair of straight-set victories during the Round of 16 and quarterfinals played Saturday at Colby College.
“I saw the draw and I saw Brogan in my second match so I never expected to be here,” said Gilman, whose older brother Matt was a three-time state semifinalist who now attends Yale University. “I assumed I hopefully would have a good match with Justin and lose it, but it’s incredible that stuff like this can happen.
“I didn’t want to get ahead of myself but I knew that hopefully if I played my best I could get through and I happened to play well today and I’m really fortunate for it.”
Gilman topped Ellsworth’s Evan Toothaker 6-2, 6-2 in the Round of 16 and Bryce Tetreault of North Yarmouth Academy 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals to set up his semifinal against No. 4 Nick Mathieu of Mount Ararat of Topsham at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Bates College in Lewiston. The other boys semifinal will pit No. 2 Brendan McCarthy of Falmouth, a finalist last spring, against No. 3 Isaac Salas of Waynflete of Portland.
Defending champion Olivia Leavitt of Falmouth and 2012 state titlist Maisie Silverman of Brunswick lead the girls’ semifinalists. Leavitt lost just two games in two matches Saturday to earn her next match Monday against No. 5 Colleen O’Donnell of Waterville, who advanced to the semifinals for the first time with a 6-2, 6-4 quarterfinal win over No. 4 Julia Brogan of Falmouth.
Silverman lost just one game in three Saturday matches and next will face third-seeded freshman Bethany Hammond of Belgrade and Saint Dominic High School of Auburn, who fought past No. 6 Ashley Woodside of Hampden Academy 6-3, 6-3 in the quarters.
Gilman started quickly against Tetreault, another unseeded player who advanced to the quarterfinals by ousting No. 8 Cameron Butler of Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston in the Round of 32 on Friday and then rallying past No. 9 Sam Bolduc of Bangor 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the Round of 16 earlier Saturday.
“Mostly in this match I just stayed within myself,” said Gilman. “Sometimes I’ll get ahead of myself and go for too much but this time I played within my game. I was attacking but not too much, and that’s usually when I’m at my best.”
Mathieu, the highest-seeded player left in the upper half of the boys bracket, had the toughest quarterfinal among those who advanced as he edged No. 5 Aidan McGrory of Falmouth 7-6 (3), 6-3.
Salas topped No. 6 Ogden Timpson of Scarborough 6-3, 6-1 while McCarthy subdued No. 10 Gabriel Torres of Cape Elizabeth 6-1, 6-2.
While Leavitt and Silverman cruised to their quarterfinal victories, Hammond and O’Donnell survived significant challenges.
Woodside, the fourth-year No. 1 singles player at Hampden, came out aggressively hitting her groundstrokes and took a 2-0 first-set lead against the first left-handed player she has faced during her high school career.
“(Hammond) has a lot of different shots and she’s able to get around well, so I thought if I hit more aggressively I’d be able to get more points, which I actually wound up doing and thankfully won a few games,” said Woodside.
But Hammond broke Woodside twice for a 3-2 lead, then won the pivotal sixth game of the set by overcoming four break points.
Hammond then used a forehand winner and a backhand passing shot to hold to 5-2 before a scoring issue arose due to some confusion involving the on-court scorecard used by the players. Both players ultimately agreed to a 4-3 lead for Hammond, but the apparent discrepancy didn’t matter as Hammond held serve to win the next game and then broke serve at love to clinch the set.
Woodside, battling a nagging injury to her right ankle while playing her third match of the day, stayed in contention throughout most of the second set, but Hammond broke in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead and then served out the match.
“(Woodside) had a really good serve and her groundstrokes were tough to hit back,” said Hammond. “She loved to hit with power, she’s a really good player.
“I tried to slice it more so I didn’t have to compete with her power. When I had the opportunity I’d go for shots, but I wanted to try and stay in the point.”
O’Donnell, a state quarterfinalist each of the last two years, broke through to qualify for the final day of this year’s tournament by topping Brogan comfortably in the first set, then winning the final five games of the match after trailing 4-1 in the second set.