Defending champions Nick Forester of Falmouth and Grace Campanella of Kennebunk-Wells lead the field for the high school tennis state singles tournament that begins Saturday with regional qualifying matches.
Play will be held at sites from Caribou to South Portland as top boys and girls players seek to advance to the state Rounds of 48 and 32 set for Friday, May 24, at Lewiston High School.
The Round of 16 and quarterfinals follow the next day, also at Lewiston, with the semifinals and championship matches slated for Monday, May 27, at the Wallach Tennis Center on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston.
The five regions will qualify players based on the percentage of schools with teams in each region. Region 5 (Southern Maine at Portland/South Portland) will advance 17 boys and girls to states; followed by Region 2 (Eastern Maine at Bangor) with 11; Region 3 (Central Maine at Brunswick and Topsham) and Region 4 (Western Maine at Lewiston) with eight qualifiers each; and Region 1 (Northern Maine at Caribou) with four boys and four girls advancing.
Forester, a senior who hits the ball with either hand, defeated Falmouth teammate Alex Klemperer 6-4, 6-1 in last year’s championship match after reaching the semifinals as a sophomore.
Campanella, a junior, also defeated a familiar face in last year’s state match — older sister Rosemary Campanella, now playing at Merrimack College. Grace, the second seed in last year’s field, bested her top-seeded sister 6-2, 6-4 to capture her first state title. She also was a semifinalist in 2017.
Among those who could challenge Grace Campanella’s title reign is sophomore Caitlin Cass of Lincoln Academy in Newcastle. Cass reached the state semifinals as the sixth seed last spring and helped the Eagles win the Class B state team championship with a 16-0 record.
The top-ranked Cass is one of three Eagles seeded in this year’s Region 3 singles qualifier along with No. 5 Fiona Liang and No. 6 Emily Harris.
Other top competitors in the girls field include the top two seeds in Region 2, top-ranked Bangor junior Elene Imnaishvilli and No. 2 Regitze Jacobsen, a sophomore from Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor.
Two-time defending Class B North champion Caribou, 8-0 this spring in team play, have three seeds in the Region 1 qualifier. Top-seeded senior Hailey Holmquist leads the Vikings’ contingent, joined by third-rated junior Madison Stratton and seventh-ranked sophomore Sage Dubay.
The reigning state champion Caribou boys (8-0 this year) also have three ranked players in the Region 1 field led by junior top seed Parker Deprey, who reached last year’s quarterfinals. Younger brother Sawyer Deprey, a sophomore, is seeded third in the region, while senior Gabe Rand, the No. 4 seed, will attempt to reach the state Round of 48 for the second straight year.
The Region 2 boys are led by Hampden Academy senior Eliot Small, Belfast junior Eli Joliffe and Bangor senior Connor Lee.
Defending Class A North champion Camden Hills of Rockport (7-0) boasts three of the top four boys seeds in Region 3 with freshman Ezra LeMole at No. 1, and seniors Henry Cooper at No. 3 and Charles O’Brien at No. 4.
Joining Forester as a top threat for state honors from the Region 5 boys ranks is No. 2 Dariy Vykhodtsev, a senior from Thornton Academy in Saco. He placed second as a freshman in 2016 and reached the semifinals as a sophomore two years ago before sitting out last spring to focus on nonscholastic competition.