The Orono High School girls tennis team captured its first regional championship in 15 years Tuesday evening, outlasting previously unbeaten Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln 3-2 in the Class C North final at Schenck High School in East Millinocket.
Top-seeded singles player Clarice Bell scored the clinching victory for coach Matt Murray’s club, snapping a 2-2 tie with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Mattanawcook’s Lexi Thompson.
That came after the teams split two doubles matches as well as second and third singles.
“When I talked with the coaches about our path to getting three wins, I thought out of the first four matches that go on we’ve got to win two and then it goes to Clarice, our No. 1, and she’s the best player in the conference, no doubt about it,” Murray said.
A decisive match for Orono came at first doubles, where Josie Veilleux and Brielle Biehm scored a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Caitlyn Beyenberg and Abbey Libbey.
“[MA’s] doubles teams are really, really good,” Murray said, “but we played really well at first doubles and won that going away. When we won that, I liked our chances.”
Orono’s other victory came when Celia Beuttens defeated Kylee Moody 6-1, 6-1 at second singles.
Mattanawcook’s wins came in three-set matches, with Hillary Bubar defeating Brynn Kenney 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 at third singles and Joy Leighton and Esther Susen fending off Grace Langley and Molly Booth 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 at second doubles.
Orono’s victory avenged two regular-season losses to Mattanawcook, as well as semifinal setbacks to the Lynx in the 2018 and 2019 regionals.
Top-seeded Mattanawcook defeated the second-ranked Red Riots earlier this spring by a 3-2 count at Orono on April 29 and 5-0 at Lincoln on May 12.
“From the 5-0 match in the middle of the season we had some injuries we were dealing with so we didn’t have a full lineup, and we can’t afford not to have a full lineup against them because they’re too good,” Murray said. “And the first match was as close as the match [Tuesday], it just went in their favor.”
“But I think we’re peaking right now. I think that’s the difference, that we’re playing really good tennis,” he said.
Orono (13-2) faces the winner of Wednesday’s Class C South final between No. 1 Hall-Dale of Farmingdale (12-0) and No, 3 Waynflete of Portland (8-6) for the state championship at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Lewiston.
Orono will attempt to win its first state championship in girls tennis after previously winning regional titles in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
Mattanawcook, the state champion in 2018 and 2019, finished 12-1.