The Falmouth and Yarmouth boys’ and Falmouth and North Yarmouth Academy girls’ tennis teams all traveled to Bates College in Lewiston Wednesday hoping to land a berth in the state championship.
The Yachtsmen and Clippers squared off in the boys’ Western B Final, a pairing that was expected all season, but one that didn’t come easily.
Falmouth’s girls looked to continue their season of dominance when they battled Oak Hill in the Western B Final.
In Western C, defending state champion NYA squared off against top-ranked Winthrop in the regional final.
All three matches were played too late for print.
The great escape
Falmouth went undefeated in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and won Class B titles the first two years before being dethroned last spring by Caribou in the state final. This year, the Yachtsmen opened with 3-2 losses (to Cape Elizabeth and Waynflete) in two of their first three matches. Falmouth then came to life, closing the year on a nine-match winning streak to wind up 10-2, good for the No. 3 seed in Western B.
The Yachtsmen then had to go head-to-head with the Capers in the quarterfinals last Thursday, nine days after beating them 3-2 in the regular season finale.
Falmouth got wins from senior Jack Wyman at second singles and from its No. 2 doubles tandem of Taylor Dimick and Ben Moody, while Cape Elizabeth won first and third singles.
The match then came down to an epic three-set battle at No. 1 doubles. The Yachtsmen’s Jack Coster and Chris Moody beat the Capers’ Graham Nichols and Mike Takach 6-2 in the first set, but dropped the second, 2-6. The third set went back-and-forth with Falmouth winning the first three games, Cape Elizabeth the next three, the Yachtsmen two in a row, followed by two straight by the Capers. Coster and Moody put themselves on the brink of victory when they went up 6-5, but Nichols and Takach won the next game to necessitate a tiebreaker, with the first team to seven points (winning by at least two) earning the crown.
There, Nichols and Takach appeared to seize control as they raced to a 6-1 lead, putting Coster and Moody on the brink of defeat, but the tandem wasn’t finished, rising off the deck to win five straight points to make it 6-6. Again, Nichols and Takach got to match point when they went up 7-6, but Coster and Moody saved their best for last, winning the next three to end the classic with a 9-7 tiebreaker victory.
“The final score doesn’t entirely tell the story,” said longtime Falmouth coach Bob McCully. “I’m very proud of the way my team has come together, with every player contributing a vital point during different matches, and all of our players have steadily improved during the course of the season.”
With the Cape Elizabeth scare out of the way, the Yachtsmen hosted No. 7 Greely (7-5 in the regular season and a 3-2 upset winner at No. 2 Mountain Valley in its quarterfinal) Saturday in the semifinals. This time around, Falmouth won 4-1, sweeping the doubles matches and getting wins at second (Wyman) and third (Chad Prichard) singles.
The Rangers got a win from senior Thomas Dillman at first singles, but it wasn’t enough as their season concluded at 8-6.
Despite its record, Greely was one of the best teams in the state this spring, but playing in the Western Maine Conference proved to be too much to overcome.
“Our season was good, but we couldn’t break through with the big three of Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth,” said Rangers coach Bert Kendall. “Tom went further than any Greely player in recent memory by reaching the final four in singles. It was great to have one point in every match. He was a phenomenal 17-2 for the year. The Falmouth match was painful to watch, our season ended with a whimper.
“Next year will be a rebuilding year. I’m hoping that we have some surprises next spring.”
Yarmouth, meanwhile, was the favorite entering the season and despite an early 3-2 loss to Falmouth when it was undermanned and a 5-0 setback to defending Class C champion Waynflete, the Clippers lived up to billing, going 10-2. That record only gave Yarmouth the No. 5 seed, however.
After rolling past No. 4 Lisbon 5-0 in the quarterfinals, the Clippers advanced Friday with a 5-0 home win over No. 7 York. Yarmouth lost just one doubles set against the Greyhounds and didn’t drop a set against the Wildcats.
“My doubles are playing great and my three singles players continued their solid play,” said Clippers coach Mark Marstaller.
Falmouth and Yarmouth played just once in the regular season (May 4). The teams met last year in the regional final, with the Yachtsmen winning, 3-2. Falmouth also eliminated the Clippers in the 2001 second round and 2007 semifinals. Yarmouth downed the Yachtsmen in the 1994 and 1996 Western C Finals.
Both coaches have great respect for their foe.
“I’m not surprised we’re meeting Falmouth,” said Marstaller. “I expected going into the season that we’d face either Falmouth or Cape in the Western Maine Finals. We both have some of the best doubles players in the league. I’m expecting good results at singles positions. Falmouth has an amazing history, a great coach, and always a strong team. I’ve been coaching for 11 years and have never defeated Falmouth. Last year, I hoped the results would be different. This year, I expect the results will be different.”
“The Western Maine Conference has been exceptionally competitive this season, but I felt all along that Yarmouth is the team to beat,” said McCully. “We’ll need to have our players raise their games to hope to advance, but we should have a very competitive match.”
The winner will play in the Class B state final Saturday at 12:45 p.m., at Colby College in Waterville against either Presque Isle (13-1) or Ellsworth (14-0).
While the Falmouth boys had to scratch and claw for dear life, the school’s girls’ team went on doing what it’s done all year: crush all comers. The Yachtsmen went 12-0 in the regular season, only once gave up two points to an opponent, and earned the top seed for the playoffs.
Falmouth enjoyed 5-0 wins over No. 9 York and No. 4 Cape Elizabeth to advance.
“It’s a bit tough to keep everyone focused and motivated to give their best as the school year winds down and summer weather beckons,” said Yachtsmen coach Sandra Stone. “Now, it’s really about team-bonding, working to build on our match toughness and being mentally ready to play.”
The Yachtsmen met a 12-2 Oak Hill squad in the regional final that it doesn’t face in the regular season. It was the schools’ first playoff matchup.
“I don’t really know much about Oak Hill, except they beat Freeport,” said Stone. “I think we have what it takes to win.”
If Falmouth won Wednesday, it was face either Caribou (14-0) or Waterville (14-0) in Saturday’s state championship match at Colby, beginning at 12:45 p.m.
In other Western B action, Yarmouth, seeded fifth, gave Cape Elizabeth a scare before losing 3-2 in the quarterfinals to wind up 7-6.
Freeport, a program-best 6-6 this regular season, was ranked seventh before being eliminated by No. 2 Oak Hill, 4-1, in the quarterfinals.
On the prowl
NYA has won six of the past 10 Class C crowns, including last year’s, and likes its chances to do it again in 2009. The Panthers lost 5-0 at home to Falmouth May 11, but won their other 11 matches and earned the No. 2 seed in the region.
After dispatching No. 7 St. Dom’s 4-1 in the quarterfinals, NYA eliminated No. 3 Boothbay Region 5-0 Saturday in the semifinals to advance. The Panthers have yet to lose a set in the postseason.
“The team is very happy about advancing to the regional finals,” said NYA coach Lorena Coffin. “Playing together as a team at Bates is a special experience for them.”
The only thing standing between the Panthers and the state championship match was No. 1 Winthrop, a team NYA doesn’t play in the regular season. The last playoff meeting between the schools came in 2006 (a 3-2 Panthers’ victory in the quarterfinals).
If NYA was able to advance to the state match, it would play the Eastern C champion at 9:15 a.m. Saturday in Waterville.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com.