Bethany Hammond of St. Dominic Academy returns a shot during her Round-of-16 match at the MPA singles tennis tournament at Colby College in Waterville on Saturday.
WATERVILLE — St. Dominic Academy’s Bethany Hammond spent Friday night celebrating her academic victories of the past four years surrounded by classmates. The only “back-and-forth” involved was the simultaneous moving of the tassels atop the students’ cardboard hats, and she received an award — a diploma — for her efforts.
Saturday, Hammond dealt with many more “back-and-forth” moments while forging her way through the Maine Principals’ Association singles tennis tournament at Colby College.
The hardware for this venture — should there be any — will have to wait a couple of days, though.
Hammond fought off understandable fatigue and a pair of solid opponents Saturday, posting a pair of straight-set wins to reach the state semifinal round for the fourth time in her four years at St. Dom’s.
“It still feels the same, it almost feels like I’ll be coming right back here next year, too,” Hammond said.
But she’s not. Stonehill College will reap the benefits of her college decision.
Meanwile, next year will feel a bit strange for those who’ve watched the tourney closely in recent years: Hammond is the only player in the past four seasons to appear in the semifinals each year. That fact helped her make the decision to play Saturday, even though her classmates embarked on a Project Graduation excursion.
“When it came down to it, it’s been four years and I was thinking, ‘Come on, let’s just finish it out,'” Hammond said. “It was a really tough decision.”
Hammond will get the chance to win her first state crown Monday. The No. 3 seed this year, she will face No. 2 Rosemary Campanella of Kennebunk/Wells in the semifinal round either at Bates College in Lewiston, or, if it rains, at the Racket and Fitness Club in Portland.
Saturday’s matches were not walks in the park for Hammond, either. In the Round of 16, Eva Sachs of Thornton Academy, the Trojans’ top player, started strong and matched Hammond in games early before Hammond pulled away for a 6-3, 6-2 win.
“I know my backhand was struggling a little bit today,” Hammond said. “I just needed to stay loose and hit through it.”
She then had to wait as Kira Wolpow of Brunswick and Meredith Kelley of Falmouth slugged it out for three sets and more than two hours, with Wolpow posting a come-from-behind victory.
She ran into similar hiccups with her backhand in her quarterfinal against Wolpow, but fought through those, as well, posting five straight game wins in the second set to earn another 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Ouellette finishes strong
In the boys’ draw, Lewiston senior Cole Ouellette overcame some serious pressure in the second set of his match against Jacob Greene of Waynflete to post a 6-3, 7-5 win and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.
“I knew if it went three sets, I’d be really tired,” Ouellette said. “I just stuck to my roots, just tried to keep it to his left-hand forehand as much as I could so I could get a short ball and put it over him. Tried to play my best tennis.”
Greene posed a rare problem for Ouellette in that he plays an ambidextrous game — hitting a forehand with both hands. Fortunately for Ouellette, it was a familiar situation.
“Two times this week,” Ouellette said. “I had a feel for it this time.”
In a first-round match, Ouellette said, his opponent played the same way.
In his match against Greene, Ouellette fell behind 4-1 in the second set, and nearly 5-1. But he rallied on a pair of consecutive points to track down lobs and cross-court shots that could have been winners.
“That’s just Lewiston tennis,” coach Tom LeBlond said, watching from a distance.
Ouellette’s prize for a come-from-behind win? A date with top seed and prohibitive tourney favorite Nick Mathieu of Mt. Ararat.
“A buddy of mine told me, just scratch away the seeds, you’re at zero, everybody is at zero,” Ouellette said. “Doesn’t matter what seed you play, everyone’s at zero.”
Ouellette stole a game from Mathieu in the first set, and another in the second, but the Mt. Ararat senior was too powerful overall, earning the 6-1, 6-1 win. A key piece of the Blue Devils’ pair of state hockey championships, Ouellette will leave tennis behind — for now — and try his hand at junior hockey next season.
“It was a fun four years at Lewiston, for sure,” Ouellette said.
Top seed Lana Mavor of Yarmouth and Campanella’s sister, Grace, round out the semifinal round on the girls’ side. In the boys’ semifinals, Mathieu will face unseeded Brandon Ameglio of Waynflete, while No. 2 Dariy Vykhodtsev of Thornton Academy will battle No. 3 Nick Forester of Falmouth. Matches are slated to start at 9:30 a.m.
Cole Ouellette of Lewiston High School returns a shot during his quarterfinal match at the MPA singles tennis tournament at Colby College in Waterville on Saturday.Lewiston High School’s Cole Ouellette returns a shot during his Round-of-16 match at the MPA singles tennis tournament at Colby College in Waterville on Saturday.Bethany hammond of St. Dominic Academy returns a shot during her Round-of-16 match at the MPA singles tennis tournament at Colby College in Waterville on Saturday.St. Dominic Academy’s Bethany Hammond serves during her Round-of-16 match at the MPA singles tennis tournament at Colby College in Waterville on Saturday.John Bapst’s Paul Branch returns a shot to Morse High School’s Thomas Jarmusz during their match in the Round of 16 at the MPA singles tennis tournament at Colby College in Waterville on Saturday. Branch fell to Jarmusz in three sets.