LEWISTON — For a 30-minute period, Freeport had the lead in the Class B boys’ tennis state championship at Lewiston High School on Saturday.
Clay Canterbury gave the Falcons that edge, rolling to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Caribou’s Alec Cyr at No. 2 singles.
With the Falcons’ top singles player Wes Goodwin warming up for his match with Viking Parker Deprey on the same court as Canterbury had just played, the hope for a state championship in Freeport’s first-ever state title match was right there.
But, high school tennis can be cruel, and in a matter of four minutes and three matches, the outcome was decided.
Caribou won both doubles matches, both ending in a matter of seconds, for a 2-1 lead, followed just minutes later by No. 3 singles, with Gabe Rand picking up a hard-fought, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Freeport’s Liam Gould to clinch the title.
It was a bittersweet end for the Falcons.
“A lot of the play came down to that first set, with my first doubles having several chances to win that set before falling in a tiebreaker, and the other team had momentum and really capitalized,” Freeport coach Jay Harper said. “Then at three, Gould played someone similar to him, and that was a tough loss. We were hoping for someone to turn it around and get us to a third set. Caribou was just better than us today.”
The opening set at No. 1 doubles was a back-and-forth duel between Freeport’s Sully Smith/Aaron Rusiecki and Caribou’s Bailey Griffeth/Sawyer Deprey. The games seemed to be won in two-game spurts, with neither team taking control. The Falcons led 5-4 and were serving, but the Vikings duo picked up a break and held for a 6-5 lead. Freeport held to force a tiebreaker.
Again the teams stayed close, with Caribou finally coming out on top, 9-7, in the tiebreak for a one-set lead.
“That first set is always important to win, and we were able to win that,” Sawyer Deprey said after winning the match, 7-6 (7), 6-3. “When me and my partner win the first set, we typically also win the second. We did that today.”
One court over, Caribou’s Emerson Duplissie-Cyr and Seth Beidelman completed a 6-2, 7-5 win over Freeport’s Evan McKittrick and TJ Whelan for a 2-1 Vikings lead.
“It was special that we were able to celebrate with our teammates, and they are all seniors and I am freshman,” Sawyer Depery said. “We have played for this since second grade, playing recreation tennis with our coach. This title is big.”
On Court 5, Gould had just dropped the opening set to Rand, 6-3, and was serving, looking to get off to a good start in the second. But he twisted a troublesome ankle and used an injury timeout to receive treatment.
“He has been dealing with that most of the season,” Harper said. “He didn’t miss any matches, and he wears an ankle brace. He played without the ankle brace today, but he did battle. I give him lots of credit for the way he played.”
Gould held serve in that opening game, but was later broken to fall behind, 4-3, and Rand won the final two games to clinch the state title for the Vikings, winning, 6-3, 6-3.
“Some of those scorecards were really close, but it is like the weather in northern Maine … wait five minutes and it will change,” Caribou (16-0) coach John Hebeeb said shortly after his team clinched the state title, the school’s first boys tennis title since 2008. “I felt that we could win the doubles matches, and I was hoping that we could win at No. 3 singles. My scouting was pretty good.”
“I had to utilize making him run, and it turned into a match with really good rallies,” Rand said. “I had the mindset to keep it in the court and make him rally. It is a great feeling and I can’t wait to get home, to get that police escort.”
The sophomore Canterbury, despite the scores, struggled with Cyr, who routinely was able to return tough shots. But, in the end, Canterbury’s power was too much.
“He was a lot more consistent, something that I often have trouble with. I am not a pusher. I like to hit the ball. I had high speed and spin that pushed him back pretty far, then I could use precision from there,” Canterbury said.
“Coming into this, there was no way their No. 2 was as good as Clay because I think I have two No. 1s,” Harper said. “Clay had to work for it, but Clay was just dialed in, just like he has been most of the season.”
Goodwin won a three-setter with Parker Deprey 6-4, 6-7 (6), 10-6, to complete the 3-2 match.
The future is certainly bright for the Falcons, with all the key pieces set to return next year.
“There is a bright future and next year we will be loaded, with a good group of juniors coming back and some good freshmen. We could be back here next year,” Harper said.