WALES — With one of its top players on the shelf nursing a minor injury, Camden Hills had to improvise.
Erika Alex and Sophie Salas were happy to oblige. The pair of players stepped in and played at second doubles in the juggled lineup, and their point — earned in a three-set battle against Oak Hill’s Gabby Green and Leah Rossi — proved to be the clincher.
In similar fashion a year ago, Alex and Salas’ point at second doubles helped lift the Windjammers to a 4-1 victory over the Raiders in a battle of two of the last remaining unbeaten teams in Maine.
“We’re really glad to have a tough match,” Camden Hills coach Karen Brace said. “We need the practice for Waterville on Monday, and it’s refreshing to play a team like this.”
“We know what they bring. We know what happens when Camden walks in,” Oak Hill assistant coach Shane Bouchard said. “I’ve been helping here four years, and this is the only team that’s beaten us every year.”
Oak Hill (7-1), which came within a whisker of knocking Camden Hills (8-0) from the ranks of the unbeaten a year ago, nearly seized the opportunity again, given that Camden Hills’ top player, Emma Blakely, was in jeans and only a spectator this time around.
“It’s a good thing we have depth,” Brace said.
But Blakely’s replacement — and the subsequent lineup juggle that ensued in the places behind her — performed admirably. That included her sister, freshman Abby Blakely, who gave the Windjammers and early 1-0 advantage with a win at No. 2 singles over Oak Hill’s Hannah Langlois.
Peering up and down the bank of four tennis courts, Oak Hill’s top doubles tandem of Molly Morrill and Britney Marshall knew they had to do something big. Rallying from two games down in the first set, the pair replied with a 6-4, 7-5 match win, knotting the overall match at 1-1.
“I was in shock,” Marshall said. “Last year, when we played them, it didn’t turn out good for us. But we went in today, we had a lot of confidence, and we pulled through. We got mad. We got mad because we were down three games, so we told ourselves, ‘All right, this is it. This is all we have.'”
Camilla Walker of Camden Hills and Darby Beaulieu of Oak Hill waged a battle of patience and persistence at No. 3 singles, with Walker pulling out a 7-5 win in the first set before putting Beaulieu away 6-2 in the second.
Moments later, Alex and Salas clinched the match for the visitors, seizing control of a see-saw third set to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“We don’t play together that much, so we had to get used to playing together,” Salas said. “It was a lot of working together.”
“After the first set, we just realized we had to turn it on,” Alex added.
“They did a really great job; they were really persistent,” Brace said. “It was tough with the wind out there carrying the ball. They had to keep the ball low, which often times, second doubles players have a harder time doing. That was a really close match.”
At No. 1 singles, Oak Hill’s Sara Lacroix battled sophomore Carissa English, and led in each set before ultimately falling 6-4, 6-3.
“We were right there last year, and I think they even got stronger,” Bouchard said. “I’m just glad we made them earn it. We made it respectable and gave them the best match they’ve had.”