H.S. tennis: Players beat the heat

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LEWISTON — After competing for much of the spring high school sports season in wet, rainy and raw conditions, many coaches, players and athletic directors found themselves pining for sign of summer.

Be careful what you wish for.

Summer arrived on cue for the Memorial Day holiday Monday, the first day of the annual Maine Principals’ Association singles tournament at Bates College’s Wallach Tennis Complex, forcing dozens of athletes to toil away in searing conditions for a chance at a state singles crown.

Sixteen boys and sixteen girls — including four area players — succeeded.

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Sara LaCroix of Oak Hill provided spectators with one of the more memorable matches of the day, beginning her first match in the Round of 48 just after 11 a.m. She didn’t leave the court until after 3 p.m., finally vanquishing Olivia Lopes of Waterville 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-1 after a 4 hour, 5 minute marathon through the hottest part of the day.

“I’ve played a three-hour match, but never a four-hour match,” LaCroix said. “The match took so long, I just kept thinking, ‘Please, just let this be over.'”

After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, LaCroix lost the second in similar fashion.

“I got a little pep talk from my coach,” she said. “They told me just to use the fact that I’m athletic, told me to be ready for the set. I took their advice to heart and came out strong.”

LaCroix, who has signed up to be in the U.S. Army and hopes to be stationed in Texas, has already begun training, though Monday wasn’t exactly what she had in mind.

“I love the heat, it’s just staying hydrated and a challenge,” LaCroix said.

Her second match was a bit of a tougher draw, as she drew into No. 12 seed Frankie Lally of Edward Little in the Round of 32. In that match, Lally had little trouble holding seed, beating LaCroix 6-0, 6-1.

“I really didn’t make her move all that much, I just hit it back and let her make the mistakes,” Lally said. “She tried to slice it and end me back, but it really didn’t do much. I didn’t have a marathon match like she did. She didn’t come to net as much and just played defensive.”

All 12 of the seeds in the girls’ draw advanced into the Round of 16, which will begin Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Joining them is a group that includes Lewiston’s Jessica Bowen, who won her match against Molly Gallagher, 6-1, 6-1.

Lewiston’s Abby Blaisdell and Becca Lessard each won their initial matches in the heat early in the day, and both fell in the Round of 32. Lessard went down to No. 5 Jenna Selander of Caribou, who will face Lally on Tuesday. Blaisdell fell to No. 7 Addie Devine of McAuley, 6-4, 6-0 in one of the later matches that pushed late into the evening.

Darby Beaulieu of Oak Hill also won in the first round, and then fell victim to the top seed, Maria Varano of Kennebunk. Her teammate, Hannah Langlois lost early to Kaitlyn Thompson of Waynflete.

Scott Gagne, the No. 11 seed, of Lewiston, and teammate Eric Hall, the No. 7 seed, both had to wait all day before playing their one and only match of the day in the Round of 32. Gagne breezed through his match against a heat-depleted Ryan Lusty of York, winning 6-0, 6-0.

“It was hot,” Gagne said. “Earlier I got some sun, but coach told us to stay in the shade, so I stayed there for a while. I also got to take a nap in my nice, cold and dark basement.”

Hall, who was in one of the day’s final matches that began as officials turned on the lights, labored through his first set against Morse’s Sam Leeman before putting Leeman away in the second for a 6-4, 6-0 victory. The boys, like the girls, saw all seeded players who participated advance, though Lewiston’s Eric Morin made No. 5 seed Tyler Adams of Bonny Eagle earn it. Adams ultimately defeated Morin in three sets, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

“He probably wasn’t expecting me to come out like I did in the first set,” Morin said. “He knew he had to battle back in the second set. I was able to hit is consistently deep in the first set. In the second set, I tossed him a couple short balls, and that’s when he started to get after me.”

Josh Turbide of Dirigo also earned a first-round victory, gutting out a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Charles Volkwein of John Bapst. “There were points, I just took my time to catch my breath,” Turbide said. “Just had to stay in the points. The heat definitely was a factor. He came out firing in the first set and I just had to change up my game a bit to adjust.”

Turbide dropped his second match to No. 9 Adam Levesque of Mt. Ararat.

Brian Bradstreet of Oak Hill, Zack DeBlois of St. Dom’s and Adam St. Pierre of Winthrop were among the playerswho qualified and then lost in the Round of 48. DeBlois dragged his opponent, Eric Ordway of Waynflete, through three sets before succumbing. Ordway then automatically qualified for the Round of 16 after No. 10 seed Alex Henny of Scarborough withdrew.

The first wave of matches Tuesday, the Round of 16, begin at 9:30, with the second wave slated for 11 a.m. The quarterfinal round will follow, while the semifinals and final will be Saturday.

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