The field of 48 is set for the Maine Principals' Association annual singles tennis tournament, and it will have a decidedly local flavor.
Three Lewiston High School girls and two Blue devils' boys, as well as players from St. Dom's, Dirigo, Winthrop, Oak Hill, Edward Little and Maranacook are in the field after five regional qualifiers over the weekend.
All of the tri-county schools competed in the Region 4 Qualifying tournament. The MPA breaks the state down into five regions, and takes a select number of players from each region. Region 4 qualified eight boys and eight girls into the field of 48. The largest region, Region 5, which includes all of the Portland-area schools, sends 19 players.
Brett Vallee, the No. 1 singles player for the Blue Devils' boys' squad, entered qualifying as the top seed in the region, and held serve with a pair of wins, an 8-1 decision over Max Richard of Mt. Blue and a 6-3, 6-1 win over St. Dom's player Austin Christopher.
Bryan Hall of Lewiston also made it through qualifying and is the fourth seed from Region 4 after wins over Thomas Barnett of Dirigo and Kasey Smith of Monmouth.
Ben Bowles of Edward Little, his team's top singles player, upended Maranacook's Sam Bryant and Joe Greco of St. Dom's, and is the region's third seed. The Saints did place their top player into the draw as Zach DeBlois advanced with wins over Winthrop's Declan Chu and Evan Keating of Lisbon, while Dirigo No. 1 Josh Turbide navigated his way into the Round of 48 with wins over Lewiston's Alex Beaudoin and Dylan Price of Madison.
In the girls' draw, all three of Lewiston's singles players advanced to the main draw. Morgan Bowen, the Blue Devils' top singles player, took out players from Hall Dale and Mt. Blue, and is seeded fourth from Region 4. Lewiston's No. 2, Paige LeBlond, breezed by entries from Winthrop and Mt. Blue and kept her No. 7 seed, while unseeded Kirsty Beauchese snuck in with decisive wins over Ashley Deblois of EL and Gabrielle Green from Oak Hill.
St. Dom's No. 1 Kaitlyn Thompson and Oak Hill's top player, Darby Beaulieu, both held serve with relative ease and will be the top two seeds coming out of Region 4 to the general draw of 48 players. Addy Fuller of Dirigo and Amber Pritchard of Winthrop also advanced to the Round of 48, Pritchard from an unseeded position.
The Round of 48 and Round of 32 will be contested on Friday, May 25, at Colby College in Waterville, with the Rounds of 16 and 8 to follow on Saturday, May 26. The state singles semifinals and finals will be on Monday, May 28, also at Colby. If weather forces matches indoors, all matches will be moved to the Racquet and Fitness Center in Portland.
With the high school tennis season on its final leg, there is at least one unbeaten team in each region in each class, save for Eastern Class C boys.
The St. Dom's boys lead that group, holding a 9-0 record in Western Class C and a commanding lead over 6-2 Dirigo, which holds down the No. 2 position.
Other teams with sparkling team records include the Bangor and Deering boys and Brunswick and McAuley girls in Class A, the Ellsworth, Falmouth and Lincoln Academy boys and Waterville, Caribou and Falmouth girls in Class B, and the Lee Academy, Van Buren and Hall-Dale girls in Class C. Perennial power George Stevens Academy is 9-1 in Class C East, with its lone loss to Class B unbeaten Ellsworth.
On the playoff cusp
Despite winning only one match to date, Spruce Mountain's boys' squad is still very much in playoff contention. If the season had ended Monday, the Phoenix were in as the No. 9 seed in Western B, and would play a preliminary round game against No. 8 and MVC rival Mountain Valley, which is also hanging in the playoff chase with two match victories this season.
On the girls' side, Edward Little occupies the eighth and final playoff position in Eastern A as they jockey for position with Mt. Blue (No. 9) and Brewer (No. 7). In Western B, Mountain Valley's three wins are enough to keep the Falcons in at No. 9, while Spruce Mountain tries to play catch up at No. 11, one place out of the playoffs for the moment. At 3-4, Monmouth's girls' squad is clinging to the ninth and final postseason bid in Western C.