LEWISTON – Being the second-ranked girls’ tennis player in the state is a nice honor for Chantalle Lavertu.

These days, though, it’s a doubly challenging designation.

Not only is Lewiston High School’s Lavertu chasing Christine Ordway of Waynflete for the top spot, she’s striving to protect her place on the ladder from Hallsey Leighton of Cheverus.

They’re all friends, honing their skills throughout summer, fall and winter at the same racket club. And they’re all sophomores.

What you’ll see if you venture to the Wallach Tennis Center at Bates College for the Maine Principals’ Association singles championships today, Saturday and Monday is probably what you’ll get next spring and the one after that, too.

With that familiarity comes a certain comfort level for the Blue Devils’ best individual female player in recent memory.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but then again it’s not,” Lavertu said of the No. 2 seed. “I kind of know what I’m going into.”

Last year’s on-the-job training at this tournament was a giant leap in Lavertu’s development. Slotted fourth in the 40-player draw, Lavertu eased through the early rounds before gutting out a tight quarterfinal victory.

Ordway eventually ousted Lavertu in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-3, on her way to the title.

It was the best performance in the meet by a Lewiston girl since Sadie Roy in 1999.

Lavertu is one of six local girls and boys participating in today’s early rounds. Five of them play their home matches a mile up the street for the perennially powerful Blue Devils.

Joining Lavertu in the girls’ field are teammates Katelyn Ouellette and Julia Bergeron. Mike Butler and Mike Sarrazin of Lewiston and Ignacio Valganon of Fryeburg earned a place in the boys’ tourney. Butler is seeded sixth.

Melinda Plourde of Fort Kent and Kelsey Boyce of Morse square off this morning for the daunting prospect of a match with Lavertu at 1:30 p.m.

The round of 16 and quarterfinals are set for Saturday, with the semis and championship match on Memorial Day. In the event of rain any day, the tournament will not be postponed but moved to the Racket and Fitness Center in Portland.

“Chantalle’s been playing really, really well,” said Lewiston coach Anita Murphy. “She had one tough match.”

That came against Deahna Giguere of Messalonskee, who enters the singles tournament at No. 4. Giguere was the only player to win a set against Lavertu in the regular season.

Lavertu stormed back and captured the decisive third set in a tiebreaker, 7-3.

“Giguere is an unbelievable player. Very, very strong. It was just a battle out there, more than 2 hours,” Murphy said. “They’re very, very closely matched. They’ve played before and Deahna has beaten Chantalle and Chantalle has beaten her. It’s one of those things.”

Earning the second spot puts Lavertu on the opposite end of the draw from Ordway and Giguere. No. 7 Erin Flynn of John Bapst and No. 3 Leighton loom as potential obstacles to an Ordway-Lavertu final.

The unpredictable spring winds have wreaked havoc with Lavertu’s serve, at times, but the tall, slender ace also knows that is the most improved segment of her game.

“I think my serves have come a long way,” Lavertu said. “Before they were just little, loopy things and I would just try to get them over. But I’ve been trying to work on my angles and coming to the net more.”

Maine’s most compressed high school sports season is about to get frantic for Lavertu and Lewiston. After this weekend, the Blue Devils draw a first-round bye before opening defense of their Class A team championship.

For now, Lavertu has her sights locked on the individual showcase and a potential rematch with a buddy.

“I played (Ordway) this winter indoors and I lost again,” Lavertu said, “but I’m hoping to pull it out this time. Really hoping.”

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