One of the bigger matches of the boys tennis season happens Wednesday when Dirigo and Winthrop meet.

Dirigo (4-0) and Winthrop (3-1) are ranked first and second, respectively, in the Class C South Heal point standings. It will be the only time the teams meet in the regular season.

The Cougars were expected to be one of the top teams in the Mountain Valley Conference because they returned everyone from last season’s team that went 9-1 in the regular season and reached the regional semifinals before losing to Hall-Dale.

Winthrop’s success, though, is somewhat surprising after not having a team in 2018.

“Most every (team) that we played last year lost a few folks or whatnot. So, they are quite weak,” Dirigo coach Bruce Thompson said. “The real surprise this year is Winthrop. Winthrop’s got a real good squad; they didn’t have a squad last year. That’s the team to be looking at as far as how far they will go and what they will accomplish. The same thing with Mountain Valley, but they are in (Class B South).”

The Ramblers’ success comes from a solid foundation of players who were on the 2017 team, such as Jared McLaughlin, Sammy Lattin and Beau Brooks, plus newcomers Josh Deanda-Whaley, Noah Grube, Sam Figueroa and Cameron Wood.

“They got a lot of individuals on the squad that are athletic, and that makes a big difference sometimes,” Thompson said. “When you start with players that are athletically inclined, it’s not very difficult to put a very good squad together because they will respond to things you try to show them.”

Winthrop’s lone loss came against Mountain Valley, 4-1, on Monday.

“The total match score definitely doesn’t show — which is common in tennis — it doesn’t show what the individual scores were like,” Winthrop coach Kelsey Ouellette said. “My first doubles (Figueroa/Wood) went to three sets, which has been pretty common for them this season, but they are two guys who are super competitive, they don’t let anything go. They want to play to win.

“Yesterday was a good match, we’ve seen some good competition, but Mountain Valley was our most competitive match so far.”

Figueroa and Wood lost to Josh Hosdson and Kaleb Noyes. McLaughlin, the Ramblers’ No. 1 player, also lost in three sets, to Alexei Rodriguez. Grube, the No. 3 singles player, also lost in three sets, to Cam Gallant.

Ouellette isn’t too concerned if the Ramblers don’t defeat Dirigo, knowing that most of her team’s players are new to tennis and they have only been able to practice outside five times outside so far this season.

“I tell the guys before every match, tennis is such a mental sport, make sure you enter it with a positive mentality,” Ouellette said. “For me, I want them to have individual and team success. Obviously, the goal is to get the win, but from a loss you can learn a lot with the placement of the ball and how you can differentiate from your first and second serves. For them, that’s what they learned from our loss yesterday.”

Dirigo has been led by No. 1 singles player Brandon Litalien, who has won two of the three matches he has played this season. He sat out the match against Lisbon on May 1.  Alex Gorham, Dirigo’s No. 2 singles, has won all three of his matches. No. 3 Nate Child has gone 3-1 this season.

Thompson hopes the Cougars can be at full-strength at playoff time.

“Last year, I had one of my top singles players, had to go do something in the match that we had (in the playoffs),” Thompson said. “When you have that type of situation and when a team you are coming up against is very tough and you know you are going to be very equal, you lose the edge in that situation. So that’s basically what happened. Hopefully that won’t happen this year, but I never know.”

RIVALS MEET IN THE PARKING LOT, TO RAISE MONEY

This past Saturday, the Lewiston and Edward Little girls tennis teams held a car wash at Rowe Auburn car dealership to raise money for their programs.

They called it the Battle of the Bridge, and it was inspired by the schools’ football rivalry.

“We heard about it, I don’t know, it might be my boosters, but someone approached (Rowe Auburn) and along with the EL coach (Kim Clark) and said, ‘Hey, how about doing it for the tennis teams?'” Lewiston coach Anita Murphy said. “They said, ‘OK, we will do one for the spring for girls tennis.’ It’s kind of nice.”

It’s the second year of the cash wash for the girls tennis teams at Rowe Auburn. EL “won” last year by selling most car wash tickets. This year, Lewiston sold the most, winning by two car washes ($5 each) and 80 cents. Lewiston raised $1,075.80 for its program while EL brought in $1,065.

“Someone said, ‘Where did the 80 cents come from?’ Someone gave me a bunch of change and that’s what it was. I am not going to turn anything down,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the money her team raised will be used for uniforms, gifts for seniors and the end-of-the-year banquet.

“It’s such a great time, too, to get the Lewiston girls and EL girls together in a friendly atmosphere and fun,” Murphy said. “They get to know each other better, it’s such a great thing.”

HEBRON KEEPS WINNING

The Hebron girls team is again off to a strong start, winning all five of its matches to extend its win streak to 15.

The Lumberjacks have won 23 out of 25 possible individual matches this season. They go for their eighth straight Maine Association of Independent School Athletic Directors (MAISAD) title this Friday when they face Hyde. They have won 42 MAISAD conference matches in a row.

The MAISAD tournament begins May 15 with the preliminary rounds and finish up on May 18 with the singles and doubles championships.

SINGLE QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT SATURDAY

The singles qualifying tournament for the state tournament will be held on Saturday.

Teams in the tri-county region will be placed in Region 4, which will be held at Lewiston High School.

The qualifiers will head to the state singles tournament over Memorial Day weekend. That also will take place at Lewiston High School as well as Bates College.