The state championship Round of 48 boys and girls singles tennis tournament begins Saturday at Lewiston High School. Bates College, the normal site for the Round of 48, is not available Saturday, but Monday’s Round of 16 and quarterfinals and Wednesday’s semifinals and finals will be at Bates.
Round of 48 chairman Cooper Higgins said matches will start around 9 a.m., Saturday. Higgins added that Lewiston High School has eight tennis courts.
“It’s a similar setup to Bates,” Higgins said. “Lewiston does have lights, so we’re hoping to use that to its maximum if necessary.”
Waterville’s Colleen O’Donnell and Tiffany Suchanek earned the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, on the girls side. Brunswick’s Maisie Silverman and Falmouth’s Olivia Leavitt are the top two seeds. Silverman was the state runner-up as a freshman and won the title last year as a sophomore.
In the boys bracket, Messalonskee’s Jai Aslam is the No. 9 seed. Defending champion Jordan Friedland of Lincoln is the top seed, followed by Falmouth’s Brendan McCarthy and Patrick Ordway of Waynflete. Ordway won the individual title in 2011.
The team state championships, which are scheduled for June 8, will be held at the University of Maine. Higgins said that’s because both Colby College and Bates were unavailable.
Asked whether any southern schools have complained about driving to Orono for the states, Higgins laughed and said, “Not yet — mainly because they don’t know who they are yet.”
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The Carrabec girls have had one of the biggest team turnarounds in the state this year. After going 1-11 last spring under first-year coach Nora Messier, the Cobras are 7-4 this season and are headed to the Western C playoffs.
“Last year, I had a very small team. I had eight girls,” Messier said. “Not everyone could make it all the time and I found that I had to forfeit a lot of positions. I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to do that again.’ ”
Messier doesn’t teach at Carrabec, so she recruited by going to basketball games and talking to kids who might be looking for a spring sport. The result is that four of Carrabec’s top 10 players this year are in their first year playing tennis.
“They were inexperienced, but they knew automatically they had to move to the ball,” Messier said.
Carrabec’s four spring teams won a combined four games last season, so even some of the experienced players needed a hand in believing they could win.
“They struggled with having confidence,” Messier said. “I was like, ‘Well, you can’t go in expecting to lose. You’re never going to win that way.’ These freshman girls did really well in youth basketball, so I think winning and knowing how to win has helped our team.”
Sarah Larlee, Jerzee Rugh and Hannah Atwood currently hold the three singles spots. The doubles teams are Maeve Weggler and Kate Stevens at No. 1 and Debbie Ellis and Kathleen Swihart at No. 2.
“They’re a great bunch of girls, so it’s been an awesome season,” Messier said.
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The Mt. Blue girls felt they were good enough to make the playoffs last year, even though they were nosed out. The Cougars set a goal of getting to the playoffs this spring and, at 8-3 heading into today’s season finale at Erskine, they should come home in the No. 4 spot in Eastern A.
“They improved immensely from last year,” Mt. Blue coach Judy Upham said. “Everybody comes to every practice. Everybody gives 100 percent at practice. They support each other. They like each other. And they don’t give up.”
Upham said the first two matches of the season paved the way for the rest of the year. Mt. Blue opened by defeating Mt. Ararat, then posted a 5-0 victory over Lewiston.
“Lewiston has always, always, always had a much stronger team than we have,” Upham said.
Upham, in her 14th season at Mt. Blue, couldn’t remember beating Lewiston before and she also can’t remember a time when Mt. Blue had two girls in the Round of 48. Mackenzie Conlogue will face Ellsworth’s Ina Maloney in the first round, while Savannah Swain will take on Brewer’s Ashley Gibula.
Conlogue plays No. 1 singles for Mt. Blue, while Swain plays No. 3 singles. Makenzie Thompson, Mt. Blue’s No. 2, missed out on the singles qualifying round because it was rescheduled by rain.
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243