LEWISTON — Nothing — not even the two best players on central Maine high schools — could prevent the matchup between Falmouth’s Olivia Leavitt and Brunswick’s Maisie Silverman. It was a match that turned out to be as compelling and heated as it was hotly contested.
Leavitt and Brendan McCarthy won the individual titles, giving Falmouth a sweep of the tennis singles championships on Monday at Bates College. Waterville senior Colleen O’Donnell and St. Dominic freshman Bethany Hammond, a Belgrade native, both lost in the semifinals.
O’Donnell, who plans to play tennis at Division II Stonehill College, lost to Leavitt 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals. Leavitt combined her power with drop shots to control the match.
“She was definitely playing well, and I wasn’t,” O’Donnell said. “I knew had really nothing to lose after getting to this point. I just wasn’t on my game.”
At Waterville, O’Donnell played No. 1 singles all four years. She talked about how that would change at Stonehill.
“It’s very competitive, and it’d be great to play on such a good team,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve thought about going from the top to pretty much at the bottom, but I think it’ll be a nice change.”
Hammond lost to Silverman, 6-0, 6-3 in the semifinals. Silverman has outstanding power, and Hammond started off slowly, losing 10 of the first 11 games. Silverman led 4-1 in the second set when Hammond came up with some nice winners to get within 4-3 before Silverman finished off the win.
“I just tried to change my mindset,” Hammond said. “I knew coming to net, that was my game. I didn’t do that very much in the first set, so I knew I had to change it up.”
Like O’Donnell, Hammond will try to lead an undefeated team to a state championship. She said she may play in a few tournaments “here and there” over the summer.
“I definitely want to train a lot,” Hammond said. “I’m going to train with some of my teammates, and I’m just going to try to help them out, but definitely keep my game up.”
McCarthy was dominant in his two victories Monday, defeating Waynflete’s Isaac Salas, 6-2, 6-3, then posting a 6-1, 6-2 win over Mt. Ararat freshman Nick Mathieu. The match against Mathieu was completed in about 45 minutes.
“I play with Isaac outside of high school tennis — we train together — so I guess I know his game pretty well,” McCarthy said. “He has a really big forehand, and he can do a lot of damage, so I tried to neutralize it by hitting a pretty heavy ball to his backhand, and attacking once I had a chance.
“Same with Nick. He has a huge forehand, especially for a freshman. I was just trying to do the same thing.”
The match between Leavitt and Silverman is the one people will talk about when they remember this day. There is a history between the players — Silverman won the title in 2012, and Leavitt defeated Silverman 6-1, 6-1 in last year’s finals. In that match, Leavitt requested that Silverman be penalized a point for yelling encouragement to herself while the ball was in play.
“Last year was indoors,” Leavitt said. “It’s a lot different from outdoors, so you can’t really expect the same things to happen. We always have long matches. We’ve had probably like three three-setters in our career playing each other.”
Combined with that history, the pressure of the singles title being on the line, the two players being evenly matched, and temperatures over 80 degrees, it’s understandable that both Leavitt and Silverman had some frayed emotions during the three hour-plus match.
In all, there were about 10 instances where one player made a call and the other disputed it. It started in the first set, and got more heated throughout the stifling afternoon. Late in the second set, Silverman ruled that Leavitt’s serve was out. Leavitt laughed and said to Silverman, “Are you kidding me?” and Leavitt walked away talking to herself.
In the third set, Leavitt had two brilliant saves on the same rally, and ended up winning the point when Silverman hit a shot long. Leavitt screamed in joy and jumped up and down when she won the point. A short time later, Silverman hit a shot near the line, and Leavitt called it out, leading Silverman to yell, “Are you serious?”
“It’s expected,” Leavitt said. “It’s such a weird situation. A lot of girls do it. It’s really hard to see lines. No one can be really sure. You just have to brush it off and forget about it.”
Silverman’s power led to a number of aces, and often left Leavitt flat-footed on her returns. She won the first set 6-4, and led 2-0 in the second set. Leavitt rallied and won the next two games, and with the score tied 2-2, Silverman questioned two of Leavitt’s calls back-to-back. Leavitt went on to win the set 6-2, forcing a third set.
“I feel like in the second set, the heat was really getting to me,” Silverman said. “With the heat, it was also mental. I was trying to focus on keeping up, staying ready, keep moving your feet — and when I was thinking about the heat, it kind of froze up my legs. She was taking the momentum in that set.”
In the third set, Silverman led 2-0 and 3-1, before Leavitt rallied again, breaking Silverman’s serve three times and winning five straight games for the title.
Leavitt’s Falmouth team is 12-0, and has won all 12 matches by scores of 5-0. After the state team tournament, Leavitt will focus on putting herself out there for college programs.
“I have sectionals at the end of June,” Leavitt said, “and then I’m going to play college showcases, since I’m a junior, just to get colleges to want me. I would like play D-I, but top D-III is really good, too. There’s not very much of a difference.”