WATERVILLE — Waterville girls tennis coach Jill Cristan felt her team needed a change before it played Erskine in the Class B North quarterfinals Thursday afternoon. Erskine beat Waterville, 3-2, last week in the final match of the regular season. To avoid a repeat of that outcome, Cristan went into Wednesday’s practice with a new lineup in mind.

Cristan bumped Sofie Weston from first doubles to third singles, and moved Clio Bazakas from third singles to the first doubles team with Mackenzie St. Pierre.

“Well, we had nothing to lose. Our momentum wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go. Doubles, the chemistry wasn’t there,” Cristan said. “I knew Clio was strong. Sofie and Mac (Mackenzie St. Pierre) are two strong players, but they weren’t jelling well together as a doubles team.”

Cristan’s calculated risk worked. Bazakas and St. Pierre played well together, and Weston was strong in her match, helping the Purple Panthers avenge last week’s loss with a 5-0 win.

“Something wasn’t working with the team. Practice (Wednesday) we took almost a two-hour practice and figured everything out. Sofie played amazing today. I’m so proud of everyone today,” said Sammi Saulter, Waterville’s No. 1 singles player who won a close two-set match over Ellie Hodgkin.

The No. 4 seed, Waterville (11-2) will face No. 1 Camden Hills (13-0) Friday in the regional semifinals. No. 5 Erskine ends the season at 9-4.

“I’m not sure the (Waterville) changes affected us as much as the nerves. This is a real young team. Historically, the Erskine girls don’t make the playoffs, much less make the quarterfinals,” Erskine coach Ryan Nored said. “Knowing that we were the underdog, even though we won the last match, I think it was a little much on the nerves. All of our first sets looked that way.”

Aside from an exhibition match, this was Weston’s first singles match of the season. Weston defeated Regina Holman, 6-3, 7-5. The key to the match was staying calm and taking her time, Weston said.

“A couple days ago we were thinking about strategy and some things weren’t working, so we moved things around and I think it was a good move,” she said.

Saulter defeated Hodgkin, 6-4, 6-3. Each set went back and forth, before Saulter pulled away late. Saulter said playing Hodgkin last week (also a Saulter win) was a help in Thursday’s match.

“Throughout the match you have to learn and feel out your (opponent), anticipate where the ball is going to go. She did a lot of shots that would go right in the corner, so I was just ready to run to those spots,” Saulter said. “I did remember she had some hard shots. You just have to wait to let them make mistakes sometimes with players like that. She’s a really good player.”

Nored said the improvement Hodgkin has made all season was on display in her match.

“Ellie has been working a lot all year to play that kind of game. Patience, patience, patience. She’s finally starting to figure out that one ball out doesn’t make a whole match. Today it showed. I was so impressed with her,” Nored said.

Cristan said she didn’t feel comfortable making the moves in her lineup until she saw Bazakas and St. Pierre play together in practice. The new doubles team won the closest match of the day, 6-3, 5-7, and 7-3 in the third set tiebreaker over Kayla Hubbard and Paige Leary.

“Clio played doubles as a freshman. Her personality and Mackenzie’s were perfect together. We didn’t make the decision until we had practiced together,” Cristan said.

At second singles, Waterville’s Maggie Brock defeated Cassidy Penny, 6-3, 6-4. The Panthers’ second doubles team of Nora Greene and Lauren Smith beat Annemarie Allen and Kaili Shorey, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

Nored said with nobody graduating, this was a building season for the Eagles.

“Most of my girls learned how to play last year or this year. For us to just hang with (Waterville) and have the season we had, I’m really proud of them,” Nored said. “We’ve done a lot of good things this year. The fact we’re losing nobody makes it that much better.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM