WATERVILLE — Waterville sophomore Samantha Saulter knew exactly what to do with the last of many lobs from John Bapst senior Alice Podolsky on Saturday afternoon at the North Street Courts.

Saulter buried it with a forehand smash just inside the left sideline to earn a marathon two-set victory to seal a 3-2 win in a Class B North semifinal match for the Purple Panthers.

Second-seeded Waterville (14-0) advances to the regional final Tuesday at the University of Maine, where it will face No. 4 Camden Hills — an upset winner over top-seeded Caribou. Third-seeded John Bapst finished 12-2.

The rest of the matches were long completed as Saulter and Podolsky battled for over three hours as temperatures crept into the mid-80s. The first singles match between Waterville’s Emma Cristan and the Crusaders’ Crystal Bell began an hour later and finished a half hour earlier. Podolsky extended the match with a series of lobs that led to several rallies of more than 20 shots.

“It definitely is harder to play someone that plays like that,” said Saulter, who plays No. 2 singles. “But towards the end, I knew I wasn’t going into a third set.”

The teams were tied 2-2 — Waterville won both singles and John Bapst both doubles — as players and fans from both teams gathered around Court 1 to cheer on their favorites.

Saulter won the first set 7-5, but trailed 6-5 in the second with Podolsky serving. She broke her serve and then capitalized on her opponent’s mistakes before putting away the final shot for a 7-2 win in the tiebreaker.

“I was just waiting for her to make the mistakes.” Saulter said.

Saulter ran her individual record to 14-1.

“That girl was a human backboard,” Waterville coach Jill Cristan said. “You have to keep the ball in play and you have to learn to adjust very quickly. Sammy got to the net but that’s not her strong point.”

Sophomore Maggie Brock gave the Purple Panthers a 1-0 lead in third singles when she dispatched Miranda Coleman 6-6, 6-3.

“She has done a great job,” Cristan said.

The lead was short-lived as both doubles teams fell to the Crusaders. Cristina Ramiro and Nora Greene lost to Mackenzie Baber and Grace Harmon 6-3, 6-0. And Madeline Greene and Sofie Weston fell to Haley Grover and Becca Johnson 7-6 (3) 7-5.

Emma Cristan, Waterville’s No. 1 singles player, quickly evened the score with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Bell.

“Coming into it, we didn’t know what to expect,” Cristan said. “The only thing we did know was when they played Winslow all three of their singles players won. So the three singles players have been working hard in practice to hit it as hard as we can against each other.”

Cristan, who is 15-0 on the season, moved the ball around against her opponent.

“I knew if I ran her, I was going to be successful,” she said.

The Purple Panthers didn’t face Camden Hills in the regular season because the Windjammers were originally put into Class A and played a Class A schedule despite dropping to Class B just before the season. The teams, however, have a long history of close matches and did in fact play a preseason exhibition which Waterville won 3-2.

“We’re feeling good and girls are peaking at the right time,” Coach Cristan said. “Right now they’re in sync. The team is on a roll.”

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