WINTHROP — The St. Dominic girls tennis team continued its march toward a second straight state championship with a 4-1 victory over second-seeded Winthrop in a Class C South semifinal Saturday morning.

Next up for the sixth-seeded Saints (10-4) is a rematch of last year’s regional championship against Waynflete. Winthrop finishes with an overall record of 11-2 that includes this year’s Mountain Valley Conference title.

These teams met for the conference title a year ago with the Saints taking a narrow 3-2 decision. They have since moved to the Western Maine Conference where they face tough Class A and Class B competition, but return their entire lineup of a year ago intact. The Ramblers, on the other hand, have new players at third singles and both doubles teams.

“We had a lot of unknowns,” Winthrop coach Jess Merrill said. “I’m so proud of what we did. We know this team from last year, so we knew what we were coming up against. We thought we had a shot at it, but that experience showed in the later part of it. It’s what you would expect from a group of seniors.”

The best match of the day — the third singles battle between the Saints’ Rachel Kurtz and Winthrop’s Corinna Coulton — clinched the win for St. Dom’s

After dropping the first set 2-6, Kurtz bounced back to take the next two, 7-5, 6-3. She shifted strategy a little after dropping the first set.

“She’s very good at returning, she’s very consistent,” Kurtz said. “So I had to make her move more and hit harder shots. She’s very good at the net so I knew I had to try and hit it over her.”

The match featured several long dramatic rallies with Kurtz hitting consistent ground strokes and Coulton finishing at the net when possible.

“She talked with her coach (after the first set),” Coulton said. “I think she adjusted. She was moving me to my backhand a lot and I tried to get back to the middle so I was moving around a lot.”

Winthrop senior Sarah Spahr remained unbeaten at second singles with a 6-0, 6-2 decision over Clare Kramer. Spahr also finished unbeaten a year ago during the regular season.

“I was really nervous so I was just keeping it in and trying to fit well, but nothing special,” Spahr said. “It’s easier to hit against someone who is also hitting at the same pace.”

Bethany Hammond, who finished fourth in the recent state singles tournament, overwhelmed Winthrop’s Megan Chamberland at first singles, 6-0, 6-1.

The Ramblers first doubles team of sophomore Nora Conrad and freshman Gabby Blanco battled Kaylynn Linck and Kassandra Stacy to a first set tiebreaker, losing 7-4. Winthrop dropped the second set 6-3. At second doubles, Laurel Christopher and Hannah Phelan coasted to a 6-0, 6-1 win against sophomore Bri Feeney and freshman Natalie Frost.

“We had all new first doubles and second doubles had never played before,” Merrill said. “They only lost twice all season and first doubles had only lost once before today.”

The Saints dropped their regular season match 3-2 to Waynflete and recognize the challenge ahead.

“Waynflete will be a tough match on Thursday,” St. Dom’s coach Andy Girouard said. “They always bring their A game and we’re hoping to do the same.”

The future of Winthrop tennis remains in doubt. The sport is among several budget cuts proposed for next year.

“They go to vote the 13th and we’ll see what happens,” Merrill said. “It was a surprise to see that tennis is being cut. I won’t believe it until it’s actually happening. Girls tennis in Winthrop has always been a predominantly good program. Winthrop was the last team to win a (Class C) state championship besides a private school in ’05.”

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