WATERVILLE — Now in his eighth season as girls tennis coach at Maranacook Community High School, Lou Gingras is long past the days of many career firsts. Even so, the Black Bears gave Gingras a first on Wednesday afternoon. Maranacook’s 3-2 win over Waterville was the first over the Purple Panthers in years.

“First time since I’ve been coaching. It’s a big win for us, and for it to be that close…” Gingras said.

The match came down to first doubles. After dropping the first set, 6-4, Maranacook’s Grace Bachelder and Anna Swimm set the match to a third set with a 6-3 win over Sofie Weston and Inga Zimba. Down 5-2 in the deciding set, Bachelder and Swimm fought back to take a 6-5 lead before Weston and Zimba forced it to a tiebreaker. There, the Maranacook duo came through with a 7-4 win to seal the match and improve the Black Bears’ record to 9-1.

“It’s insane, because for all four years I’ve been playing, (Waterville’s) been the one school I didn’t think we had a chance of touching,” Maranacook senior Karissa Lucas, who beat Clio Bazakas at third singles, 6-1, 6-2, said.

With both Waterville and Maranacook eying deep runs in their respective playoff regions, this was the kind of match that both looked to as a springboard to the playoffs. Entering Wednesday’s contest at Colby College, both Maranacook and Waterville had just one loss. Each dropped a 5-0 match to juggernaut Lincoln Academy.

“It’s pretty intimidating,” Waterville senior Maggie Brock said of playing a team of Maranacook’s caliber. “We had a team talk before this, and we really had to come in mentally prepared and on our ‘A’ game. It’s really crucial we won this to get those Heal Points.”

Brock earned a 6-1, 6-1 win over Emma Wadsworth at second singles. Waterville’s other win came in first singles, where Sammi Saulter defeated Madelyn Dwyer, 6-2, 6-4. Maranacook’s second doubles team, Helen Murray-James and Emma Hatt took a 6-1, 6-3 win over Nora Greene and Lauren Smith.

With a lot of experienced players returning, both Waterville and Maranacook expected to be strong this season.

“We’ve had a couple tight competitions. As a whole we’ve done pretty well. We’ve come pretty far from last season. We’ve all improved,” Brock said.

Gingras lost just one player to graduation from a team that went 8-4 last season. With the win over the Panthers, Marancook will likely enter the Class C South tournament as one of the top two seeds.

“I had a lot of experience coming back, and several of them played all winter so they got a lot stronger,” Gingras said. “Right at the beginning, I knew. Madelyn had qualified for top 40 in the state twice, and Emma had really improved.”

Lucas said throughout the season, she’s seen improvement from the Black Bears’ doubles teams. That was apparent in the wins Wednesday.

“The doubles teams have really brought it out. A lot of those girls played indoors this winter, and that really shows. Communication has been right on this year, and that’s been lacking in the past,” Lucas said.

Depth has been a strength for Maranacook, Lucas said.

“Even if our exhibition players were up in the varsity lineup, we’d be winning the same matches we’re winning,” Lucas said.

With five seniors returning, Waterville expected to contend for the top spot in Class B North. Devin Lachapelle, a former assistant coach with the Panthers, took over as varsity coach this season. Brock said Lachapelle has brought a new intensity to practices, and she feels the team’s mental approach to the game is sharper. Even with Wednesday’s loss, the Panthers will likely enter the regional tournament as the number two seed behind Caribou.

“He’s been with us (as an assistant) since my sophomore year. Things are going really well,” Brock said. “Everybody’s stepping up. With five seniors on the team, our efforts are really showing and we all want to go far.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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