WATERVILLE — If the Waterville Senior High School girls tennis team had any rust after a year away from the game, it shook it off quickly. With a 5-0 victory over Erskine Academy in the Class B North quarterfinals at Colby College on Thursday, the top-seeded Purple Panthers are 13-0 and rolling.

“I’m really proud of how our team has shaped together this year. It’s been amazing. I’m very glad I was able to be a part of this team. A lot of us work outside of just practices, and that’s really helped us. Really, everyone on the team,” said senior Sarah McNeil, who won her third singles match over Isabella Libby, 6-0, 6-1.

Waterville will host either Old Town or Ellsworth in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday, again at Colby.

Ten of Waterville’s 13 victories are by a 5-0 score, and two more were 4-1 wins. Mental focus and consistency has been the key throughout the season, first singles player Inga Zimba said. Zimba won her match over Kristin Ray, 6-1, 6-0.

“I trust my team very much. Even if we’re having a tough time in singles, I trust doubles to pull it out. The way we practice is, we’re prepared for anything, so we’re used to a variety of different play styles,” Zimba said. “Especially in the earlier points in each game, I was trying to play my best tennis. I was struggling in the first few games. I was playing very tight. I tried to loosen up in the beginning parts of each game.”

Like players across the state, the Panthers found time to get on tennis courts when they could, starting last summer and going into scrambles at indoor facilities like Champions over the winter.

“I was playing all summer. I tried to take every opportunity there was. The key is to get on the court as much as possible. It might not be the typical format of what you’re used to, but just hit it,” Zimba said.

Amna Sheikh, Waterville’s second singles player, got a later return to tennis than her teammates.

“I didn’t play much tennis at all, because we were just limiting our exposure because my grandmother’s living with me. I actually got back on the courts in February after like six months. There’s a lot of people to hit with, so it was great to get back out there,” Sheikh said.

Waterville’s Amna Sheikh returns a shot from Erskine’s Lily Bray during a Class B North quarterfinal match Thursday at Colby College. Michael G. Seamans

Sheikh won her match Thursday over Erskine’s Lily Bray, 6-1, 6-0. It was Waterville’s first match since closing the regular season with a win over rival Winslow May 24.

“I think our team morale was really high. We haven’t had a match in a while, so we were all really excited. The fact that we were all playing together at the same time, we were pumping each other up, which helps me out a lot,” Sheikh said.

Waterville’s first doubles team, Karin Zimba and Kiera Gilman, took a 6-3, 6-4 win over Isabella Parlin and Olivia Bourque. In second doubles, Hannah Hubbard and Miranda Troy defeated Grace Hodgkin and Ashley Clavette.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

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