WATERVILLE — A dominant season for the Waterville girls tennis team will continue into the Class B North final, and it was a dominant performance that got the Purple Panthers there.

Top-seeded and undefeated Waterville swept all five matches and didn’t drop a set en route to a 5-0 victory over No. 5 Ellsworth in the B North semifinals at Colby College on Saturday morning.

“It feels amazing. I had a lot of faith in my team today,” said senior Sarah McNeil, who earned a 6-2, 6-3 win over Megan Jordan at third singles. “It feels really, really good to be able to move on after we all worked so hard today.”

It’s the second straight trip to the B North final for Waterville (14-0), not counting the wiped-out 2020 season, and third time in five seasons.

“They played super well today, I’m really pleased with their performance,” Waterville coach Devin LaChapelle said. “It’s definitely nice to be back. I think we’ve had the benefit of having four players from that team, now with a lot more experience, plus three more players that are really doing well. I’m looking forward to the final, I like our chances.”

Inga Zimba had the first victory of the day, a quick 6-0, 6-0 win over Bailey Clarke at first singles.

“Today, it was all about mental focus,” said Zimba, who’s now 13-1 individually for the season. “Every point, I had a clear plan of what I wanted to do. … When we walked into this match today, the general message was to play our game, and not let our opponent dictate how the points were going to be played.”

Karin Zimba and Keira Gilman put Waterville up 2-0 with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Jocelyn Boudreau and Grace Gumpp at first doubles, and Hannah Hubbard and Miranda Troy clinched the match at second doubles with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Kahlan Keene and Briana Kane. Amna Sheikh followed with a 6-2, 6-0 win at second singles over Sierra Andrews.

“I just wanted to stay consistent,” Sheikh said. “It’s easy at this point in the season to kind of fall into old habits. … My opponent was really consistent as well, so at that point it’s kind of who makes a mistake first.”

Waterville’s Sarah McNeil plays third singles during a match against Ellsworth in the Class B North semifinals Saturday at Colby College in Waterville. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

McNeil wrapped the match up at third singles.

“I was not faring super well in the heat,” she said. “But I knew that my team was able to pull through, and they were. Mentally, it helped me going forward, knowing how strong our team was.”

Strong teams are the norm at Waterville, but this one might be especially formidable, as the Panthers have dropped only four singles or doubles matches all season. Waterville is loaded with experience, with seniors in the lineup in Inga Zimba, Sheikh, McNeil and Troy, but the lost season had the potential to throw the Panthers off course.

Instead, they’ve picked up right where they left off.

“It was nice to see that so many of them took the time last year, even when we had no season, to continue to stay motivated and play in the summer,” LaChapelle said. “It was tough, because I think probably across the state, a lot of people were having a hard time motivating themselves with no season, and you lose that whole year of experience. These guys, a lot of them were out hitting, and I think that probably contributed a lot to where our strength is.”

Coming into the season, the players had a feeling they’d be a team to beat once again.

“We’ve all just worked so hard out of season and in season, that we just came and we were ready,” McNeil said. “We really just want to go all the way.”

At the same time, the Panthers knew not to get ahead of themselves.

“We’re hungry … but we think one step at a time. We’re just focusing on the next match or the next event we have,” Inga Zimba said. “We’re not too preoccupied with what’s going to happen later in the season, we focus on what’s immediately in front of us.”

After Saturday, that’s a chance to go to the state championship match.

“I’ve had a really good group of kids. A lot of them have played for me for years,” LaChapelle said. “They just love coming out and playing.”

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