HAMPDEN — Sarah McNeil never felt any pressure to win her match in the Class B North girls tennis championship Thursday afernoon. Waterville’s No. 3 singes player, McNeil figured even if she lost, her teammates would win.

“I really have so much faith in everyone around me,” McNeil said. “We were there to encourage one another.”

McNeil won her match, as did each of her Waterville teammates. With the 5-0 win over No. 2 Caribou, the top-seeded Purple Panthers earned their first trip to the Class B state championship since 2014.

Waterville (15-0) will face Cape Elizabeth on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Lewiston High School for the state crown. Previously undefeated Caribou ends the season at 14-1.

The Panthers quickly took a 2-0 lead, with easy victories in both doubles matches. At first doubles, Keira Gilman and Karin Zimba beat Mia Theriault and Naomi Cote, 6-0, 6-0. In second doubles, Hannah Hubbard and Miranda Troy took a 6-0, 6-1 win over Jayden Fournier and Kallee Parent.

The three singles matches were much closer, with Waterville winning each. Second singles player Amna Sheikh clinched the win for the Panthers with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 victory over Livia Bouchard. Sheikh fell behind early in the first set, before rallying. The afternoon sun made the Hampden Academy courts hot, and Sheikh said the support of her teammates and members of the boys team, who won the regional title earlier in the day, helped her overcome a slow start.

Waterville’s Sarah McNeil returns a shot during her No.3 singles match against Caribou’s Ashlyn Bouchard during the Class B North final Thursday at Hampden Academy. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“It also helped me overcome the heat, which really affected me that first set,” Sheikh said. “I talk about this all the time. We have great team spirit that gets us pumped up.”

McNeil also overcame a slow start to take a 6-4 win in the first set over Ashlyn Bouchard. McNeil led the second set 4-1, before Bouchard rallied. Tied 6-6, McNeil and Bouchard went to a tiebreaker, won by McNeil 7-3 to clinch the match. McNeil said not warming up enough was the reason for her slow start.

“I did not feel warmed up at all. It took a couple games to get into rhythm,” McNeil said.

Waterville’s Inga Zimba returns a shot during her No. 1 singles match against Caribou’s Sage Dubay during the Class B North regional final Thursday in Hampden. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

In the second set, McNeil worked on staying back to neutralize Bouchard’s lob attack.

“I said to myself, make shots you know you can make,” McNeil said.

At first singles, Waterville’s Inga Zimba took two close sets over Sage Dubay, winning 7-5, 7-6 (7-0).

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

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