Maine Central Institute senior Lidia Gómez walks off the court during a May 23 state singles semifinal match against Mya Vincent of Edward Little High School at Bates College in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


PITTSFIELD — Lidia Gómez loves the feeling of being in control.

The Maine Central Institute senior’s favorite sports are the ones in which she can compete on her own. In her native Spain, Gómez golfed, swam and played racket sports — all activities that allow her to go one-on-one with her opponents.

“I like them because they’re individual,” said Gómez, a foreign-exchange student in her second year at MCI. “I don’t have to worry about if I’m doing worse than someone else (on the team) or if someone else is doing worse than me.”

These days, though, Gómez doesn’t have to worry about being inferior to anyone, at least not on the tennis court. She is, after all, Maine’s girls tennis singles champion, and with the team playoffs just days away, she also has her MCI team in the mix for its first-ever regional title.

Gómez came to MCI from the western Spanish city of Cáceres‎ for her junior year. Rather than staying just one year at the school, as exchange students usually do, she elected to return as a senior and graduate from MCI before beginning college at Westcliff University in Irvine, California.


“The reason that I came was because I needed to learn English for college, and I didn’t know any,” Gómez said. “I was only going to come for one year, but at the end of last year, I was like, ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to come back because I kind of like it here.’”

That allowed Gómez to play in the recent state singles tennis tournament, something she was unable to do as a junior last year after being forced to quarantine for 10 days upon returning from a trip home to Spain. She took full advantage, sailing through qualifying and ultimately winning the title last Monday at Lewiston High School.

Gómez wasn’t challenged much en route to the singles tournament final as she won every set and rarely dropped games (or even points). The standout kept her streak of set wins alive in the championship match, but it didn’t come without a challenge from Brunswick’s Coco Meserve, who made Gómez work for her 6-4, 6-3 win.

“That was the hardest match I’ve played here in Maine,” said Gómez, who has yet to lose a match of any kind in her two years at MCI. “We were both at a high level. Some of the matches before that, they were more low-level. She’s a good player.”

Gómez is part of an MCI team that has a foreign flair to it this spring. The Huskies had Italian exchange students Alberto Di Girolamo, Mattia Meucci and Marco Milano competing in the boys singles tournament, though Milano, the team’s No. 1 player, has since returned to Italy. The MCI boys also have a German player, Caius Knapp.

Maine Central Institute senior Lidia Gomez returns a shot to Mya Vincent of Edward Little High School during a May 23 state singles semifinal match at Bates College in Lewiston Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“We have a lot of opportunities for our local students and our residential students to come together, and tennis is really one of those opportunities,” MCI co-coach John Buys said. “I think that’s one of the great things about MCI, that you have both local students and the residential students from overseas like Lidia who are bringing their history here being part of the same team.”


In addition to practicing against fellow girls team members, Gómez has gone up against some of her foreign male counterparts. The former ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors competitor has hit frequently against Meucci in particular in a battle of two of the state’s top male and female players.

When those matchups do happen, the Spaniard usually gets the better of the Italian. Although the two don’t keep score, Meucci thinks he has a pretty good idea of how a formal match against his European teammate would go.

“We don’t play each other in a match, but if we were to do a match, she would beat me, 100 percent,” Meucci said. “She is better than me, that’s for sure. We enjoy hitting together, and it was good to see her win the tournament last week.”

Gómez’ strengths as a player, Buys said, are both mental and physical. The newly crowned singles champ doesn’t get fazed by the intensity and emotions of the game, and she does so while exhibiting a first-class combination of both power and control.

“One part of the game that works so well for her is the power of her ground strokes,” Buys said. “She finds winners in a lot of ways from both an offensive and a defensive position. It makes it almost impossible for somebody to find an opportunity against her.”

At 11-1, the MCI girls team has the No. 2 seed in the Class C North playoffs, which are set to begin later this week. The Huskies will take on either seventh-ranked Calais (6-5) or 10th-ranked Van Buren/Wisdom (5-5) in Thursday’s regional quarterfinals.

MCI has never won a regional title on the girls side with the boys team winning the program’s only regional crown in 1994. Yet with a virtually assured winner in every No. 1 singles match in Gómez, who already ended one drought by becoming the school’s first state singles winner, the Huskies have a shot to do just that.

“We’re excited because we (have gotten) a lot better this year,” Gómez said. “Last year, we were playing at a lower level, and now, we are playing at a higher level. We’re going to do our best.”

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