Maine Central Institute’s Cole Allen serves during a Class C North boys tennis semifinal match against Van Buren on Saturday at Mansfield Park in Pittsfield. The MCI boys and girls team’s seasons came to end with losses in Saturday’s semifinals. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

PITTSFIELD — Successful seasons for both Maine Central Institute boys and girls tennis teams came to an end in the regional semifinals.

The Huskies lost their respective Class C North playoff matchups Saturday at Manson Park. The girls fell 3-2 against reigning regional champ Orono, and the boys, playing without their top player, suffered a 3-2 defeat against Van Buren.

The MCI girls began the day by falling just short in a battle of two teams that had lost just once all season. The Red Riots’ win over the Huskies in a third-set tiebreaker at second doubles gave the visitors the match victory and denied the MCI girls their first-ever regional title.

MCI (12-2) won first and third singles in straight sets with Lidia Gómez topping Clarice Bell 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 and Amelia Alejos beating Josie Veilleux 6-4, 6-3. Orono edged the Huskies in second singles (Celia Buetens over Olivia Varney 6-4, 7-6) and got another straight-set win at first doubles (Grace Langley and Hollie Whitmore over Leah Dechaine and Natalie Sites 7-6, 6-2).

In second doubles, Amaya Braley and Ava Smith gave MCI a great start with a 6-0 victory in the first set. Orono’s Bekah Jaksa and Hillary Whitmore bounced back with a 6-0 win in the second set before winning the third set 7-6 on a tiebreaker to send the Red Riots (13-1) to the semifinals.

“It’s hard when it’s that close, but I think that’s a testament to just how great Maine tennis is,” said MCI co-coach John Buys. “That was some great tennis. Both teams, our girls and theirs, played really hard, and it could have gone either way in the end. It just happened to not go our way today.”


Top-ranked MCI’s Caius Knapp got the first victory in boys play as he cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Van Buren’s Brady Laplante at No. 3 singles. The Crusaders then pushed the Huskies (12-2) to the brink with Jordan Clavette beating Alberto Di Girolamo at No. 2 singles and Sam Hebert and Eric Laplante topping Cole Allen and Landon Ross in No. 2 doubles.

Van Buren then sealed the victory in first doubles as Mikail Deschaine and Blake Martin came back from a 6-1 loss in the first set with a pair of 6-3 triumphs over Hudson Holmstrom and Brady Rogers in the second and third. Mattea Meucci then got a consolation prize for MCI with a 3-6, 7-6, 11-9 (first-to-10 tiebreaker) win over Xavier Deschaine.

“He didn’t have to come out and play that tiebreaker, but he did,” Buys said of Meucci, who was treated for an injury following the second set. “That’s the caliber of kid you want and the character you want to see, whether it’s on the court or off the court.”

The MCI boys were forced to make some adjustments with the absence of Marco Milano, who had been the team’s top singles player all season. With Milano back in his native Italy, Meucci and Di Girolamo had to move up from their usual spots at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, with Knapp moving from No. 1 doubles to No. 3 singles.

There had been a point in the year, Buys said, when MCI had been worried about losing as many as five transfer students back to Europe. Four of those players made arrangements to stay, remaining in Pittsfield longer than necessary to continue with the team.

“I would say it speaks a lot to the kids and the program that they made arrangements to stay and be a part of the team,” said Jocelyn Buys, John’s sister and fellow co-coach. “They went out of their way for their coaches and their teammates.”

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