The Waterville girls tennis team is all smiles after it won the Class B North title over Mount Desert Island on Tuesday at Bates College in Lewiston. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

LEWISTON — To get back to the Northern Maine title match, the Waterville girls tennis team had to do it the hard way.

A year ago, the Purple Panthers were able to breeze to the Class B North crown as both an undefeated team and the No. 1 seed in the field. As the sixth-ranked team this time, Waterville had to win as underdogs (in terms of seeding, at least) three times to win the title, which it achieved Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Mount Desert Island.

“At the end of the day, a win is a win, and it’s rewarding no matter what,” said Waterville senior captain Emily Campbell. “Winning it all is always a good feeling, especially when it’s something you’ve worked so hard for.”

It’s taken some shuffling to reach this point after some turnover from the 2021 team. The end result of the Northern Maine tournament, as Campbell noted, was no different for a Waterville team that took a much different — but no less rewarding — path to the regional title.

Waterville repeated as Class B North champions Tuesday with wins in third singles, first doubles and second doubles. The Panthers secured their championship quickly by starting the match with those three wins before MDI won the last two matches with the title already decided.

No. 6 Waterville (11-4) got off to a hot start with second singles (Karin Zimba), third singles (Campbell) and both doubles squads winning their opening sets. Campbell and the second doubles team of Fatima Sheikh and Skylah Talon then secured second-set victories to win by respective scores of 7-6, 6-4 and 7-6, 6-2 and put the Panthers within one win of the title.


That clinching win came courtesy of the first doubles duo of Allie Anich and Arian Gilman, who prevailed 6-4, 6-4 over MDI’s Addy Smith and Hannah St. Amand. It was a feeling that some of the Panthers could see coming as they took peaks at the matches going on beside them between points.

“When you’re in the middle of the point, you’ll sometimes look over at the [other courts] to see, and that can be a little stressful,” Sheikh said. “It can be especially tough if you’re down, but when you’re up like we were, it can give you a little boost.”

No. 5 MDI (12-3) would get its first victory from Lelia Weir, who came back from her first-set loss to Zimba in second singles to post a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win. The Trojans’ Linda Bolten then defeated Keira Gilman 6-0, 6-1 in first singles to close out the match.

Although Waterville has many of the same players as it did a year ago, it still udnerwent a number of changes. The team has a new head coach in Jon Hart, and Zimba and Gilman — who were a doubles duo last year — and Campbell are all new to varsity singles. Campbell swung between junior varsity and varsity last spring. 

“We had to find our groove and make one minor change here and there, but the kids just rolled with it and did what they had to do,” Hart said. “From the start to the finish of the season, we’ve improved immensely. I can’t say enough about the kids and their willingness to show up and put in the work.”

For Waterville, the win came just a day after making the long trip north to take on second-ranked Caribou the regional semifinals. That match came after the Panthers defeated Oceanside in the preliminary round and topped John Bapst in Bangor in the quarterfinals.


MDI, though, had its own tough path to Lewiston, having to beat Ellsworth in the quarterfinals and No. 1 seed Foxcroft in the semis. That made for a perhaps-unexpected regional final between two teams that played vastly different schedules in the regular season.

“It was really unpredictable ,” Campbell said. “At the very beginning, she got the first few points, and I was like, ‘whoa, she’s good; this is going to be hard.’ It was tough, and I just had to keep my cool. Then, I’d win a game, and she’d win a game, and we went back and forth.”

There was plenty of that for Waterville in a win that included some close set wins; of the six won by Panthers’ victorious players, only Campbell’s 6-2 win in the second set of third singles came by a margin closer than two games. Yet the three early wins meant little late drama for Waterville, which will play for its second straight title this weekend.

“There were some hard moments for us — having a new coach was hard — but we all worked hard, and we just clicked,” Sheikh said. “We connected and came together, and we did it.”

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