Individual talent and collective chemistry can go a long way in team sports.
For the Waterville High School girls’ tennis team, that means all the way to the Class B championship game on Saturday.
Coach Devin LaChappelles, the top-ranked Purple Panthers, remained unbeaten on Thursday afternoon with a 5-0 win over previously unbeaten Caribou in the North Regional Final, played at Hampden Academy.
Waterville (15-0) captured his first regional crown since winning four in a row from 2011 through 2014, and will take on South champion Cape Elizabeth (14-1) for the state championship in the Anita Murphy at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Courts in Lewiston.
More than anything, we were genuinely excited to have made it this far, said Amna Sheikh, senior co-captain of Waterville, who scored the deciding point for the Purple Panthers. I talk about this all the time, but we have a great team spirit and that keeps us all pumped for a match instead of being super stressed or anxious about things going wrong. [Instead] we think of all the positive things and of being together.
Caribou, who started his season with just six players and wasn’t able to field a second double tandem until mid-May, is finishing the season at 14-1.
For them to get this far, especially considering we started without a second doubles team, is a good season for us, said Caribou coach John Habeeb.
Habeeb felt his teams’ best chance of knocking out Waterville going into the game would rest on his singles contingent, and Waterville indeed jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead against the Vikings by winning both doubles matches.
Purple Panthers Kiera Gilman and Karin Zimba defeated Mia Theriault and Naomi Cote without losing a match in the first doubles and Hannah Hubbard and Miranda Tracy defeated Jayden Fournier and Kallee Parent 6-0, 6-1 in the second doubles.
It took a little longer for Sheikh to win a tiebreak in the first set and Caribou took over second-seeded Livia Bouchard 7-6 (3), 6-2.
I think it really helped me if everyone supported us as we played, said Sheikh. It helped me overcome the heat, which really hit me in the first set.
Waterville extended the lead to 4-0 on third basehits, where Sarah McNeil fended off a challenge from Caribous Ashlyn Bouchard and won a tiebreak in the second set to cap off a 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory.
Inga Zimba from Waterville and Sage Dubay from Caribou faced each other in the final game of the day, with the two front-runners trading many long rallies before Zimba came out with a 7-6, 7-6 (0) victory.
We knew Waterville was a good team and I thought, boy, it’s going to be a tough game for us to win all three singles, Habeeb said.
Caribou bid for its first Northern title since winning back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018.
It seemed like once we lost those first sets, everything catches up with you, he said.
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