CAPE ELIZABETH – On occasion, the parents of a Falmouth tennis player will ask Coach Bob McCully why he chooses to hold practice on days with raw and blustery weather.

“Because,” McCully said, “we play in this kind of stuff.”

Nowhere does “this kind of stuff” factor more into a match than in late April at the home of Falmouth’s biggest rival, where the Cape Elizabeth Clipper comes roaring off the marshes of Scarborough unhindered by trees and whips across the asphalt courts to wreak havoc with service tosses, bend groundstrokes and generally make life difficult for visiting tennis players.

“When I was younger, I used to always hate playing here,” said Cape Elizabeth junior Matt Gilman, who still smarts from a challenge-match loss two years ago to an upperclassman more familiar with the elements. “But now I love playing here. It’s a pretty big home-court advantage for us, as much as you can get in tennis.”

Despite losses at first singles and first doubles, Falmouth, the defending Class B state champion, eked out a 3-2 victory over Cape Elizabeth on Friday afternoon.

Falmouth freshman Aiden McGrory finally converted his fourth match point in the deciding match at No. 3 singles over Cape Elizabeth freshman Luke Gilman, winning 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 in a match that lasted 2 hours, 25 minutes.

“I had to really grind it out at the end,” McGrory said.

When Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth meet, every match seems to be a grind. One team or the other has competed for the Class B state title in 10 of the past 11 years.

They met last June in the regional final, and Falmouth won 3-2 before mowing down Ellsworth in the state final without dropping a set.

“It’s always close,” McCully said. “I expected a tough match.”

There were three tiebreakers and two matches that went three sets. Falmouth seniors Hutch Hurwitz and Eric Sanderson came off the courts first after a 6-1, 7-6 (2) victory at second doubles. Cape Elizabeth evened things with a 6-4, 6-4 victory by junior Sam Sherman and sophomore Eli Breed at first doubles.

Falmouth sophomore Brendan McCarthy outlasted Cape Elizabeth junior Satchel McCarthy at second singles, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, in a match that lasted 100 minutes.

“I’ve never played in anything like this,” Falmouth’s McCarthy said afterward. “It’s really difficult. The ball goes everywhere.”

Last year’s regular-season match at Cape Elizabeth was moved indoors because of rain, so six of the seven players in Falmouth’s lineup had not experienced the winds powerful enough to pick up towels dropped behind the baseline and send papers skittering across the courts.

“You can’t really prepare,” McCarthy said. “You just have to adapt.”

Matt Gilman knows. Last April, he beat Waynflete’s Patrick Ordway — the eventual state singles champion — on these courts. On Friday afternoon, he knocked off Falmouth sophomore Justin Brogan, the singles runner-up last June, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“There’s definitely strategies to it,” said Gilman, who won the final five points of the first-set tiebreaker. “(Friday) was kind of unusual because we had a side wind. Usually we have a front-to-back wind.”

Brogan, who earlier this week avenged his state final loss to Ordway in another three-set match, simply shook his head after yet another shot bounced crazily off his frame or, buffeted by the wind, swerved just wide of the sideline.

“It’s like playing in a wind tunnel,” he said. “It’s not real tennis.”

How strong were Friday’s winds? Cape Elizabeth Coach Andy Strout didn’t even bother putting out the flip-over scorecards at each court because he knew they’d be flapping all over the place.

When a passing cloud covered the sun, the already-cool temperature seemed to drop another 10 degrees. Throw in the occasional airplane, eruptions from a nearby softball field and stray debris cart-wheeling across courts, and you had your pick of disruptions.

“I just felt uncomfortable the whole time,” Brogan said.

They’ll play again in May, in Falmouth.

If history is any guide, another date in June on the sheltered courts of Bates College is also likely.

“We’ll have to figure out a way to win,” Matt Gilman said, “even without the wind.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH