FALMOUTH – Satchel McCarthy, a senior at Cape Elizabeth, reached the quarterfinals of the MPA state singles tennis tournament last spring. So in theory he was one of the eight best high school tennis players in Maine.
An even bigger challenge awaits McCarthy this spring. For the first time since he was a freshman, he is trying to break into Cape Elizabeth’s singles line-up so he can return to a singles tournament that accepts no more than three entries per school.
For the moment, McCarthy is playing first doubles with Sam Sherman, another senior who played singles for Cape Elizabeth a year ago when it reached the Western Class B final before falling to Falmouth.
The two schools met again Friday and this time the score was reversed:
Cape Elizabeth 4, Falmouth 1.
“This is the first time we’ve ever beaten them,” McCarthy said. “So that feels pretty good.”
The victory improved Cape Elizabeth to 2-0 and ended a 34-match winning streak for Falmouth (2-1), the two-time defending Class B champion.
The addition of freshman Mike Mills and junior Peter Higgins — both edged McCarthy in intrasquad challenge matches earlier this week — gives the Capers a team so deep that the second doubles tandem — junior Eli Breed and sophomore Luke Gilman — won the Western Maine Conference doubles tournament last spring.
Breed and Gilman were first off the court Friday, winning 6-1, 6-0 under sunshine and clear blue skies across the street from where the three singles matches were played in the chilly shadows of tall pine trees.
At first doubles, McCarthy (who hadn’t played a high school match with a partner since 2010) and Sherman (half of the team that won the 2011 conference doubles tournament) had their hands full with Falmouth senior Tom Wilberg and junior Ben Aicher. Wilberg served at 40-15 to go ahead 4-1 in the first set before the Capers finally clicked into gear.
“We had a slow start,” Sherman said. “I think we were a little tentative.”
McCarthy and Sherman won 11 of the next 13 games for a 6-3, 6-2 victory. Higgins clinched the match at third singles with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Wilberg’s old doubles partner, Falmouth senior Sam Holland.
The first two singles matches were closer, with Mills rallying past Falmouth sophomore Aiden McGrory 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2, and Falmouth junior Brendan McCarthy knocking off Cape Elizabeth senior Matt Gilman 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1.
“I was really happy for Brendan,” said Falmouth Coach Bob McCully. “People don’t realize how sick he was last year. He had mono badly. He has really worked and improved, and it shows because Gilman is an excellent player.”
For a while, with No. 1 doubles in doubt and Falmouth having won the first set in the top two singles matches, the two-plus-year winning streak looked capable of continuing.
“All the matches were relatively close,” said Falmouth’s McCarthy, who is not related to Satchel. “It gives us a lot more confidence for when we meet them in the playoffs, if we do.”
Friday’s match marked the only meeting of the regular season between the two longtime rivals. Cape Elizabeth Coach Andy Strout said he knew Falmouth would not go down without a fight.
“That just makes us say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we’re not as great as we all talk about.’ That’s good,” Strout said. “That challenge is ahead of us again.”
Until then, Cape Elizabeth’s most intense challenges may well be within the team for those coveted rungs on the singles ladder.
“No matter where the ladder ends, it’s just important to get those Ws,” said Satchel McCarthy. “The state championship is the focus. But I’m definitely hoping to crack back into the singles.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: