Deering senior Tyler Butler knew from the moment the ball left his racquet that he had won the point, particularly because his opponent had not played in nearly a month because of an ankle injury.
Except the ball came back. Faster than he could handle.
“I hit a couple of backhand slices that almost rolled on the ground,” said Butler, shaking his head, “and somehow he managed to snipe a winner.”
Falmouth senior Justin Brogan wasn’t at full strength Thursday morning, but he moved well enough to beat Butler and lead his team to a 5-0 victory in Falmouth’s first appearance in the Western Class A tennis finals.
Falmouth also swept Portland in the Western Class A girls’ finals inside the Racket & Fitness Center on outer Congress Street in Portland because of a rainy forecast in Lewiston, where the tournament had been scheduled.
The 5-0 sweeps continued throughout the afternoon: Waynflete swept both Western Class C finals, and the Cape Elizabeth boys and Greely girls did likewise in Class B.
The tournament director, Don Atkinson, said he couldn’t remember another Western final in which all six winning teams won every match.
The state finals are scheduled for Saturday at the Wallach Tennis Center on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston, with Class A in the morning, C in early afternoon and B in late afternoon.
Thursday’s regional Class A finals featured four undefeated teams who had never faced each other because Falmouth, which was a longtime fixture in Class B, remains in the Western Maine Conference while Portland and Deering compete in the SMAA.
“It took us a little while to figure them out,” said Falmouth senior Katie Ryan, who with freshman partner Kate Kelley rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Portland at first doubles, 6-3, 6-0.
“They are a very solid team.”
Falmouth didn’t drop a set in singles. Brogan, state singles champion Brendan McCarthy and junior Aidan McGrory dropped only six games between them. The singles state champ, Olivia Leavitt, and sophomores Julia Brogan and Caroline Ray held the Portland girls to only five games.
The doubles were more competitive.
Falmouth freshmen Amanda Watson and Mary Hyland trailed 4-5 before winning the final nine games of their second doubles match, 7-5, 6-0.
“It’s nice to be pushed a little bit,” said Falmouth Coach Sandy Stone, whose girls stretched their winning streak to 108 matches. “Now they’re ready for states.”
After winning eight of the past nine Class B state titles, Falmouth will face the defending Class A state champion, Brunswick, in a match that also will pit Leavitt against Brunswick senior Maisie Silverman. They met last year and earlier this month in the state singles finals, with Leavitt rallying to a three-set victory in their most recent meeting.
On Thursday, Falmouth seniors Ben Aicher and Joe Lesniak won 6-3, 6-3 at second doubles, but classmates Russell Barnard and Matt Hutcheon needed three sets at first doubles to dispatch Deering sophomore Will Weeks and senior Jordan Roche, 6-0, 3-6, 6-2.
“My guys were kind of hopeful that they had a chance if Brogan didn’t play,” said Deering Coach Regina Morton. “People who aren’t knowledgeable about tennis don’t get how good those top three singles players are on that team. They’re like five and six times better than everyone else.”
The top seed in the state singles tournament who withdrew from a first-round match because of the ankle injury, Brogan had been eager to return to action.
He moved cautiously Thursday, relied on his serve and tried to end points quickly.
“I really wanted to play,” Brogan said. “I taped it up, braced it up, endured a little pain. But it was worth it.”
In Class B, both top seeds prevailed with relative ease. Defending champ Cape Elizabeth (13-2) had beaten No. 3 Yarmouth (11-4) by 4-1 in the regular season. On Thursday afternoon, Gabriel Torres and Luke Gilman won handily at first and third singles, but Eli Breed was extended to 7-5, 6-4 at second singles against fellow senior Chandler Smith in a match of finesse and athleticism.
“He was just a backboard,” Breed said. “He got everything back.”
Ethan Murphy and Jack Hall avenged the regular-season loss at first doubles 6-1, 7-5, and Conner Sullivan and Jack Tierney won 6-4, 6-1 at second doubles.
Greely (13-1) mowed down No. 6 Spruce Mountain (9-5) in the Western Class B girls’ finals, winning all but six games. Freshman Katherine Pare, junior Anna Collins and sophomore Alex Tebbs won in singles. Mia Lambert and Jessie Hoffman (first), and Sarah Gooch and Sam Kennedy (second) won in doubles.
In Class C boys, Isaac Salas and Brandon Ameglio won in singles for Waynflete, and Stephen Epstein and Peter Michalakes in doubles. Rather than recruit from the track and lacrosse teams to fill spots vacated by Chinese students who returned home, NYA Coach Charlie Hudson fielded a four-person team.
“The only disappointment is that three people didn’t get to play,” said Waynflete Coach Jeff Madore, whose team is shooting for its seventh straight Class C state title Saturday.
Emily White, Lexi Epstein and Allie Armstong paced Waynflete’s girls to singles victories over No. 4 Winthrop (11-3). Sophie Raffel and Nina Flight won in doubles, as did Annika Morrill and Liv Troiano.
Correction: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. on June 14, 2014 to correct the spelling of the first name of Falmouth tennis player Aidan McGrory.