PORTLAND — In order to beat top-ranked Deering in a Western Class A boys tennis semifinal on Saturday, Thornton Academy knew it would need to pull a surprise in at least one match to have a chance at the upset.

Instead, it was the Rams who pulled a surprise themselves as Kelvin Huynh and Jason Thach beat the T.A. tandem of Dylan Gooch and Simon Belliveau at No. 2 doubles, helping to key a 4-1 Rams victory on a scorching-hot afternoon at the Deering High School tennis courts.

Deering also got wins at No. 3 singles, No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, with the latter two both going three sets. The Rams (14-0) move on to face No. 2 Falmouth in the regional final on Thursday at Bates College, while the fourth-seeded Golden Trojans end their season at 11-3.

“They’ve got good players at every position. They play hard, they’re athletic and they took advantage of their opportunities,” Thornton coach Andrew Carlson said. “At this stage of the tournament you can’t give away points, and that’s where matches are usually decided. They played cleaner than we did today and that’s what you see in the results.”

Deering had beaten Thornton 3-2 during the regular season, when Gooch and Belliveau ”“ who entered with a 12-1 overall record ”“ had just gotten the better of Huynh and Thach thanks to a third-set tiebreak, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5).

But it was the Rams pair who won the key tiebreak after the teams battled to 6-6 in the first set on Saturday, taking a quick 4-1 lead and taking advantage of some Trojans errors late to win 7-4.

The momentum then carried over into the second set as the Rams broke the Trojans to go up 2-1, broke again to lead 5-2 and then held to take the match 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

“The second doubles really rose to the occasion,” Deering coach Regina Morton said. “The finish in the second set was powerful for all the other players.”

The win at second doubles gave the Rams a 2-0 overall lead after freshman Conor Doane had remained undefeated on the season with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Thornton’s Jared Waterhouse in the first finished match of the day.

Deering then took a decisive lead with a three-set win in the best-played match of the day at No. 1 doubles. The Rams pair of Will Weeks and Jordan Roche had won a first set full of breaks, breaking the T.A. tandem of Will Caras and Eric Gooch at 5-4 and then holding to take the opening set.

Caras and Gooch came back strong in the second set, running out to a 3-0 lead and taking the set 6-3 thanks to a couple of nice Caras volleys at the net. The Trojans took another lead to begin the third, staving off two break points to hold for a 3-1 lead.

But the Rams then broke Thornton’s service game, with Gooch loudly questioning a Roche out call that brought on break point, and the Rams rolled from there, winning the final five games of the set to take a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win and clinching the match for Deering.

“The first doubles was up in the third and it kind of got away from them,” Carlson said. “Momentum can switch really quickly to the good or the bad in doubles, and in those two matches it switched against us.”

Thornton had held all the momentum after Caras and Gooch’s second-set win, as just minutes later the Trojans’ David Parran won the second set of his No. 2 singles match against Isaac Finberg to square things at one set apiece.

Finberg had clearly been struggling with the 85-degree temperatures during the second set, but after a talk with Morton during the set break, he returned to dominate the third set, winning six-straight games for a 6-3, 1-6, 6-0 win.

“I told him,” recalled Morton of the conversation with Finberg, “”˜You’re telling me that you’re tired and that it’s hot,’ but the other kid’s tired and hot too. It’s the same set of circumstances for you both, so I don’t want to hear it. Just go out there and play it and don’t worry about any of those factors, and that’s what he did. He proved it.”

“Their kid came out and really took the beginning of the third set and dictated things,” added Carlson. “Then David was chasing, and in a long match like that chasing is tough in the third set.”

Victor Menezes was Thornton’s lone winner of the day at No. 1 singles, beating Tyler Butler 6-4, 6-2. Butler had started strong, breaking Menezes’ powerful serve twice to take a 4-2 first-set lead, but Menezes buckled down from there, winning the next four games to take the opening set and then cruising through the second to win his school record 16th match of the season against just two losses.

“He took control of it in the second set,” Carlson said of Menezes. “The Deering kid was really fighting in the first, and then his game kind of just went away from him and Victor played off of that. He had a great season.”

Staff Writer Cameron Dunbar can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected]urnaltribune.com.



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