LEWISTON — George Cutone of Kennebunk and Lidia Gomez of Maine Central Institute each had a moment of reckoning Monday, a time when their path to a Maine Principals’ Association singles tennis state championship seemed in doubt.

Both players – seeded first among the fields of 52 that began play on Friday – rose to their respective challenges.

Cutone rallied in a Monday morning semifinal before dispatching a hobbled second seed, senior Leif Boddie of Greely, in a boys’ final that Cutone led 6-1, 3-0 before Boddie and Greely Coach Tom Hurley agreed it was smarter to concede rather than continue in such a diminished physical state.

“He wasn’t going to quit on his own but it comes to a point where you’re at risk of injuring yourself,” Hurley said. “He’s got so much drive. He doesn’t give up on anything.”

As for Gomez, she fell behind twice in the opening set before fending off No. 2 Coco Meserve, a Brunswick High sophomore, 6-4, 6-3 in a spirited girls’ championship match Monday afternoon at the Wallach Tennis Center on the campus of Bates College.

It was the second straight individual state title for Cutone and the first for Gomez, a native of Spain who missed last year’s tournament because she was under quarantine protocol when regional qualifying was taking place.

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“She was keeping her cool the whole time,” said Meserve, who opened the match by breaking Gomez’s serve. She was then serving with a chance to go ahead 5-3 in the first before Gomez reeled off six games in a row. “That was the difference in our level of play. She knew how to keep it controlled and I think I got a little excited.”

The unflappable Gomez won all five tournament matches in straight sets and needed only 47 minutes in her semifinal (a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Edward Little junior Mya Vincent, the fifth seed). By contrast, Meserve played for nearly three hours against No. 6 Fabienne Nowak, a German exchange student from Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford, before winning their semifinal 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 Monday morning.

Vincent lasted until the Round of 16 a year ago. She said Gomez was both consistent and powerful.

“I was hitting some of my best shots,” Vincent said, “and she just sent them back as winners, which was really tough.”

Down a break early in the second set of the afternoon championship match, Meserve held three times but never could manage another service break against Gomez, who finally converted her third match point to end the 1 hour, 42-minute slugfest.

“I was nervous because I didn’t expect that,” Gomez said of Meserve’s strong start. “She was playing really good.”

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“I am so happy to even be in the finals,” Meserve said. “Win or lose, this was my goal to just make it here, and to have such a fun last match – that was my favorite match of the whole tournament.”

Cutone’s moment of doubt came in the morning semifinals, when he suddenly found himself staring at a three-game deficit against Falmouth freshman Sam Yoon, who hits forehands off either wing and had lost to Cutone 6-0, 6-1 in late April.

In three previous rounds Friday and Saturday, Cutone had won by a combined game score of 18-1. Against Yoon, however, he rallied to a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“He played a more aggressive game,” Cutone said, “and really forced the issue on me.”

Boddie, meanwhile, found himself in trouble after opening his semifinal by winning the first seven games against Berwick Academy senior Gabe Naftoly, whose deft drop shots helped force a third set. Boddie prevailed 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 but the effort took a physical toll on his lower body.

As the boys’ championship match began, pitting a 6-foot-5 Boddie with a big serve and volley game against a 5-foot-7 baseline magician, “he seemed a little sore,” Cutone said. “He wasn’t playing the aggressive style that he could have. It’s unfortunate, because I was really looking forward to playing him.”

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After Boddie netted an overhead smash to fall behind 4-0 in the first set, he buckled in pain and needed assistance off the court. After a 12-minute medical delay, he hobbled back and gamely tried to make a go of it, even holding serve despite limited mobility, before Cutone resumed control of the match.

Boddie said his quad seized up before the match, when he was trying to loosen up his calf with a roller.

“And then during that whole (championship) match, every muscle in both legs was seizing up,” he said. “I was pretty confident that would happen again if I decided to play at full capacity. And I’m not going to beat him if I’m not at full capacity.”

Despite the unsatisfying end to an otherwise stellar weekend run, both players said they were pleased with their performance.

“Finals was my goal,” Boddie said. “Anything after that was a bonus.”

“It takes something to get here,” Cutone said. “My semifinal match was extremely hard, so I was really happy to get through that one. To play in the finals is always special and to win it – even this way – it’s still great.”


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