By Mark Haskell
LEWISTON — The Mount Desert Island boys’ and girls’ tennis teams returned from the Northern Maine Class B Championships at Bates College in Lewiston on Tuesday with some new hardware.
For the Trojan boys, who had not won a high school regional court title in nearly a decade, it was a storybook ending. For the Trojan girls, it was the end of an impressive campaign that saw them knock off two higher-seeded playoff opponents along the way.
The Trojan boys were deadlocked 2-2 with top-seeded John Bapst of Bangor, with Trojan Westy Granholm and Crusader Sean Flynn going to the third and final set as the regional title hung in the balance.
The set was back-and-forth — with Flynn leading much of the way — until Granholm dug deep and won three of the set’s final four games to win 7-5 and, ultimately, lead MDI to a 3-2 victory and the Class B North title.
It was the first regional championship for the Trojans since the 2013 season.
With the win, MDI (15-0) advances to the state Class B championship game, where it will face Yarmouth (15-0) on Saturday, June 11 at 8:30 a.m. at South Portland High School.
John Bapst saw its season conclude at 14-1.
For the No. 5 Trojan girls — facing defending state Class B champion and No. 6 Waterville for the Class B North regional final — the match did not end with a flair of drama, but with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Purple Panthers.
The MDI girls finished 14-3.
Mount Desert Island, the second seed in Class B North, advanced to the regional final after netting a 5-0 win in the quarterfinals over No. 7 Caribou and 4-1 semifinal victory over No. 3 Presque Isle.
The individual regional championship results, with MDI players listed first, were: In singles, Weston Granholm beat Sean Flynn, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5; Max Friedlander lost to Sam Poth, 6-1, 5-7, 4-6; and Evan Ankrom beat Laken Walker, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
In doubles, Jack Hodgdon and Jameson Weir lost to Quinn Breen and Griffen Merrill, 1-6, 6-2, 3-6; and Treyan Nelson and Owen Kelly beat Finn Oldenburg and Levi Peterson, 6-2, 6-4.
“What I try to teach the kids is to go point by point, game by game and match by match,” said MDI coach Dan Granholm, who coaches both Trojan squads. “This was a scary one. They played hard.”
The Trojans looked to be well on their way after the second doubles tandem of Nelson and Kelly made quick work of Oldenburg and Peterson. Shortly thereafter, Ankrom’s three-set win over Walker put MDI a single win from the regional title.
Coach Granholm said Ankrom’s win over Walker “was a crazy upset.”
“Evan winning was really cool,” the coach said. “That really mattered.”
But the Crusaders bounced back with a pair of three-set victories to knot the score. First, Hodgdon and Weir were ousted by Breen and Merrill in three sets, followed by Poth, who nabbed four straight games to knock off Friedlander.
That set up the showdown between Westy Granholm and Flynn, which was as advertised and, ultimately, pushed back the start time of the Class A North boys final between Camden Hills of Rockport and Mount Ararat of Topsham.
Westy Granholm said: “It was really nerve-wracking” knowing that whether or not his team moved onto the state final rode solely on his match.
“I’m just forcing myself not to think about if I win or lose,” he said. “I just had to focus on every moment.”
Flynn outdueled Granholm in the first set before coach Granholm, Westy’s father, pulled him aside between sets.
“We talked about not making mistakes,” said coach Granholm. “But I also said, ‘You’re going to have to beat this guy. Sean is a great player and you can’t just keep hitting it in. You’re actually going to have to be a little more aggressive.’”
Westy Granholm did just that in the second set and took four of the first five games before Flynn came back and won the next two. Westy Gramholm took the next two games to set up the winner-take-all final set.
“After the second set, it was ‘Just keep him deep,’ ” said coach Granholm. “Because when he comes up [to the net] he just finishes the point and it’s over. He’s an incredible closer. He just finishes it off and we can’t have that happen.”
The players held serve for much of the third set, but Westy Granholm said “I knew I would have to break him when he was serving to win.”
Midway through the third set, Flynn “missed an easy ball I think and I just knew I had to capitalize on that moment,” Westy Granholm said.
“He’s a good player,” said Westy Granholm of Flynn. “And the people I’ve been playing around just locally, I can beat them by just hitting it in over and over. And I couldn’t do that with him. So I had to play a little more aggressively and put him on the defensive more.”
Despite both being in the Penobscot Valley Conference, the schools did not face off during the regular season, but did play a preseason match at the Ellsworth Tennis Center, which the Trojans won 3-2 in a match that featured eight-game pro sets.
Coach Granholm said the players on the teams are far from strangers.
“Three or four of the John Bapst kids practice at the ETC privately. And three or four of my kids play at the ETC privately and they all have the same coach. So they all know each other very closely,” the coach said.
“There was gigantic buildup to this match. It was scary, but I’m just so super proud of the boys.”
Mount Desert Island, the fifth seed in Class B North, advanced to the regional final by virtue of a 3-2 quarterfinal win over No. 4 Ellsworth and swung past top-seeded Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 3-2.
The individual regional championship results, with MDI players listed first, were: In singles, Linda Bolten beat Keira Gilman, 6-0, 6-1; Lelia Weir bet Karin Zimba, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3; and Taber Allen lost to Emily Campbell, 6-7 (6), 2-6.
In doubles, Addy Smith and Hannah St. Amand lost to Arian Gilman and Allie Anich, 4-6, 4-6; and Grace LeMoine and Eliza Levin lost to Fatima Sheikh and Skylah Talon, 6-7 (6), 4-6.
The Purple Panthers quickly seized control of the match, taking a 2-0 lead after the third singles and second doubles matches ended nearly simultaneously.
Not long after, Waterville made it academic after Smith and St. Amand fell to Gilman and Anich.
MDI did not pack it in, however, as Bolton and Weir, with the outcome of the match decided, upended Gilman and Zimba, as Weir’s match, ultimately, went three sets.
Coach Granholm admitted the Trojan girls have been a bit in the shadow of the unbeaten boys team this season, but added that “they’re actually probably more gritty than the boys.”
“They did great,” the coach said. “We lost only two matches in the regular season and we were missing our number one player during those two matches to Washington Academy [the Raiders won the Class C North regional title Tuesday 3-2 over Orono]. They easily could have gone undefeated too. We could have beat the [Waterville] girls today, but some weird stuff happened.”