FREEPORT — It was 18 seasons ago when then first-year Freeport boys’ tennis coach Jay Harper led his team to the Western Class C final.
Now the second-seeded Falcons are going back to the regional final after battling for almost four hours Saturday afternoon to earn a 4-1 win over third-seeded Yarmouth, the defending Class B South champion.
In a semifinal that featured four three-set matches, Freeport (11-3) won enough big points to advance to the regional final at 9:15 a.m. Thursday at Bates College against fifth-seeded Cape Elizabeth.
“I knew I had some tremendous players that could do this, and today we put it together against a Yarmouth team that played so good,” said Harper.
Freeport’s win came down to two key matches. Liam Gould was down a set and tied 3-3 in the second set against Liam Ireland, who defeated Gould in three sets during the regular season. Gould eventually took the second set, 6-3, then built a 5-1 lead in the third set and held on for a 6-4 win, giving Freeport a 2-1 lead.
“I had to play my game, play consistent, and go to the net more and win those points,” said Gould. “He was hitting good shots. Our matches are always tight.”
The No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches were still going at that point, and Freeport’s Clay Canterbury was locked in a tight match with hard-hitting Will Nicholas at No. 2. After Canterbury cruised in the opening set, 6-2, Nicholas rallied to take the second set, 7-5, winning the final three games.
“I sat down, had some energy blocks to refuel, drank some water and just told myself that I could do it,” said Canterbury after winning the third set, 6-2.
With Canterbury up a break at 3-2, he trailed love-40 on his serve. He battled back to deuce, and there were four more deuces before Canterbury hit a winner past a sprawling Nicholas for a 4-2 lead.
“I was able to stay calm and play my game in the third set,” Canterbury said. “It was a big relief, as you saw in my reaction.”
Moments later, Wes Goodwin closed out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Shepard Shutkin at No. 1 singles to complete the 4-1 win.
“I am very proud of our kids,” said Yarmouth’s first-year coach, Bill Shardlow. “They fought all year long and we are good enough to be competitive. It was a better year than expected. We try to not to give up and compete. But in this game, the better team typically wins. Freeport is a deep team. I wish them the best of luck.”
Freeport gained the first point, as the No. 1 doubles duo of Aaron Rusiecki and Sullivan Smith downed Oliver Sullivan and Joseph Wilson, 6-0, 6-3. After a tough opening set, Yarmouth battled hard in the second set, holding a 3-1 lead before the Falcons reeled off five straight games.
“It’s always important to start that way, to get that energy and get hyped,” said Smith, who is 13-1 this season at No. 1 doubles. “It has been amazing, the best season yet.”
“They were good for sure, we just had to out-consistent them,” added Rusiecki. “Beginning of the second set was rough for us, but they played well. We were able to get it together and pull it out.”
At No. 2 doubles, it was a battle between four freshmen. Freeport’s TJ Whelan and Liam Hornchild-Bear dominated the first set, 6-2. But GW Ruth and Miles Hagedorn claimed sets two and three, 6-2 and 6-1.
“We wanted to stay confident and stay consistent, and we did that those last two sets,” Ruth said.
“We wanted to keep it away from the net guys, as they weren’t as tall as we were, and when we got the ball deep we were able to win the points,” Hagedorn said. “We were a little bit nervous, but we got more comfortable as we went on.”
Next up for Freeport is a clash against Cape Elizabeth, which split two matches against the Falcons during the regular season. Freeport won 5-0 on May 2, and the Capers won 3-2 on May 16.
“This is super exciting. Playing Cape, they are a good team with a long history. We felt that we would have to play them,” Harper said.
GREELY 11, CAPE ELIZABETH 10: Brooke Clement scored three goals, including the winner with 30 seconds left in the second overtime, to lift the Rangers (8-4) over the Capers (7-5) at Cumberland.
Courtney Sullivan added three goals, and Greta Van Curan and Jen Spencer each scored twice for Greely, which is expected to be the No. 3 seed in the Class B playoffs.
Cape Elizabeth, ranked No. 2 in Class B, got three goals from Emily Healy and two apiece from Karli Chapin, Chloe Chapin, and Susie Graham.
SMAA: Laura Powell homered in the ninth inning to lift Scarborough to a 3-2 win over Noble in the league championship game at Gorham.
In the semifinals, Scarborough beat Kennebunk 8-0 and Noble defeated Massabesic, 7-0.
SMAA: Andrew Young drove in Luke Knowles with the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning as Cheverus defeated Portland 4-3 in the league championship game in Gorham.
Cheverus advanced with a 6-3 semifinal win over South Portland, while Portland downed Gorham, 9-4.