When Maine’s top high school singles tennis players gather at Bates College in Lewiston on Memorial Day to determine the 2017 state champions, that field of semifinalists could feature many faces familiar to fans.

Six of the boys and girls who reached the final day of singles competition a year ago are back and poised to repeat or improve upon their 2016 efforts, beginning with five regional qualifying events scheduled around the state Saturday.

The boys field is led by Mt. Ararat of Topsham senior Nick Mathieu, whose previous three seasons of individual play never finished before the championship match. Mathieu was the runner-up in 2014 and 2015 before breaking through to win the title last spring.

Among his top challengers will be Thornton Academy of Saco sophomore Dariy Vykhodtsev, who took Mathieu to three sets in last year’s final before falling 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; and Falmouth sophomore Nick Forester, who reached the semis last spring before being forced to retire because of injury.

Defending girls champion Julia Brogan of Falmouth graduated, but her three most prominent challengers last year hope to fill that championship void.

Lana Mavor of Yarmouth was top seeded as a freshman in 2016 but had to retire from her semifinal because of a back injury. Junior Rosemary Campanella of Kennebunk-Wells reached the 2016 championship match where she fell to Brogan 6-1, 6-0. And Saint Dominic of Auburn senior Bethany Hammond of Belgrade dropped a tight a 6-2, 7-6 (3) semifinal to Brogan last spring after reaching the championship match in 2015 and also advancing to the semifinals as a freshman in 2014.

Top seeds for the Region 2 playdown that encompasses much of eastern Maine are both from John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, with senior Paul Branch leading the boys field and junior Crystal Bell the top-ranked girls player.

The top seeds for Region 1 that covers northernmost Maine are both from Caribou, with junior Gabrielle Marquis the girls’ top seed after being seeded 10th overall in the state last spring and classmate Alec Cyr leading that region’s boys hopefuls.

The Region 1 playdown will be based at Caribou High School, with Region 2 in Greater Bangor, Region 3 (central Maine) at Brunswick High School (boys) and Mt. Ararat School (girls), Region 4 (western Maine) at Lewiston High School and Region 5 (southern Maine) in Greater Portland.

The top four boys and girls from Region 1 will advance to the state Round of 48, with 11 boys and girls from Region 2, eight boys and girls from Region 3 and Region 4 and the top 17 boys and girls from Region 5.

Those qualifiers will be reseeded for the state Rounds of 48 and 32 scheduled for Friday, May 26, at Colby College in Waterville. The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be held Saturday, May 27, also at Colby, before the venue shifts to Bates College for the semifinals and championship matches on Monday, May 29.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...