Charlie Haberstock admits he gets a little uncomfortable when the spotlight turns in his direction.
But the Waterville High School senior shook off any nervousness well enough Thursday to win a second-set tiebreaker that earned the undefeated Purple Panthers a 3-2 victory over John Bapst of Bangor and the Class B North boys tennis championship at Hampden Academy.
“I think it’s something you never really get used to,” Haberstock said. “There’s just so much pressure. It’s not a situation I particularly love but you just try to stay as calm as possible.”
Haberstock defeated John Bapst junior Sean Flynn 6-1 in the first set of their best-of-three battle at first singles.
But when teammate Owen Evans finished off a pivotal 6-4, 6-4 victory over Max Poth at second singles to tie the match at 2-2, Haberstock and Flynn were the only competitors still playing and just beginning their second set.
“It definitely changed after that first set because now everybody’s watching you and everything rides on this one match,” Haberstock said.
Flynn maintained a modest lead for much of the set, holding serve for a 5-4 lead before Haberstock tied the set on serve and broke Flynn for a 6-5 lead before Flynn forced a tiebreaker by winning the next game with a back-hand drop shot on a return of serve.
“Sean’s a great player and he maybe had a bit of a slow start but he played much, much better in the second set,” Haberstock said. “He’s tough to compete with, especially on his serve.”
Haberstock had less difficulty in winning the tiebreak 7-1. The steady left-hander lost the third point on his serve, then won five straight points to close out the match. Top-seeded Waterville (15-0) advanced to Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. state final against Yarmouth at Lewiston High School.
“At that point it all really comes down to a few points,” Haberstock said. “There’s a lot of pressure in that situation, but I think I just played a few key points and luckily it worked out.”
Second-seeded John Bapst, making just its second appearance in a regional championship match, finished with a 13-2 record.
“They played their hearts out,” said John Bapst coach Jason Hoyt, whose Crusaders graduate only one senior. “They played the best that they could play and there were a lot of juniors and sophomores on this team and they were a little nervous. They had never been in this position before.
“I think we played the best we could possibly play given the nerves, and we’re excited about next year.”
Waterville won the first point of the match at first doubles, where Logan Tardiff and Jay Brock topped Quinn Breen and Khayne Cogdell 6-1, 6-3.
But John Bapst took a 2-1 lead with victories at second doubles and third singles.
Leo Wlodkowski and Levi Peterson secured the Crusaders’ first point, winning a first-set tiebreak and moving on to a hard-fought 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over Waterville’s Cole Bazakas and Nick Poulin.
Sam Poth gave John Bapst the lead with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Josiah Bloom.
Evans then finished off what was his closest match of the season to leave Haberstock and Flynn in the limelight.
“I’m very glad it didn’t go to a third set,” Haberstock said. “Happy endings, right?”