Lidia Gomez Carrera, a senior at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, is the 2022 girls' state singles tennis champion. Credit: Courtesy of John Buys

Lidia Gomez Carrera grew up playing junior tennis in her native Spain, but the senior international student at Maine Central Institute knew little of the other three semifinalists who gathered at Bates College in Lewiston on Monday to crown the state’s 2022 Maine Principals’ Association girls’ singles titlist.

So Gomez studied her opponents as she began to play them, then used her blend of power, placement and patience to make any necessary adjustments while winning two straight-set matches to become MCI’s first state champion in the sport.

The top-seeded Gomez, who couldn’t play at states during her first year at MCI last spring due to COVID-related travel and quarantine issues as she returned to the Pittsfield campus from a spring trip home, capped off her second straight undefeated season of interscholastic tennis in Maine with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over sophomore Coco Meserve of Brunswick in the title match.

“I am proud of myself,” said the 17-year-old Gomez, who hails from Caceres, a city of nearly 100,000 residents in west-central Spain. “It was a good match with a really good opponent. We both were at a really good level, and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the whole competition.”

The championship-clinching victory came after Gomez eased past No. 5 Mya Vincent of Edward Little High School in Auburn 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals.

Vincent, a junior, won the first three points of that match and took a 1-0 lead in the first set, but Gomez used the accuracy and power of her ground strokes to win the next 12 games.

“Her opponent was a talented player and was athletic and going for her shots, but she just didn’t have the power that Lidia had,” MCI co-coach John Buys said. “So while Lidia was definitely over-hitting in that first game that she lost, she really settled into cruise control for where her shots needed to be and really finding the right serve for the right moment.”

That left Gomez to play the second-seeded Meserve, the top singles player for a Brunswick High School team currently ranked first in the Class A North Heal point ratings.

Meserve reached the championship match after surviving a nearly three-hour semifinal with No. 6 Fabienne Nowak of Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford in three hard-fought sets.

Meserve edged Nowak, an international student from Germany, 6-4 in the opening set but Nowak rebounded to win the second set by an identical score before Meserve persevered to win the third set 6-3.

Meserve came out strong on serve in her match with Gomez, producing a back-and-forth first set.

“Coco is a great striker of the ball, she’s right with Lidia there,” Buys said. “Coco had a real advantage in that her serve was unreal in that first set. She was picking her corners really well and when she served it out wide it caught Lidia on her heels once in a while.”

Gomez gradually grew more comfortable returning Meserve’s serve, which led to lengthier rallies in the second set that played to her advantage.

“Lidia just took her time and found her rhythm, found her pace and in the second set she laid off some of the heavy punching right away and enjoyed some of the longer rallies,” Buys said. “It was great shot-making that really forced both girls to think and watch and play the margins.”

Gomez now returns to team competition, where she and her MCI teammates began this week ranked No. 1 in Class C North with a 9-1 record.

Top-seeded George Cutone, a sophomore from Kennebunk High School, successfully defended his 2021 boys singles state championship.

Cutone, who breezed to the final last year — losing just one game in his first four matches at states before outlasting Caleb Fockens of Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft in a three-set championship match — faced his stiffest challenge this year in the semifinals where he bested No. 4 Sam Yoon of Falmouth 6-4, 6-4.

That advanced him to the championship match against No. 2 Leif Boddie, a senior from Greely High School in Cumberland Center who advanced to the semifinals as the No. 1 seed last spring before being ousted by Fockens in straight sets.

Boddie survived a three-set semifinal Monday, outlasting No. 3 Gabriel Naftoly of Berwick Academy 6-0, 3-6, 6-4.

Cutone dominated the final, leading 6-0, 3-0 before Boddie retired due to continuing leg cramps.

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...