One would be hard-pressed to find two more evenly-matched high school girls tennis squads take the court against one another then No. 8 Oceanside and No. 9 Belfast and that proved to be the case as the squads tussled on Tuesday, May 30 in a Class B North prelim playoff match that saw only one of the five matches settled in two sets.

And with the score tied 1-1, the Lions dug deep and, ultimately, gutted out a 3-2 victory over the host Mariners.

Click for photos from this match.

With the win, Belfast (7-6) advances to the Class B North quarterfinals, where it will face top-ranked Camden Hills (12-0) on Thursday, June 1 at 2:30 p.m. Camden Hills defeated Belfast 5-0 in a regular-season match on May 22 in Belfast.

Oceanside, which beat Belfast 3-2 on April 28 in Belfast, saw its season end at 7-6.

The individual results, with Belfast players listed first, were: In singles, Rayahna Luther lost to Gabby Simmons, 1-6, 6-2, 4-6; Julia Cerone beat Molly Davis, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0; and Alexia Sweet bested Cassidy Boynton, 2-6, 6-6 (7-4), 6-1.

In doubles, Kristina Walker and Eliot Ripley lost to Emma Lee and Jasmine Bouchard, 3-6, 2-6; and Starr Warner and Samantha Hills won by forfeit over Meredith Mitchell and Erin Dugan.

“Anytime we’ve played Rockland [Oceanside] over the years we’ve always been very close,” said veteran Belfast coach John Cameron. “Because they’re in a similar situation with us in that most of their kids aren’t [year-round] tennis players. They play for the three months of the season and that’s about it. So we’re always very competitive with them and today was no exception.”

Cameron said the deciding factor for his team was the third set of the second and third singles matches as Cerone and Sweet “took care of business” decisively, which broke a 1-1 tie and ultimately gave the Lions the mild upset win.

The coach said Luther battled valiantly against Simmons at first singles as she rallied to win the second set and was tied 4-4 in the third set before Simmons took the final two games.

The teams were knotted 1-1 in the early going as Belfast took a 1-0 lead in the match when the Mariner duo of Dugan and Mitchell were forced to forfeit their match when Mitchell became ill and proved unable to continue, with the score tied 4-4 in the first set.

"We knew it would be a close match and we were prepared to give it our best," said Mariner coach Joanna Hall. "Unfortunately, it is hard to give away a point in a match that is tied 4-4 and we have an opportunity to win. But, that’s how it goes. We could not pull out a point in our close second and third singles matches that we had a chance to win. The Belfast girls played very well and we wish them the best moving on in the quarterfinals."

“It’s unfortunate that happened, but that [kind of thing] does happen,” said Cameron. “We did everything we could to make it so she could continue, but she just was not able to. And that’s too bad all-around, because my girls don’t get a good match out of it either.”

Hall added that after taking an injury timeout and determining "this was a condition that would not improve," she ultimately decided Mitchell's "well-being is more important than a [potential playoff] win."

Lee and Bouchard later knotted the score for Oceanside with their victory over Walker and Ripley, but Cerone and Sweet ultimately helped secure the win for the Lions.

Belfast now faces the arduous task of trying to unseat the top-seeded and unbeaten Windjammers, fresh off their Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship victory over Waterville on Tuesday, May 29.

“Camden [Hills] is in the situation where they have a lot of tennis players,” said Cameron, who works at Midcoast Recreation Center and sees many of the team’s players on a daily basis. “Those are girls who play year-round, they have lessons [and] that’s great for them. Last time we played them we had some very good matches and we’re hoping to go in there and turn some of those good matches into winning matches.”