AUGUSTA — With the face of Marilyn Monroe on her T-shirt and heart-shaped peace signs woven into her leather cowboy boots, Heather Crawford was frustrated by the turn of events on Sunday morning.
She’d been sinking all the solid balls during a round of pool at the Augusta Armory, earning “woo-hoos” and praise from the three other ladies on her team. But they were behind in their match against a team from the Portland area, and Crawford, of Lewiston, failed to sink the eight-ball.
“I can’t believe I missed that,” she said later. “I had the perfect setup.”
Then, Crawford’s opponent failed to sink all his balls, giving her another shot. On her next try, she put away the eight-ball to win the round. For the moment, things were looking up for the all-lady team, which had given itself a cheeky name: Need a New Rack.
Like many in the Augusta Armory on Sunday, they had paid $100 to compete in the championships of the Maine Valley Pool League, an organization that hosts matches in communities around southern and central Maine.
Classic rock played over the speakers as competitors socialized, sipped Bud Light and knocked balls across 7-foot tables that had been shipped from Texas.
Cues and the leather cases that carried them were strewn around the venue. Men in striped referee shirts wandered the room, occasionally stepping in to resolve disagreements, but largely left players to officiate themselves.
It was a remarkably drama-free event, according to Mick White, who works for the Texas company that supplied the tables, Valley Dynamo Companies, and travels to pool events across the country. He’s often heard arguments break out at pool matches, whether they’re held in places of drink or worship.
But in the Augusta Armory, White marveled at “How well the group is behaved. … I haven’t seen anyone going, ‘Hey, you hit that ball first!’”
It was the first time the event was held in the Augusta venue. The Maine Valley Pool League has previously hosted championships in the communities where its teams are from, such as Lewiston-Auburn, Waldoboro and Brunswick.
But it chose the Augusta Armory this year so that all competitors could be in one place, said Mark Desjardin, one of the league’s operators. It was also something of a dry run for November, when Desjardin hopes to hold a larger pool event at the Augusta Civic Center that would be open to the public.
The nonprofit league is part of a larger organization, the Valley National 8-Ball League Association, which offers competitions for children and adults alike and hosts an annual event in Las Vegas, the World Pool Championships.
The all-lady team, Need a New Rack, is planning to go to Las Vegas for that competition in late May.
“It’s an awesome time,” said one member of the team, Chrystal Violette of Manchester.
Need a New Rack had at least one advantage as they played in Augusta and looked forward to their bid in the Sin City. One of their teammates, Kathy Lebel, owns a pool hall in the Lewiston area, Schemengees Bar & Grill, where the tables are 2 feet longer.
“It’s easier going from a 9 to a 7,” Lebel said. “The little tables are more forgiving.”
The results of the weekend-long competition was not available by press time on Sunday.
Another competitor, Jack Gamache, had a different take. His team, Pros & Cons, often plays on 9-foot tables, including at Schemengees in Lewiston, and he also has traveled to Las Vegas for the World Pool Championships.
In his view, he said, going from 9- to 7-feet is difficult.
Then again, Gamache may have been hustling on behalf of his team. As he was saying that, his teammate, Guy Rodrigue, sank 10 balls straight to win a round.
That run included one particularly tricky shot, in which Rodrigue banked a ball off a cushion and down the length of the 7-foot table, so that it brushed one of his opponent’s balls and veered into the corner pocket.
“He went to church this morning,” Gamache said.