SKOWHEGAN – With a 12-1 record following Wednesday’s Class A North semi-final win over Messalonskee, the Skowhegan Area High School women’s tennis team are having their best season in… well, how long is it , Coach?
“As far back as we can remember,” said coach Andy Staples, watching his team compete.
Skowhegan, the number 2 seed in the region, took a 3-2 victory over number 7 Messalonskee. Skowhegan won the third single, first double and second double to win the match. Messalonskee won in the first and second singles.
The River Hawks are awaiting the winner of a game between No.3 Hampden and No.6 Camden Hills.
This season’s success came as a slight surprise for Staples. Like state coaches who hadn’t seen their teams compete since 2019, Staples wasn’t sure what he had in return. While Skowhegan went 9-3 two years ago, only four players returned from this team, and all were exhibition players by then, with little experience in college games.
“I think we have a great community on this team. We’re all pretty close, ”said senior Marlee Hisler, who won her No. 3 singles match against Messalonskee’s Heidi Quist, 6-3, 6-2.
Hisler is 12-1 this season, despite being one of those unknowns to start with. As a sophomore in 2019, Hisler suffered a sprained ankle while playing football at the start of the tennis season, causing him to miss most of the season. When she finally got to perform, Hisler only saw the action in a few exhibits.
With the 2020 season lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic, players have rarely had the chance to hone their skills. Hisler said she and a few teammates came out late last summer and just hit the ball. When Champions at Waterville started setting up scuffles in January, Hisler and a few of his teammates started playing. It showed when the practices started this spring.
“Just playing competitive games has helped me a lot,” Hisler said.
“There’s nothing worse than early season rust when you haven’t swinging a racket in six months,” said Staples, Skowhegan’s coach for 14 years.
Staples saw improvement in the season opener over Hampden.
“When we beat Hampden for that first game, I was pleasantly surprised because it’s always a tough game,” Staples said.
A loss to undefeated Class B powerhouse Waterville early in the season was also a defining moment for the River Hawks. Staples said the game galvanized the team mentally. After the loss, Staples and the players sat together on an empty field with their eyes closed, visualizing the things they were afraid of and the things they needed to do to get better.
“If you can befriend your worst case scenario, there’s nothing on the court that scares you,” Staples said.
This approach has worked. At the start of Wednesday’s playoff game, the River Hawks were 7-0 in 3-2 games.
Skowhegan’s first doubles team of Joei Ramsdell and Mina Calder took a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Ella Peterson and Joanna Zhang. River Hawks’ second doubles team Sarah Johnson and Kate Kelso defeated Emma Wiswell and Brynn Lilly of Messalonskee, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Messalonskee won in the first single, Camdyn Lemarre defeating Ashley Davis, 6-1, 6-0. In the second single, Messalonskee’s Kirsten Frost took a straight set victory over Lilly Wright, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
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