The Hall-Dale girls tennis team learned an important lesson in last week’s 3-2 loss to rival Winthrop.

“We’ve got to work on the mental part of the game,” coach Guy Cousins said. “Staying in tune with the game and not beating ourselves.”

Cousins said a number of mental errors in the match led to lapses in execution. He pointed to the second doubles match, where Hall-Dale had a 5-2 lead before dropping the set, 7-6.

The Bulldogs returned five of the top seven players from last season, including Clio Barr, who slid up from No. 2 singles to the top spot.

“We have people back, but we have a number of people in different places,” Cousins said. “We’re still trying to figure out the order.”

On Saturday, the Hall-Dale tennis teams will host the annual Bulldog Invitational. The tournament features singles and doubles matches for boys and girls in grades 9-12. More than two dozen players are signed up, Cousins said.

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This is going to be a season of coaching fundamentals for Messalonskee boys tennis coach Ed Hinkley. Senior Jai Aslam, one of the top players in the state, is the only member of the team with any experience playing the game.

“They’re all newbies. None of them have ever played,” Hinkley said. “I hit 600, 800 balls in a day to one kid.”

So far this season, the Eagles haven’t had enough players to compete in a full contest of three singles and two doubles matches. Against Skowhegan on Friday, Messalonskee played two singles and two doubles. In the season-opening match against Hampden, the Eagles played two singles matches and one doubles.

“It gives the kids a chance to play and that’s what’s important,” Hinkley said.

Improvement is coming for Messalonskee’s inexperienced players. Against Skowhegan, Messalonskee’s doubles teams won four games.

“That tells me they’re beginning to hit the ball and hit the ball where they want it to go,” Hinkley said.

Hinkley, now in his sixth season as Messalonskee’s coach, said this season reminds him of his second season coaching the Eagles. That year, Messalonskee had a lot of newcomers after graduating a big senior class. The difference is, this season, no freshmen came out for the team.

“It goes back to interest. It’s something you either want to do or you don’t,” Hinkley said. “These things go through cycles. I can’t explain it.”

Hinkley expects to field a full team of five players for today’s match at Brewer.

“I’ll have five, but that’s it,” he said.

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After three consecutive winless seasons, the Skowhegan Area High School boys tennis team won its first match of the season, beating Brewer 3-2.

“I don’t know if I was more excited or they were,” coach Chris King said, referring to his team. “We have seniors who had never won a match.”

Friday’s 4-1 win over Messalonskee upped Skowhegan’s record to 2-1. King said the Indians are seeing the year-round work they’ve put in starting to pay off. As a team, the Indians are serving better and just keeping the ball in play.

“Keeping the ball in play, it’s the key to high school tennis,” King said.

King also saw improvement in a 5-0 loss to regional power Bangor.

“We took three or four sets from them. That in itself is an accomplishment,” King said.

King said he’d like to see the Indians stay in the hunt for a spot in the Eastern Class A playoffs all season, but it won’t be easy. Senior Sam Wheeler, the No. 2 singles player, recently broke his left wrist.

“He’ll be out a couple weeks, at least,” King said.

Skowhegan will play at Cony today and host Hampden on Friday.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com