Hall-Dale High School hosted its annual Hall-Dale Invitational on Saturday. Sixty-nine players representing schools from around central Maine took part — the biggest turnout in the five-year history of the tournament — Hall-Dale girls tennis coach Guy Cousins said.

“It’s really taken off,” Cousins said. “It’s been a steady increase. Mt. Blue and Erskine sent their entire teams. The level of tennis keeps getting better and better.”

This year, a mixed doubles division was added and featured some top players. St. Dominic’s Bethany Hammond, the likely top seed in the upcoming state singles tournament, played mixed doubles rather than singles, Cousins said.

With the opening rounds of the state singles tournament coming up on Saturday, the Hall-Dale Invitational gives players a chance to get in good matches in a more relaxed setting. Cousins said that throughout the day matches were sprinkled with good-natured, friendly smack talk.

“It’s just a lot of good camaraderie,” Cousins said. “It’s about having fun and enjoying tennis.”

Mt. Blue’s Evan Backus won the boys singles, while Hall-Dale’s Rose Warren was the girls singles winner. Timo Teckenberg and Cole Ouellette of Lewiston won the boys doubles. Girls doubles champs were Erskine’s Ellie Hodkin and Katie Holzwart. Hammond and Ouellette won the mixed doubles competition.

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The Mt. Blue boys hope the Hall-Dale Invitational was a springboard for good things to come in the second half of the season. The Cougars had three of the four boys semifinalists. Backus beat fellow Mt. Blue player Jack Leopold in the finals. Alex Bunnell also represented Mt. Blue in the semifinals.

“It was a pretty good day for us,” Mt. Blue coach Zac Conlogue said.

The Cougars are 4-2 and are ranked fourth in the Class A North Heal point standings. Both losses were close 3-2 matches against Brunswick and Lewiston, two of the teams ranked ahead of Mt. Blue.

Conlogue said the Cougars should get a boost from the return of the No. 1 doubles team, Thomas Marshall and Dylan Roberts. The pair missed the first four matches of the season while they represented Mt. Blue at the World Robotics Competition.

The Cougars play at Cony on Monday with a big match against top-seeded Hampden Academy looming on Friday.

“Hampden, that’s a big one for us. We’re looking to get that one signature win. We have a couple 3-2 losses to Lewiston and Brunswick. Hampden could be that win,” Conlogue said.

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The Hall-Dale girls are about to begin a very busy week. The Bulldogs (4-0) have matches scheduled each day this week, beginning with Boothbay (2-3) on Monday. This week comes off a 3-2 win over Oak Hill on Friday, the Hall-Dale Invitational on Saturday and before the first round of the state singles tournament next Saturday.

“That’s eight games in nine days,” Cousins said. “We only have seven players. We kind of have to be mindful and make sure we get some rest.”

After playing Boothbay Monday, the Bulldogs face Carrabec (2-1), Mountain Valley (2-3), Dirigo (1-3) and Winthrop (4-1) the rest of the week. Only the Mountain Valley match is on the road.

That Hall-Dale is undefeated with such a young and inexperienced team has Cousins pleasantly surprised. The Bulldogs have three new singles players this season: Junior Rose Warren, senior Thea Sweet and junior Addie Davis.

“They’re just outstanding individuals who put the time in,” Cousins said. “Rose worked on her game a lot in the offseason. Thea, she can pick up any sport and play. Addie is one of those athletes who just goes and goes and goes until she drops.”

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Around the net: The Winslow boys have won three straight matches to improve to 3-2. The Black Raiders host Spruce Mountain on Tuesday. … The Erskine girls are 3-2 and ranked sixth in the Class B North standings. The Eagles have a pair of tough matches this week against Lincoln Academy (5-1) and Waterville (5-0). … The Winthrop (4-1) girls face Dirigo on Wednesday before Friday’s key match against Hall-Dale. … The Madison (4-2) boys are ranked third in Class C South, and have a big match at No. 2 St. Dominic (4-1) on Monday.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

<URL destination=””>[email protected]

</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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