After making school history last season when it reached the Class C state championship match, Maranacook enters this campaign seeking a little redemption. With two top returners in senior Madelyn Dwyer and junior Emma Wadsworth, expectations are high once again.

“They are probably the strongest one-two combination in our conference other than perhaps Lincoln Academy,” coach Lou Gingras said. “I don’t expect them to lose very much this year.”

“We grew up playing tennis together and it’s created this healthy competition and pushes (us),” Wadsworth added. “I’ve been working on a stronger serve and shot selection so you can adjust your game for other players.”

Dwyer embraces the challenge ahead for Maranacook.

Kents Hills singles player Rina Akasaka serves to Waterville’s Inga Zimba during an April 6 preseason match in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“We have very high expectations,” she said. “It’s a huge motivator to get back to the state finals. We are really excited given all of the players are returning.”

Messalonskee returns five starters from a team that went 9-2 in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A last spring.

“I think we are stronger and have more depth and a better attitude than I’ve ever seen,” said Messalonskee junior Lauren Bourque, who went 12-0 last season and is one of the top players in central Maine.

Bourque also made the Round of 48 at the state singles tournament. Messalonskee coach Caroline Mathes calls her top player’s game, “scary powerful.”

“I definitely think power is my game,” Bourque added. “This year I’m working on consistency like getting the ball back over the net more. I’ve been working on the tactical parts of the game so I can get better with my mind.”

Winthrop went 8-2 last season and should again be in contention in the Mountain Valley Conference as it returns its starting lineup this spring. Senior Nora Conrad and juniors Gabby Blanco and Natalie Frost lead the Ramblers.

Madison is coming off a 9-1 season, but it returns just two players. However, Madison coach Josh Newhall, who is entering his fifth season, said optimism is still high for another strong season.

“(I am) pleased with the amount of newcomers to come out for the team and am excited for the season ahead,” he said.

Hall-Dale returns a solid group led by the seniors Olivia Bourque and Maggie Gross. Oak Hill has three returning seniors and many promising freshmen whom coach Liz Tibbetts said are eager to contribute. Senior Mackenzie Thibeault will help lead the Raiders.

Erskine looks to continue last year’s success with state singles qualifier senior Ellie Hodgkin returning. Senior Regina Harmon provides valuable experience as well, Erskine coach Ryan Nored said.

“I think my match strategy and predicting where the ball is going to is a lot better,” Hodgkin said. “My personal goal is to make it to the top 16 but I’ll have to work really hard.”

Waterville returns nine players from a team that went 10-2. Although only three returning players started last season, many of last year’s junior varsity players are ready to move into key positions, second-year coach Devin Lachapelle said.

Gardiner had a strong turnout with 26 girls coming out. Five players return with varsity experience for Patrick Quinn’s team, including senior Kiara Goggin and sophomore Lindsey Bell.

“The girls do a lot of recruiting themselves,” Quinn said. “They have an infectious spirit.”

Also in the KVAC, Mt. Blue coach Judy Upham enters her 20th season and will look to senior Maeve Hickey for leadership.

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