Going into the season, Maranacook senior Madelyn Dwyer had one goal: To make it to the Round of 32 of the state singles tournament in girls tennis.

“I had only made it to the Round of 48,” she said. “This year my goal was to make it to the Round of 32 and see how far I could go with that.”

As it turned out, pretty far. Dwyer made the round of 32 and just kept winning, eventually making it all the way to the quarterfinals as one of eight players left in the field. For her performance, as well as leading the Black Bears to the Class C South tournament, Dwyer is the Kennebec Journal Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

“I think I did a very good job this year of achieving my goal,” she said. “I did not expect (the quarterfinals) at all. I had a very good draw going into the Round of 48 and 32, so I was feeling good about that, that I could possibly make it to the Round of 16. … It was a pretty cool thing to do.”

“She’s consistent, a real heady player,” coach Lou Gingras said. “She can mix it up, as far as ball speed goes, and places the ball well. She’s just a real consistent hitter.”

Dwyer said that consistency has always been a strength of hers. To accomplish her goal, however, she was going to need a little bit more.

“That’s something I tried to change a little bit this year,” she said. “When I played last year, I would just hit everything back that I could. And then I started hitting with different coaches and more high-level players, and I realized that consistency doesn’t always win you points. I had to learn how I could put more power on the ball and direct the ball more to earn those points and not just get every ball back.”

Maranacook’s Madelyn Dwyer prepares to hit a forehand shot during her match with Falmouth’s Meredith Kelley during the Maine Principals’ Association state singles tournament Saturday at Lewiston High School. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

Gingras could see the improvement from the first practice.

“I think she stepped up her power, more than anything,” he said. “She started hitting the ball harder and choosing her shots better.”

More speed was one thing on Dwyer’s checklist. Another was placement, and the chess match of trying to force her opponent into a tough spot.

“I started to move the ball a lot better than I had been previously,” she said. “I tried to keep moving it around and I was able to set up some points and do things that I wanted to do with the ball, and it was cool to use it in a match.”

She got her chance in the singles tournament, where she wasn’t seeded for the Round of 48 — a fact that Gingras said Dwyer took as an extra bit of motivation.

“I think she did,” Gingras said, “but I think she did in a positive way, and she went out and proved that she belonged there.”

Dwyer reached her goal by beating Yarmouth’s Lexie Caterine 6-2, 6-1, and then got a trip to the Round of 16 by knocking out Caribou’s Hailey Holmquist 6-1, 6-2. Playing well past her own expectations, Dwyer next drew Falmouth’s Meredith Kelley, who was the fourth seed in the entire tournament.

Kelley was the No. 1 player on a Falmouth team that, by season’s end, would win its 11th straight Class A title and finish the season with 173 straight victories. Even Dwyer was ready for a quick exit.

“Going into the Round of 16, I just thought ‘I’m going to go in, I’m going to have fun,’ ” she said. “I was going up against a girl who was seeded No. 4, and I didn’t expect that much out of myself.”

It was over as quickly as expected — Kelley never had an answer. Dwyer beat her in both sets, 6-2 and 6-4, to take her run to the quarterfinals.

“I won the first game, and I didn’t expect to win the first game,” she said. “That was kind of the eye-opener a little bit, that I could actually win this thing.”

To close out the win, Dwyer said she leaned on her old habits, as well as her newer ones.

“I think it was just my consistency, and not overthinking and getting in my head,” she said. “I wasn’t necessarily trying to overpower her, but just kind of get everything that she was hitting me back and try to move the ball a little bit. Keep making her hit more balls, to see if I could then force an error.”

Dwyer also said her “house money” approach made a difference.

“It relaxed me more,” she said. “It was easy for me to keep the pressure off because I wasn’t expecting so much out of myself. … Obviously I wanted to win, but I was more just wanting to go in there and play the best that I could.”

The run ended in the quarters with a 6-1, 6-4 loss to No. 5 Regitze Jacobsen of MDI, but Dwyer had made her impression.

“She has played so well over the years, and beaten some tough opponents,” Gingras said. “I was thinking Round of 16, and she played really well against (Kelley) and made history.”

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