SKOWHEGAN — With a 12-1 record after Wednesday’s Class A North semifinal win over Messalonskee, the Skowhegan Area High School girls tennis team is enjoying its best season in… well, how long is it, Coach?

“As far back as anyone can remember,” coach Andy Staples said as he watched his team compete.

Skowhegan, the No. 2 seed in the region, took a 3-2 win over No. 7 Messalonskee. Skowhegan won at third singles, first doubles and second doubles to clinch the match. Messalonskee won at first and second singles.

The River Hawks await the winner of a match between No. 3 Hampden and No. 6 Camden Hills.

This season’s success came as a mild surprise to Staples. Like coaches around the state who hadn’t seen their teams compete since 2019, Staples wasn’t sure what he had back. While Skowhegan went 9-3 two years ago, only four players returned from that team, and all had been exhibition players then, with little experience in varsity matches.

“I think we have a great community on this team. We’re all pretty close,” senior Marlee Hisler, who won her No. 3 singles match over Messalonskee’s Heidi Quist, 6-3, 6-2.


Hisler is 12-1 this season, despite being one of those unknowns at the start. As a sophomore in 2019, Hisler suffered a sprained ankle playing soccer early in the tennis season, causing her to miss most of the season. When she was finally able to play, Hisler saw action in just a couple exhibitions.

Messalonskee’s Heidi Quist hits back to Skowhegan’s Marlee Hisler in a Class A North quarterfinal Wednesday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

With the 2020 season lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, players rarely got a chance to hone their skills. Hisler said she and a few teammates came out late last summer and just hit the ball around. When Champions in Waterville began hosting scrambles in January, Hisler and a few of her teammates started to play. That showed when practices started this spring.

“Just playing competitive matches helped a lot,” Hisler said.

“There’s nothing worse than early season rust when you haven’t swung a racket in six months,” said Staples, Skowhegan’s coach for 14 years.

Staples saw the improvement in the season opening win over Hampden.

“When we beat Hampden for that first match, I was pleasantly surprised because that’s always a tough match,” Staples said.

A loss to undefeated Class B power Waterville early in the season also was a defining moment for the River Hawks. Staples said that match galvanized the team mentally. After the loss, Staples and the players sat together on an empty court, eyes closed, visualizing the things they were scared of, and the things they needed to do to get better.

“If you can become friends with your worst-case scenario, nothing on the court freaks you out,” Staples said.

That approach has worked. Entering Wednesday’s playoff match, the River Hawks were 7-0 in 3-2 matches.

Skowhegan’s first doubles team of Joei Ramsdell and Mina Calder took a 6-2, 6-2 win over Ella Peterson and Joanna Zhang. The River Hawks second doubles team, Sarah Johnson and Kate Kelso, beat Messalonskee’s Emma Wiswell and Brynn Lilly, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Messalonskee won at first singles, with Camdyn Lemarre defeating Ashley Davis, 6-1, 6-0. At second singles, Messalonskee’s Kirsten Frost took a three-set win over Lilly Wright, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

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