FARMINGDALE — The Hall-Dale softball team officially got to work defending its state championship on Monday.

The conversations about it, however, had started long before.

“Just coming back last week and starting out with the conditioning, it was so exciting to be with everyone,” senior outfielder Tanley Tibbetts said. “We’ve been talking about it for months now. Just overall excitement to be back and work with each other.”

In the gym at Hall-Dale, the softball team had its first full team practice after going 17-0 and winning the Class C title last spring. Meanwhile, outside on the courts in temperatures 50 degrees below where they were in June, the girls tennis team kicked off its season a year after winning a Class C championship of its own.

Those weren’t the only area teams bringing home titles last spring, as the Skowhegan softball, Waterville girls tennis and Cony girls track and field teams earned hardware as well. Hall-Dale, however, enjoyed a rare double-dip.

“It definitely brought the school together,” said senior Allie Young, the third singles player for the tennis team last season. “There was definitely a lot of support, especially for the girls teams.”


“It honestly brought our community closer,” Tibbetts said. “There was so much support within the community to make donations or have get-togethers for us. There were posters everywhere. Everyone was so excited, especially when we had a parade last year. There was so much cheering.”

The softball team will bring back most of the players who earned those cheers. Hall-Dale lost only one starter from that undefeated team, and while much of the talk last spring was about the team’s potential, the Bulldogs know they’ll be the team everyone is gunning for this season.

“I don’t think, even last year, there was as much buzz about us at the beginning of the season or even at the midway point,” coach Steve Acedo said. “But I think it’ll be a lot different this year. People are going to gear up to play us, which I like. I think that’s going to give them that extra motivation to show up every game and leave it on the field.”

A Hall-Dale tennis player leans in to return the ball during practice Monday in Farmingdale. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Players said they’re ready for the pressure that comes with being that team everyone is aiming for.

“We realize we have a chance to do it again,” Tibbetts said. “But it’s even harder because … we’re the team everyone wants to beat. But we all want to push for it.”

“We’ve talked about how last year, the target wasn’t really on our back because we were kind of the underdog, almost, to Madison,” senior third baseman Lily Platt said. “But this year, I think people really know that Hall-Dale softball is legit, we are good and we do have a lot of potential this year, too. It fuels a fire, knowing that people want to beat us more than they want to beat other teams.”


Also fueling that fire is a newfound sense of urgency. With only two seniors, the 2021 Bulldogs were built for the future and the present. With five seniors, a part of the team’s core has the desire to go out on top.

“It’s kind of sad, being a senior and … knowing this is going to be the last year,” said Platt. “I almost don’t want it to start, because I don’t want it to end.”

The Hall-Dale girls tennis team was hit harder by graduation, losing the area’s top player in Naomi Lynch and No. 2 singles player Savannah Millay to graduation. Coach Guy Cousins, however, said the Bulldogs are eager to fill those holes and keep winning with a new mix and a new ladder.

“We’re not talking about the playoffs, we’re not talking about getting back to the states. We’re talking about taking care of business one match at a time,” he said. “There’s a quiet confidence, but a good excitement and good energy that comes with that. They’re not overconfident.”

What the Bulldogs lost in Lynch and Millay, however, is partly made up for in the experience the returners gained on the way to the championship. Five of the nine players on the roster hadn’t played a match before last season, and returning players like Young and doubles tandems Ella Schaab and Kayla Lee, and Moira O’Connor and Jenna Lee will head into this season having become accustomed to playoff tennis.

“There’s a great core, and this is a group that had a lot of situations they were put into where they (had to) rise to the occasion,” Cousins said. “Being in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations became the kind of norm.”

Even without their top two from last season, the Bulldogs expect the same target as defending champions that the softball team will have. And like the softball team, the tennis team is embracing it.

“I definitely feel like it is (there). I feel like a lot of teams are going to try to swoop in and beat us,” Young said. “I’m definitely excited to play some good teams again, and excited to see the outcome. … I think that this season’s going to be just as good as last season if we put our minds to it.”

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