OAKLAND — On a perfect spring day, it was a fresh start for the Messalonskee girls tennis team.

Well, kind of a fresh start — the Eagles’ lineup is shuffled from a year ago as a new season begins, but many of the faces in 2023 are the same. The result, though, is a team that’s plenty experienced and has a chance to contend again this spring.

“I think we’re really strong already,” junior singles player Brynn Lilly said Thursday following Messalonskee’s 5-0 home win over Mt. Blue in the team’s season opener. “We lost some people, and there are some new girls on the team, but a lot of us are back. I think we can do really well; I have a lot of faith in us.”

Messalonskee had an outstanding season a year ago, going 9-3 in the regular season before claiming two postseason wins and falling to eventual Class A North champion Brunswick in the regional semifinals. It was a six-win improvement from a 2021 season that saw the Eagles finish 5-9.

“That year after COVID, we came back and had lost most of our team,” said Messalonskee head coach Caroline Mathes. “Last year, we came back, and we were a lot more experienced. The girls really had a great year.”

With No. 1 singles player Camdyn LaMarre having graduated from that team, there’s been some movement in Messalonskee’s playing order. Kirsten Frost has gone to the top spot, Heidi Quist has gone from No. 3 to No. 2, and Lilly has made the move from doubles to fill out the third singles place.


“We lost Camdyn, and we lost my doubles partner from last year (Joanna Zhang), but we’ve really made it work,” Lilly said. “I think people have really done a good job of stepping in and filling those roles there. I think we’re strong singles, and we’re going to have really strong doubles teams, too.”

Messalonskee’s Heidi Quist returns a shot to Mt. Blue’s Tessa Marcotte during a girls tennis match Thursday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Indeed, it’s a singles lineup that should keep the Eagles in contention. Lilly’s transition from doubles to singles looked flawless as she notched a 6-0, 6-0 win over Mt. Blue’s Ella Mayhew. Quist handled her responsibilities with a 7-6, 6-1 victory over Tessa Marcotte, while Frost defeated Gracie Ross 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in a marathon match that finished under the lights. 

Then, as Lilly noted, there were the two double teams that should do well to buoy Messalonskee this season. Both looked in top shape Thursday afternoon; Meg Kennard and Ruby Marden defeated Amelie Eichler and Emma Turcotte 6-3, 6-2, and Emma Wiswell and Charlotte Saxl topped Bekah Denio and Katie Yeaton 6-3, 6-1.

Kennard and Wiswell, both the leaders of their respective doubles teams a year ago, are working with new partners in 2023. Yet the Eagles have been just as confident to fill their voids on the doubles side, and there’s also plenty of depth to go around with some of the newcomers.

“We have a lot of athletes on this team,” Mathes said. “You have some girls who are new, but they’ve played field hockey or volleyball or soccer. They’re really committed to the team. We’ve had some really good bonding and chemistry.”

There’s a culture of expectation that’s developed at Messalonskee, where the Eagles have reached the Class A North semifinals three of the past four seasons. It’s something that the Eagles, as Lilly said, feel they can do again.

“Like I said, I think we’re strong this year,” Lilly said. “We’re ready to work as hard as we can and grow together, and if we do that, it’s going to be a great season.”

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