READFIELD — It’s a phenomenon that manifests for Maranacook across a number of sports — and it certainly manifested for the school’s girls tennis team Tuesday.

Maranacook, a member of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference (though it’ll be leaving it next year) seems to hold its own in the league across every sport despite being one of its smallest schools. It makes the Black Bears tough, something they showed in a 5-0 win over Hall-Dale in the Class C South semifinals.

Playing a schedule comprised primarily of Class B schools, No. 3 Maranacook (11-2) has still been one of the KVAC’s best teams all year. The Black Bears’ only losses have been to B North No. 1 and reigning champion Waterville and B South No. 2 and defending state champ Lincoln Academy. Both losses came by scores of 3-2.

“Both of them we were really close; we were tight with Waterville, and we were tight with Lincoln,” said singles player Mary Hatt, whose team avenged its May 11 loss to Waterville with its own 3-2 win over the Purple Panthers six days later. “When we beat Waterville (in the rematch), that was a huge win for us. It was big to get that one.”

Maranacook will face No. 7 North Yarmouth Academy (6-7) in a regional semifinal Thursday. NYA upset No. 2 Winthrop (9-2) on Tuesday.

Maranacook has a roster that can compete with just about anyone, regardless of class size. It starts in singles play with Claire Dwyer as the team’s No. 1 singles player and Hatt filling the No. 2 slot. Both players won Tuesday with Dwyer topping Silvia Branchini 6-2, 6-0 and Hatt edging Jenna Lee 6-1, 6-2.


It’s a duo that’s tough for Class C opponents to beat. Dwyer, who entered this month’s state singles tournament as the No. 9 player in the state, advanced to the Round of 16 before falling to eighth-ranked Anne Alfaro of Greely, and Hatt made the Round of 32 before she was defeated by Laura Chapman of Boothbay.

Maranacook’s Cassidy McCormack returns a shot during the third singles against Hall-Dale in a Class C South girls tennis quarterfinal match Tuesday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It was crazy because it was the first time ever that two players from Maranacook both made it to the Round of 32,” Hatt said. “We played very great players when we were there, and that’s another thing that really makes you better as a player. It was really cool.”

The Black Bears also have a reliable option at third singles in Cassidy McCormack, who topped Grace Leach of No. 6 Hall-Dale (5-6) 6-2, 6-1. In first doubles, Ava Candage and Grace Tweedie beat Sierra Gibbons and Lily Drouin-Scease 6-1, 6-0. Ava Candage and Grace Tweedie beat Emma Antioni and Shae O’Connor 6-2, 7-5 in No. 2 doubles.

It was a game that, in a way, marked a changing of the guard in local girls tennis. Hall-Dale, the state champ in Class C in 2021 and the South’s No. 1 seed a year ago, has spent many recent years as the standard bearers in both central Maine and the state at large. The Bulldogs had gone 19 years without a losing season.

Maranacook, though, hasn’t been far behind in Class C South as of late. Since winning their first regional title in program history five years ago, the Black Bears have gone 44-10 with an unbeaten regular season in 2021 and a second C South final appearance last year. They won Tuesday without losing a set.

Maranacooks’ Mary Hatt plays during second singles against Hall-Dale in a Class C South girls tennis quarterfinal match Tuesday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I have a lot of faith in my team, and I think they have equal faith in me. They help turn the match, too, just as much as I do,” Dwyer said. “Personally, I played some aggressive tennis today — it was some of the best I’ve played all year — my teammates played great, too. It felt good.”

It’s a match and a season that comes on the heels of what Maranacook, Hatt admitted, felt might be a rebuilding season after the losses of key players from last year. Yet the 2023 campaign has instead become anything but, and with only two seniors on the roster, the Black Bears look set for the future, too.

“We play tough competition, but the different parts have all come together,” said Maranacook head coach Lou Gingras. “Our girls work hard and been really consistent, and you need that in the postseason.”


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