Maranacook’s Claire Dwyer hit a shot at the Class C championship match June 7 in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

Some of the old guard remained in the forefront, but the story of the 2023 tennis season in central Maine was one of new faces in new places.

Two teams reached the apexes of their programs by claiming unprecedented championships. Elsewhere, a group of young stars emerged as a group of underclassmen laid the foundation of a strong future in tennis throughout the region.

“We have a lot of good tennis players in this region that are just all-around good people, and you could definitely see that this year,” said Gardiner girls head coach Guy Cousins. “They’re great sportsmen who have a lot of integrity and class off the court, and I think you see that carry into their success on it.”

Claiming its first-ever state title was the Maranacook girls team in Class C. After losing only twice — both times by 3-2 margins — against a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference regular season slate loaded with tough Class B foes, the Black Bears rolled through C South before topping Washington Academy for the state title.

Claire Dwyer, the state’s No. 9 player, led the way for Maranacook (14-2), and Round of 32 competitor Mary Hatt gave the Black Bears a formidable option in No. 2 play. Cassidy McCormack (No. 3 singles) and Grace Tweedie and Ava Candage (first doubles) also earned wins for Maranacook in the state final.

“Our expectations going into this year were pretty low regarding many seniors we lost last year, to be honest, but we ended up going even further,” McCormack said. “We just weren’t sure how it was going to go, but we kept at it and kept working hard, and we’re really happy with it.”


Waterville ‘s Karin Zimba warms up with Maranacook’s Claire Dwyer before a May 11 girls tennis match at the North Street courts in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Waterville’s girls team, led by Round of 16 singles qualifier Karin Zimba, had another successful season as it went 11-4 and earned runner-up honors in Class B North. The Purple Panthers also had a pair of KVAC Class B selections in Allie Anich (second singles) and Taylor Doane and Skyla Talon (second doubles).

The Round of 16 also saw a head-to-head matchup between two local players as Haylie Peacock of Gardiner, the state’s No. 6-ranked player, topped Emma Vardaros of Nokomis. Peacock, a junior, won that match and then breezed past third-ranked Amber Woods of Scarborough to reach the semis.

“She’s just a tremendous individual in terms of her focus and her tenacity,” Cousins said. “She’s just a competitor; she’s the type of person who’s going to put the work in ahead of time and take her game to the next level, and she’s always doing it. After she lost that semifinal match, she told me, ‘You just wait till next year.’”

Winthrop (9-2), Cony (9-4), Maine Central Institute (8-6) and Messalonskee (7-6) also finished with winning records on the girls side. Ramblers head coach Lauren McHatten was named Mountain Valley Conference Coach of the Year, and the Rams’ Kirk Cooper was KVAC B North coach of the year.

Skowhegan No. 2 singles player Mattia Rota hits a forehand shot during practice May 9 at Memorial Park in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Not known as a strong tennis program historically, the Skowhegan boys team has been changing that over the past few seasons. The River Hawks (15-1) won their first-ever regional title with a run to the Class A North crown before falling to a loaded Falmouth squad in the state title match.

Drake Turcotte had an outstanding season at No. 1 singles for Skowhegan with a Round of 16 berth. He and Mattia Rota (second-singles) were KVAC Class A second-teamers for the River Hawks, whose first doubles duo of Cam Herrick and Asa Stroman got the KVAC A first-team nod. First-year head coach Dan Riley was KVAC A coach of the year.

“(It was) pretty great,” Dom Clifford, who had a strong season for Skowhegan at No. 3 singles, said of his team’s historic 2023 campaign. “Our guys have been working really hard, and I think it’s looking good for us in the future, too. We should be really strong again next year (after having no seniors this year).”

Waterville, led by Round of 16 qualifier Logan Tardif, had a big season as it more than doubled its wins in going from 5-8 in 2022 to 11-3 in 2023. Maine Central Institute also finished 11-3 to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1996-97. The Huskies’ Kyle Holmstrom was KVAC B North boys coach of the year.

In Class C South, Carrabec had a remarkable season as it went 9-4 and finished runner-up to Waynflete, which won 15th consecutive regional and state championships. Luke Carey, who made the Round of 32 for Carrabec, was named Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year for the second year in a row.

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