BY MATT DIFILIPPO

Staff Writer

Molly Wilkie, the women’s lacrosse coach at the University of Maine at Farmington, heard from a high school player named Maddi Kadnar. When Wilkie watched Kadnar, she noticed Kadnar’s quickness, stick skills and dominance near the net.

“So, I thought, this is someone who can score a lot of goals for us,” Wilkie said.

That’s exactly how it’s worked out. Kadnar, a Belgrade native and Messalonskee High School graduate, scored 15 goals last year as a freshman while adjusting to the college game. Heading into Wednesday’s game with the University of Southern Maine, she had amassed a team-high nine goals and four assists in three games.

The famed elementary education program was what originally attracted Kadnar to UMF, but she ultimately switched her major to Rehabilitation Services with a concentration in substance abuse. With that out of the way, her biggest challenge as a freshman lacrosse player was learning to catch up to the game’s speed and physical play.

Kadnar is slim and stands 5 foot 3. She quickly learned that opposing teams would bump her to get the ball away.

“I wasn’t used to that in high school,” Kadnar said. “There were maybe a couple teams that would push a little bit, but not as much as in the college level. So getting used to that was really frustrating. I’d get pushed off the ball, drop it and that would get into my head.”

When Wilkie saw the pushing and shoving affecting Kadnar’s game, she’d take Kadnar out, tell her to relax and that she was doing fine and encourage her to stand her ground.

“She’s small,” Wilkie said. “So I think that was a big adjustment for her last year, just to play bigger. But she’s a great runner. She’s fast. She’s all the other stuff that you want. This year, I see that she’s being more aggressive and challenging more because I think she knows that she can get by people.”

Wilkie adds that Kadnar entered preseason in superior shape this season and Kadnar is even learning to push first.

“I’m getting there,” Kadnar said. “I’m trying to be a lot more physical. I mean, they’re doing it, so you might as well do it back.”

Four freshmen are starting for the Beavers this season and UMF has a small roster to begin with. That has led Wilkie to sometimes use Kadnar as a midfielder — a position she’s never played before — because Kadnar has more experience than several of the players on the field.

“I’d like to see Maddi become, really, a team leader, even though she’s only a sophomore, sort of take charge offensively for us,” Wilkie said. “She’ll play some midfield, too. But mostly she’ll play that high attack position and I want her to really run the offense. She is doing a really good job calling plays and getting people situated where they need to be.”

After finishing 5-6 last season and losing in the quarterfinals, UMF could be in position to make some noise in the coming years if it can keep its roster intact.

“We’re doing a really good job,” Kadnar said. “We have a really young roster this year. There’s a lot of good freshmen coming in and they’re really a big help to the team. I really think that we could go far this year.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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