While both were expected to be in rebuilding mode this year, Skowhegan and Messalonskee are still the top two field hockey teams in the Eastern A Heal points.

In Messalonskee’s case, the Eagles have continued to score after graduating six starters, including potent offensive players like Kristy Bernatchez, Lynnae Luettich and Emily York. Messalonskee is 7-1-0, and has scored 51 goals in eight games.

“I think we had a lot of figuring out and getting used to each other to begin the season,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “Now that we’ve hit the halfway point, the comfortability has increased, and the confidence is much, much stronger.”

The seniors have played an important role in keeping Messalonskee among Eastern A’s elite. Center back Mikayla Turner and new center midfielder Kylee Knight have worked well together, and on defense, McLaughlin said midfielder Sydney Gagne, back Kristen Kern, and sweeper Kate Levesque have all improved their 1-on-1 skills.

The immediate focus for Messalonskee this week is staying focused. The Eagles beat Brunswick 12-0 on Tuesday, and the fact that Messalonskee had 12 different players score those 12 goals shows that it could have been much worse. Today, the Eagles face Edward Little, a team Brunswick beat earlier this season.

McLaughlin said her approach has been to give each player an individual goal, like executing a certain play perfectly five different times. Or Messalonskee might choose to take a game and work on its lateral passing.

“We really, really focus and zone in on the little things,” McLaughlin said. “It’s definitely those small goals that kind of keep them motivated and going.”

• • •

Lawrence responded from an opening-day loss to Mt. Blue by winning seven straight heading into today’s game at Hampden. The Bulldogs have also shut out all seven of their opponents in that stretch, meaning that goalie Emily Tozier has 19 career shutouts halfway through her sophomore year.

“We’re growing as a team,” Lawrence coach Lisa Larrabee said. “We’re better conditioned. And it’s clichéd, but we really want to put hard work with the talent. (Tuesday) night was our best game yet, and the game on Saturday on turf was our second-best game.”

The Bulldogs were missing starters Nia Irving and Julia Lawrence to injury in the Mt. Blue game. Both are now playing, but Larrabee said there were other factors that led to that loss, and the Bulldogs are capable of improving in those areas.

“It was a communication breakdown, and we had to fix a few things,” Larrabee said. “I think Mt. Blue was a better-conditioned team, and they beat us to the ball a little too much. We’re going to try not to let that happen in future games.”

After facing Hampden, the Bulldogs squeeze their three toughest games of the season into a span of eight days. Lawrence plays Messalonskee, Skowhegan, and then Messalonskee again.

“I want to see composure,” Larrabee said. “I want to see discipline in positioning and communication.”

• • •

When Mt. Blue held off Oxford Hills 2-1 on Monday, it was business as usual for the Cougars. They’re 5-2-0, and four of those five wins were one-goal games. Mt. Blue is doing this back in Eastern A after just missing the Eastern B playoffs last fall.

“We’re just a really hard-working team,” Mt. Blue coach Jody Harmon said. “They’re like the team of perseverance. We’ve had trouble getting the ball in the goal, but you only have to win by one, and that’s what we’ve been doing. All the things we’ve been talking about, they’re starting to understand it.”

The Cougars are third in Eastern A, and only about a point behind Messalonskee for second place. That’s naturally been something the players have talked about, but Harmon has tried to keep them grounded by having them look at every game as a playoff game.

“They’re definitely very excited,” Harmon said. “They haven’t been in this position in a long time in the program, so they’re very happy.”

Harmon added that senior captains Rileigh Blanchet, Sarita Crandall, and Mikayla Oswald have been exemplary leaders.

“They did a lot of team-building over the summer,” Harmon said. “They’re really positive, and they’re just good role models. They lead by example: Work hard, play hard, and the rest will follow.”

• • •

Brittany Stilphen coached Oak Hill the last two years. She figured she was done with coaching, but then ended up stepping in for her father, Erskine coach Skip Chadbourne.

“I had resigned from Oak Hill, because I just had a baby, so I was going to stay home,” Stilphen said. “My father actually ended up severing the tendon in the front of his leg. So he’s out for another, probably, 12 weeks. So I stepped in to help him out, and here I am.”

Stilphen said she’ll coach the Eagles for the rest of the season. Erskine is 1-6-1, but has not been blown out in any of its games and is still in line for a playoff spot in Eastern B.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
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