Maranacook/Winthrop lacrosse coach Zach Stewart expected to field a strong team this spring thanks to an abundance of key returning players.

But even Stewart was pleasantly surprise with his team’s dominating performance in the season opener last Saturday — a 6-1 victory over traditionally tough North Yarmouth Academy.

“If you can contend with teams in southern Maine than you are pretty good,” he said. “But to actually beat them is pretty awesome. We had a plan going in and we executed that plan. We just kept pushing and pushing. We had to win all the ground ball battles, and it worked out in our favor. I think we made a statement, yeah. I don’t think too many people thought too much of us. Three years ago we were a junior varsity team.”

Stewart acknowledged it took a little time in the preseason to find the right combinations on the field.

Toby Smith, for example, opened the season at midfield, but things changed when the offense looked stagnant in the exhibition games.

“Toby wanted to be in the midfield, but we just couldn’t get anything going,” Stewart said. “We had to move him back to attack. We had a jamboree at Thomas in the preseason, and we got crunched in a few games. So we moved him back to attack.”

The move paid off as Smith scored four goals against the Panthers.

Zach Glazier and Denver Cram also scored for Maranacook/Winthrop, which led 3-0 at the half.

“When we scored a couple goals in the second half it started to sink in that we were going to win,” Stewart said. It was a great win for us.”

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The Cony and Messalonskee girls teams enjoy a fierce yet healthy rivalry.

The teams met three times last season — the Eagles won both regular season meetings before Cony earned redemption in the Eastern A semifinals.

The teams met again Tuesday in Oakland, and the Rams pulled out an 11-10 come-from-behind victory.

“What a way to start the season,” Cony coach Gretchen Livingston said. “It’s always been a battle with them but last year really solidified it as a huge rivalry. These are exciting games to play, exciting games to coach and exciting games to watch.”

Emily Quirion led the way with four goals.

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The Gardiner boys have yet to play a regular season game — that comes Wednesday against Oak Hill.

While most other teams have played one, if not two, games, the Tigers are waiting … and waiting.

“The kids are getting antsy,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “We’re sitting back and really just chomping at the bit.”

The Tigers, the four-time defending Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B champs, return a strong core of players but also will have several newcomers thrown into the mix.

“We lost nine kids,” Johnson said, “and we have some new faces in the mix. We’re plugging away, trying to find out who we are. We’ll answer some questions (today) but not all. I’m very curious to see where we’re at, to see our mental toughness.”

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A long, tough winter made life difficult for area athletic teams as they tried to find playable fields to practice.

Life was especially difficult for Mt. Blue, which didn’t play on green grass until the season opener last Thursday.

“We did what we could,” Mt. Blue coach John McDonough said. “Our fields just haven’t been open to us yet. It’s not easy. It was the first time we saw any sort of grass. It was a tough game but we hung in there.

Mt. Blue dropped a 5-0 decision to Mountain Valley. McDonough said the team mustered just a handful of shots on net as the Cougars struggled to run their offense.

The team was finally able to practice on its field this week.

“I think we only had like four, five, six good shots on goal,” he said. “At practice (Tuesday) we just did shooting drill after shooting drill. We worked on our fast-break drills, too. It’s about driving to the lane, and if it’s not there just start over and set it up. It’s just like basketball.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5618bstewart@centralmaine.comTwitter: @billstewartmtm