The Messalonskee boys lacrosse team has been nearly flawless all season.
The Eagles have produced offensively, scoring 134 goals, averaging a little more than 13 a game.
But Messalonskee has been just as impressive defensively. The Eagles have allowed 43 goals in 10 games this season. If not for two losses to Brunswick, only 21 goals would have been scored on Messalonskee — an average of a little more than two a game.
“Jake Smith, our goalie, it starts with him,” Messalonskee head coach Tom Sheridan said. “He’s been starting since freshman year. I think statistically he’s one of the best goalies in the state, if not the best.”
Sheridan also credited defensemen Jordan Carson, Devin Campbell, Elijah Tuell and his midfielders — who are required to be two-way players (having offensive and defensive responsibilities) in the Eagles’ system — for the successful defensive play.
“We’ve had kids who have played together for awhile,” Sheridan said.
Messalonskee has 17 seniors, including many who’ve played since middle school. Sheridan believes the team is as balanced as he’s ever seen in his time as coach.
“It pretty much mirrors our 2011 teams, 2005 and 2006 as well,” Sheridan said. “This team is probably the deepest we’ve had in the fact we can play three strong lines at midfield. We have two lines of attack. We have four defensemen that are pretty capable, long stick (midfielders) that are very good athletes and our goalie has started for four years. We don’t have that very often. We have an opportunity to win each time we’re out there.”
Messalonskee is 8-2 and is poised to surpass the nine it finished with last season. The No. 2 seed in Eastern A, the Eagles have struggled against one team — No. 1 Brunswick (8-2). Both of the Eagles’ losses have come against the Dragons.
The two teams will meet again in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship game June 7. They could possibly meet a bit down the road in the regional playoffs.
“I think transitionally is where they hurt us (last week),” Sheridan said. “We did some sloppy things in transition, had some poor clears and that hurt us right there. You can learn a lot more from losing sometimes than from winning. Knowing that we’ll see them in the KVAC game, then hopefully if we’re lucky, we’ll see them in (the Eastern Class A final). We just haven’t played a full game against them yet.”
The Eagles don’t have any pushovers in their final two games of the regular season. Messalonskee plays playoff-bound Edward Little on Friday before playing Maranacook/Winthrop, the No. 1 seed in Eastern B, in a crossover game on Tuesday.
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Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson was not happy with the play of his team in a 22-7 loss to rival Maranacook/Winthrop on May 12.
“I honestly think my (defense) quit after 3-1,” Johnson said moments after the game. “After that first goal, we felt all right. But defensively we just couldn’t do it. I think we had an answer at first and then we gave up on the concept. I’m not sure I’m digging the quitting part. It’s not in our M.O.; it hasn’t been for a bunch of years. We’ve just got to fix some things and come back at it later.”
The Tigers have improved their play since losing to the Hawks, going 5-0 with wins over St. Dominic, North Yarmouth Academy, Mt. Blue, Mountain Valley and Windham.
The Tigers have scored 63 goals in those five games, averaging 12.5 goals a game. Jake Truman and Josh Caldwell have been offensive leaders for Gardiner, but others are beginning to contribute. Logan Clark and Skylar McMillan each scored three goals in the Tigers’ 16-2 win over Mt. Blue on May 21.
“We’ve played better here and there,” Johnson said.
Routinely one of the top teams in Eastern B, the Tigers entered this season with a young squad after graduating nine seniors from last year’s team. Johnson said he’s still looking for better all-around play on offense and defense.
“We’re a fairly young team,” Johnson said. “We’re learning as we go. But kids are stepping up. They’ve been playing better and the attitude is good.”
Even with the growing pains, Gardiner is 8-2 and sits in fourth in Eastern B Heal points with just two regular-season games remaining.
The Tigers get another shot at the Hawks on Friday. The teams will square off at 4 p.m. in Readfield.
“Every game is a chess match,” Johnson said.
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The Cony girls yearned to get into rhythm after playing just a smattering of games in a recent 10-day stretch.
The Rams did that and so much more last week, playing four games in as many days.
“To be honest, I don’t even know how we were even standing up after that,” Cony coach Gretchen Livingston said. “It was pretty incredible.”
A grueling schedule? Of course — but it was also rewarding.
The Rams (7-2) opened the gauntlet with a 19-5 drubbing of Oxford Hills last Tuesday and closed it with a 19-13 victory over Portland on Friday. In between were close victories over Brunswick (9-8) and Lewiston (7-6).
“We managed to get it done,” Livingston added. “I don’t know how, but we did.”
Three of the four victories came at Kents Hill because the weather made Cony’s home field unplayable.
“It seemed like we lived out here all week,” Livingston said. “It became a nice home away from home. But, yeah, four games in four days, it was a little nuts. However, we were able to get into a rhythm, which was nice. We had only played like two or three games in 10 days, so this was actually nice.”
Cony is off until Thursday, when it hosts rival Messalonskee.
The teams met in the regular season opener, with the Rams taking an 11-10 victory.
Sports Editor Bill Stewart contributed to this notebookDave Dyer — 621-5639 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @Dave_Dyer