No. 61, in baseball circles, still remains revered, even after players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds — and their PED-enhanced power — shattered the Major League Baseball home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961.

At Messalonskee High School, No. 61 has taken on its own historical significance.

Sophomore midfielder Ally Turner scored a school-record 61 goals this season, helping the Eagles to their first Class A girls lacrosse state championship in program history.

For her efforts, Turner is the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.

Teammate Lydia Dexter was also considered.

“I did surprise myself a little bit,” Turner said of her recently completed season. “But I had been playing a lot during the offseason, going to Thomas (College) to practice with some friends and putting in a lot of work. I definitely saw the improvement from last year to this year with my game sense and with my stick skills.”

Messalonskee head coach Ashley Pullen wasn’t surprised that Turner turned in a standout season.

“I definitely saw her grow to the point that by the end of her freshman year, she emerged into one of better — if not the best — players on our team,” Pullen said.

And that growth helped fuel a state title run.

“It was, honestly, unforgettable, just to be there. But to win it was amazing,” Turner said of the state title. “Last year, we were more surprised that we got there and proud we made it that far. This year, we wanted to redeem ourselves and we wanted the trifecta — KVAC, Northern Maine and state (championships).We just had so much heart on our team. Weren’t going to give up.”

Pullen pointed to the final play in overtime of the Class A State championship game against Massabesic. There, she said, it became clear to her just how good Turner was.

“Ally did a lot to improve her confidence in herself as a leader on the field. That’s not something you might always see from a sophomore,” Pullen said. “She was coached to play to her full ability and as a leader, too. I go back to very last play of the state championship game. Overtime. Sudden-victory. The ball’s in Ally’s hands, and as a coach I felt really good about that. She’s who you want with the ball because of the skill that she has and you trust her to make the right plays. She had the vision to see Nathalie (St. Pierre) on the far post.”

St. Pierre scored and the Eagles had their first state title.

But in some respects, the state championship is already in the past. Even after the outstanding sophomore campaign, Turner knows that teams will be keen to shut her down when she returns to the field as a junior.

She’s already begun preparations for that with a summer full of lacrosse — including three camps and four tournaments all around the country over the next several weeks.

“When you draw defenders to you, it opens up teammates,” Turner said. “I don’t have to be the one to score the goals. If there are two defenders doubling me, that opens up opportunities for my teammates. I’m just as happy to do that.”

The work, though, doesn’t faze the typically reserved Turner. What she loves so much about the game are all of the possibilities it presents during play.

“The creativity that people bring to it, the athleticism,” Turner said of what drew her to the game. “You’re really free out there, free to run and move around. It’s always evolving as a sport.”

Turner’s introduction to lacrosse came as something to do in middle school during the spring season. She knew she didn’t want to play softball so lacrosse filled that competitive void. And while she took to the sport almost immediately, it wasn’t until her freshman season that it really opened up for her.

She also joined the statewide Maineiax Lacrosse premier-level travel team.

“I’d been working with the Maineiax club program, working on all the things like shot placement, good stick skills, that part of the game,” Turner said. “I was really incorporated into that part of the team (at Messalonskee) and running the offense and the defense. It was around our second or third game, against Cheverus, when I really realized that this team — we’re working really well together and able to put in goals.”

Sixty-one of them, in fact.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC