There’s no hiding for the Maranacook/Winthrop boys lacrosse team now.

A consistent playoff team, Maranacook/Winthrop (12-0) is in new territory as it enters the Eastern B boys playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The Hawks play No. 8 North Yarmouth Academy (2-10) Wednesday at 4 p.m..

But coach Zach Stewart says his team is well-prepared for the pressure and attention that comes with being a top seed.

“We’ve entered (each game) with a target on our back,” he said. “Quite honestly, we’ve seen everyone’s best game. We get Gardiner’s best game, we get Morse’s best game. That’s nothing new to us. We know if we let down that’s the end of our run.”

Maranacook/Winthrop entered the playoffs with its two biggest wins to date. The Hawks beat Messalonskee 14-9 in the regular-season finale on June 3 in Oakland. They followed that by beating Morse 11-2 three days later for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title. It’s the first title in the co-op team’s history.

The Hawks even had success in an exhibition with Western A power Thornton Academy. The Golden Trojans beat the Hawks 7-6, although Maranacook/Winthrop was missing top player Zach Glazier.

“We’re without our No. 1 scorer and we hung in with a Class A team,” Stewart said. “Our guys, it all comes down to hard work. We preached it all season, be the best that you can be every game and it just shows. They don’t want to let down their teammates. It’s a good feeling to have as a coach.”

But the Hawks are looking beyond the conference title, and Stewart said the team knows it’s a difficult road to the state title game, or even the regional final.

“We arguably have the toughest run in the playoffs,” Stewart said. “We have to play NYA in the first game. If we win and — speculating if the seeds play out — we play Yarmouth. Then we would have to play Morse or Freeport. It’s kind of a bummer that it plays out like that, but the kids will be mentally ready for every game.”

Still, it’s hard not to see the Hawks as the regional favorite. Including the conference title game, the Hawks have scored 224 goals for an average of 17 goals per game. Led by goalkeeper Zach Bessette — the KVAC player of the year — Maranacook/Winthrop has allowed 45 goals in 13 games —just more than 3 a game.

Stewart said there were still pieces of the Hawks’ game to iron out before the quarterfinal against NYA, but the team was about as ready as it was going to be for a title run.

“I told the guys, those shots that miss by inches or (hit the) post, those have to be in the back of the net now,” Stewart said. “We’re at the best that we’re going to play all season. Those opportunities have to become goals or takeaways or ground balls. That’s what we have to do.”

Gardiner (8-4) enters the Eastern B playoffs seeded fifth and will travel to Yarmouth to play the No. 4 Clippers (7-5). The Tigers are the only team to score more than 10 goals in a game against Maranacook/Winthrop this season (a 16-11 loss on May 30). The Tigers and Clippers have never played each other.

Oak Hill (4-8), the No. 7 seed, will have its hands full at No. 2 Freeport (7-5). The Raiders started the season 2-2 but went 2-6 in the remaining eight games of the regular season.

Raiders coach Dan Brannigan said earlier in the season that the team had talent — particularly on defense — but lacked depth.

“We’re not a very deep team,” Brannigan said. “We only run two lines of middies for the most part — sometimes a third line — on defense we have five longpoles that play decent. But we don’t have the depth that we’ve had in the past. I had nine kids that graduated last year, a couple others that went to run track. The depth kills you. We’ve got a great feeder program, but we’ve got to wait for it.”

In Eastern B girls lacrosse, No. 4 Gardiner (8-4) will host No. 5 NYA (4-8). The Tigers had a solid regular season, with even 4-2 records at home and on the road. Gardiner will be looking to bounce back from a 12-10 loss to Morse in the KVAC B girls championship on June 6. It’s the first meeting this year between the teams.

The Cony girls will look to bounce back from its KVAC A title game loss to Messalonskee when it hosts No. 6 Portland (6-6) in the Eastern A quarterfinal game at 4 p.m., Wednesday. The No. 3 Rams (9-3) lost a tough 16-15 decision to the Eagles, but the team knows it must first get past Portland.

“They’ve got some quick girls who can take it down (to the net) pretty quickly,” Cony coach Gretchen Livingston said. “They got a lot of shots on goal against us in that first game. Izzy Eames, our goalkeeper, did a nice job in goal. We also saw that when we won the draw we were able to go down and offensively create some great opportunities for ourselves.”

The Rams have had no issue taking advantage of scoring opportunities. Cony has 170 goals — an average of 13 per game — coming from multiple scorers, including Emily Quirion, Hayley Quirion, Bayleigh Logan and Becca Coniff.

“We’re just making sure everything is what it needs to be, especially with communication (on the field),” Livingston said. “Making sure we’re all on the same page and everyone knows the game plan.”

If Cony beats Portland, the Rams will play either No. 2 Messalonskee or No. 7 Mt. Ararat.

“We’d love to see (Messalonskee) again and finish it the right way,” Livingston said. “But Mt. Ararat could beat them. Portland could beat us. If it’s in the cards again and we see Messalonskee then it will be just like last year: Portland in the quarterfinals, Messalonskee in the semifinals.”

Much like Cony, Messalonskee (9-3) has been productive on offense, scoring 178 goals for an average of nearly 14 goals per game. The Eagles have also benefited from an abundance of scorers, including Ally Fischang, Sydney Gagne and Mikayla Turner. Messalonskee swept Mt. Ararat during the regular season, winning 13-12 on May 6 and 15-11 on May 22.

The Messalonskee boys went 9-3, but are coming off consecutive losses to Maranacook/Winthrop and then to Brunswick in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship.

“The kids know that we have to tighten up some things,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “It’s good in a way; you can learn a lot more from losing than from winning. I think the kids see we can work on some things that the coaches have been telling them for a while. We have seniors that are ready to step up. They’re a battle-tested group. They’ve been in the playoffs every year.”

The Eagles did not face the Bulldogs.

“I got some stuff from other coaches,” Sheridan said, “but we don’t know how we match up to them for sure. We definitely look at it as a challenge. We’re not overlooking this team. I’ve heard they have some pretty good athletes, one or two good offensive players.”

The Eagles have a difficult field to play beyond Portland. Brunswick (10-2) is the No. 1 seed while Cheverus, Mt. Ararat and Cony are jammed in the middle of the field with 8-4 records.

The Messalonskee girls will host Mt. Ararat in an Eastern A quarterfinal game at 3:30 p.m., also at Thomas.

Dave Dyer 621-5639

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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