READFIELD — Students looked over a spread laid out on the tables in Maranacook Community School’s cafeteria Monday night. They weren’t getting a late lunch but picking out practice jerseys, helmets, pads and other equipment for lacrosse season.

Monday was the first official day of spring practice for teams across the state. Lacrosse, tennis, track and field and full baseball and softball squads started their season, one week after baseball and softball pitchers and catchers reported for the start of their throwing sessions.

Big snowflakes greeted teams that tried to get outdoors on Monday, but the glut of teams and lack of dry land to practice on meant most schools had a backlog of teams starting their season in the gym. That included Maranacook/Winthrop boys co-op lacrosse team, which drew the late shift with practice starting at 7:45 p.m.

Once the Hawks had their gear picked out, they gathered outside the gym to patiently wait their turn.

“You do what you’ve got to do to get ready for the season,” senior attacker Denver Cram said.

Coach Zach Stewart said the plan was to get his team outside by Wednesday, regardless of the cold and lingering snow and ice.

“The parking lot, I don’t mind. It’s cold outside. We’re going to figure it out,” he said.

The Hawks will be playing their home games at Kents Hill School this season. The lacrosse/field hockey field at Maranacook has been deemed unfit for play, and there are plans to convert their practice field on site into a game field for next season.

Players said they are looking forward to the change of venue.

“We played at Kents Hill a couple of times last year and most of us grew up playing there, so we’re all familiar with it,” Cram said.

The home field is just one of numerous changes to this year’s team. The Hawks graduated 11 seniors, including the top two scorers in Eastern Class B — Zach Glazier and Toby Smith (combined for 166 points last year) and starting goalkeeper Zach Bessette.

Those seniors were the core of a team that went 12-0 during the regular season and reached the regional semifinals.

Some programs rebuild in such a situation. Stewart believes the Hawks can reload.

“We have some fantastic athletes coming up this year,” Stewart said. “We lost a couple of big names, per se, but the amount of talent and the culture that’s coming in is incredible.”

“We just need to have everyone settle into their places and the roles that their going to play on the team,” senior faceoff Josh Murphy said. “We’ve got some spots open.”

Cram was the team’s third-leading scorer last year, and Stewart has high expectations for junior Kyle Morand.

Regardless of who fills the scoring void, the Hawks have good reason to believe someone will.

“We were asking ourselves the same question two years ago when we lost Jesse Evans, and then Zach and Toby stepped up. So it’s just a matter of finding the next guy that will step up and lead the team,” Murphy said.

Whoever it is will be leading the team through a league that grew significantly this season with Erskine, Lawrence and Winslow adding varsity programs.

Maranacook/Winthrop easily earned the top seed in Eastern B last year. But Stewart would prefer to be a lower seed this year if it means the Hawks have been made a tougher team by their schedule.

“Gardiner is going to be very tough to beat this year. They’re going to be the top dogs. And Oak Hill has so many athletes that they’ll be tough, too,” Stewart said. “But we expect to battle it out with Gardiner, with Oak Hill, with Morse, all of those guys. We have a tough schedule, which I love.”

The Hawks open at Morse on April 16, which is the first day of countable games in all sports. They have two games with the Shipbuilders, as well as two apiece with Gardiner and Oak Hill.

One thing lacking is a rematch with the team that knocked Maranacook/Winthrop out of the playoffs last year in the semifinals.

“I’d like to get Yarmouth once,” Cram said, “but we don’t get that opportunity.”

That opportunity may come in due time. First things first, though.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial.com


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