OAKLAND — Before each game this season, Messalonskee High School girls lacrosse coach Ashley Pullen wrote three points of emphasis for her team on a dry-erase board.

The specifics of the first two fluctuate from game to game, but each generally is related to either the team’s offense or defense.

The third always remains the same: “Play like it’s your last.”

It is a lesson the Eagles came to know all too well this offseason. Last October their teammate Cassidy Charette was killed in a hayride accident in Mechanic Falls. Pullen and members of the team said they have continued to keep Charette in their minds and have found ways to honor her both on and off the field.

After getting approval from the Maine Principals’ Association, the team added a patch to the front left shoulder of their jerseys with the initials “CC.” No Limit Custom Ink, of Fairfield, helped design the logo for the patch, which also featured the infinity symbol woven into a heart.

Perhaps the best way they have honored Charette has come with their play on the field.

“Cassidy was kind of a seize-the-day kind of person, and that’s what these girls did every single day, whether it was practicing here in the rain, practicing here in the snow,” Pullen said. “They came out with that zest for life, and that positive attitude and perseverance that Cassidy showed, and it definitely means a little something extra to win (the Eastern Class A championship), for sure.”

On Wednesday, Messalonskee (14-1) accomplished something that in April most would have thought impossible — given its offseason — by winning the Eastern A title 11-8 over Portland at Thomas College in Waterville. The Eagles will play Marshwood in the Class A state title game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Monica Wilcox Charette, Cassidy’s mother, said her daughter strongly believed in the will to persevere.

“Cass had a sign in her bedroom about perseverance,” she said. “In sixth grade, at Mount Merici (Academy, in Waterville), she was given a virtue to speak about, and her speech was on perseverance and the need to live that way, to learn how to persevere. It’s still in her room now. I think these lacrosse girls are living the same way.”

The patch made its debut in a May 12 overtime victory over Lewiston. The team also had hats and headbands made with Charette’s initials and jersey number on them.

“We sat down on a computer and worked with different fonts,” Brandon Mitchell, 21, of Jay, a graphic designer and general manager at No Limit Custom Ink, said of the patch. “We wanted to put something together the kids could identify with and something that represented Cassidy. We work a lot with Messalonskee, so there is an emotional concept, too.”

Pullen said it was important to the team to find a way to honor Charette visibly.

“We certainly have done our own things as a team to honor her, but to have that visible reminder — I mean, nobody wore No. 4 this season,” she said.

The jersey “is in our game bag that goes everywhere with us, and so I certainly think that we’re carrying a little bit of her spirit with us as well through each of these victories,” Pullen added.

Monica Wilcox Charette said the team’s efforts are “incredibly supportive … for our family, for living the unimaginable.”

“It’s eight months later, but it still feels like a week later,” Charette said. “For so many of Cassie’s friends, this has been a way of healing. I know the girls on the team miss her, and this is their way of honoring her. I’m just so proud of them.”

Still reeling from the loss of Charette, the Eagles also dealt with low turnout this season. They lost a handful of girls expected to come out for the team who didn’t for various reasons; returning starter Alex McCown moved to Scarborough, and another expected starter, Lilly Delisle, was lost to knee surgery. Ultimately, the Eagles ended up with 18 players in the program.

They couldn’t field a junior varsity team and didn’t have enough players to hold a full scrimmage. Factor in that some of the seniors they lost to graduation included the likes of Ally Fischang, Kristen Kern, Sydney Gagne, Abby Roberts and Mikayla Turner, and a .500 season would have seemed like an accomplishment.

Yet the Eagles persevered.

“We all knew that we needed to be ready, like we needed to step it up just a step further because we knew we were going to be low on numbers. We knew that missing Cassidy was going to be a big thing. We knew that somebody needed to fill in that spot as a player,” Messalonskee junior captain India Languet said. “It wasn’t just one person; it was everyone as a whole.

“That’s what I love about this team this year. It’s not just one person on the field who is winning the game; it’s everyone. We can rely on anyone to catch the ball, score. It’s great. I love that this team is just so fundamental.”

Players such as Languet, fellow junior captain Nathalie St. Pierre and senior captain Calla Balboni have led the Eagles this season, along with returners Brooke Quirion, Sydni Collier and Riley Field. Junior RaeAnn DeRaps also has been solid, yet Messalonskee would not be in the finals without its freshmen and sophomores.

In particular, freshmen Ally Turner, Lauren Pickett and Haley Lowell, as well as sophomore Lydia Dexter — who saw time last season as a freshman — all played minutes not normally expected of underclassmen.

“We lost a lot of great seniors and we just weren’t sure that we were going to fill their shoes, but I think that everyone stepped up and we had some underclassmen step up into big roles,” St. Pierre said. “They did a great job this year.”

As the Eagles prepare for the Class A state championship against Marshwood, they will do so with plenty of experience playing under pressure.

They were 4-0 in overtime games during the regular season and already have proved they can win on the big stage. No lacrosse team from Messalonskee ever has played for a state championship. Then again, neither has any team north of Lewiston. The Eagles have flown through uncharted territory throughout this season and will continue to do so Saturday, facing off against an unfamiliar opponent.

Ultimately, one team will win and the other will lose, but that is not the only guarantee.

Regardless of the outcome, the Eagles plan to play as though it’s their last.

They will, Monica Wilcox Charette said, persevere.

“They’ve had a great season, they really have,” she said. “I am so proud of them and what they’ve accomplished. What they are doing, it’s just incredible.”

Sports Editor Bill Stewart contributed to this report.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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