KENTS HILL — Maranacook/Winthrop co-op boys lacrosse coach Zach Stewart was perplexed about his team’s slow start against Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rival Gardiner on Tuesday.

“We played an unbelievable preseason and then we come out here and nobody decides to play,” said Stewart, whose Hawks opened the regular season with a 19-5 win over Oak Hill on Thursday.

Perhaps a lack of familiarity with the young Tigers played a part in the Hawks facing a 4-2 halftime deficit. Perhaps the late change of venue, due to unplayable field conditions at Gardiner, to the artificial turf at Kents Hill School played a part, too — although that put the Hawks on their de facto home field.

Stewart chalked it up to some players trying to do too much and some not doing enough in the first half. The Hawks found the right balance of aggressiveness and patience to score five unanswered goals to start the second half and rally for an 8-6 win.

“I asked the guys to just dig a little bit deeper and do a little bit more for yourself and do a little bit more for your team and that’s exactly what they did in the second half,” Stewart said.

Ty Smith scored three times and Kyle Morand twice to lead the second-half surge. Smith finished with four goals. Morand scored the goal that gave the Hawks their first lead — which they never relinquished — with 11:37 left.

“We just came out a little slow. We weren’t motivated enough,” said Morand, a senior midfielder. “We got it going in the second half.”

“They’ve been sort of our rivals since my freshman year,” Morand added. “The last three years they’ve always had the couple of big guys that we’ve always been focusing on. Those guys moved on, but they’ve replaced them with some new guys who are still as good. But it took us a little time to figure out who we needed to focus on.”

Attack Michael Poirier and midfielder Logan Clark eventually emerged as the Tigers’ focal points. After a scoreless first quarter, Poirier and Clark scored two goals apiece in the second quarter to give the Tigers the two-goal halftime lead.

“We were playing a little too soft. We weren’t playing aggressively. We weren’t fighting for the ground balls like we should. We were losing the head game, I guess,” Morand said.

“Our defense, we locked down on them pretty well,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “We had some success against their two really good players offensively with our checks, and then we got away from that and started laying off. There were a couple of times where our guys dropped down too much and left the guy up top.”

Smith (four goals) took advantage off a Drew Davis pass to get the second half momentum on the Hawks’ side just 28 seconds in.

Alex Nuce appeared to tie it for the Hawks two minutes later, but the goal was disallowed due to an offsides call. Sam Johnson’s equalizer stood, though, with 9:33 left in the third, and the teams stayed knotted at 4-4 the remainder of the period.

“That hurt a little bit more because it was a missed assignment,” Johnson said. “We had a young kid going in, didn’t know who he was marking. He didn’t get goal-side of him and it left him wide open. The goalie got left dead to rights.

“We’re still kind of searching it out. We’re still looking for a long-stick middie to do the job. We need a fast kid that defends well — one of they things we lacked today,” added Johnson, whose team opened its season with a 14-11 win over Morse on Thursday. “My faceoff middy is a sophomore. Four out of the nine middies are freshmen. We have three seniors.”

Morand and Smith took turns pushing the Hawks’ lead up to 7-4 before Connor Manter netted the first Gardiner goal of the second half to make it 7-5 with 8:43 left.

Smith’s fourth goal, assisted by Morand, made it a three-goal game again with 5:03 left. Tristan Hebert cut it to 8-6 for the Tigers with 1:32 to go, and Clark had a bid to make it a one-goal game again with a little over a minute left that clanged off the post.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33