WATERVILLE — This 2016 season for the Messalonskee girls lacrosse team mirrored the team’s successful 2015 campaign. The Eagles finished the regular season with a near-perfect 11-1 record, just as they did a year ago. They rolled through the Class A North regional tournament, beating Lewiston on the road to the state title game. They piled up goals, toyed with inferior competition and seemed utterly unbeatable at times.

But as Messalonskee makes its second consecutive trip to the Class A state championship game Saturday — against Massabesic (14-1) at 10 a.m. at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium — the Eagles feel that things are much different this time around.

“We’re going in this year completely different. Last year, we were getting better at this time of year, working on our fundamentals, and it was a reward just to get there,” Messalonskee junior midfielder Lydia Dexter said. “We were a little bit ‘deer in the headlights’ when we got there. But we’re going there this year with different intentions, for sure.

“We’ve been working toward this all season.”

Messalonskee (15-1) rides a nine-game winning streak into the title tilt. Massabesic, the No. 2 seed in Class A South, upset top-seeded Marshwood in the regional final, so the Eagles won’t get a rematch with the team that beat them for the state championship a year ago.

Instead, they get Massabesic, which hasn’t lost the season opener to Marshwood.

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The only common opponent for Messalonskee and Massabesic this season was Cheverus, which both teams beat soundly.

What the Eagles will see in the Class A South champions is a team that hit double digits in goals in all but four of their 15 games this season.

“We’ve worked on this high-pressure defense that we didn’t have at this time a year ago, and that’s been a really, really big part of our success,” Messalonskee coach Ashley Pullen said. “Our defense gets tested everyday in practice. I feel confident in them. It’s a nice feeling to not be on edge when the other team has the ball. I have tons of confidence in them.”

Echoing Dexter’s thoughts, Pullen said she sees her group as a vastly improved one over the team that dropped a 13-5 decision to Marshwood last spring.

“They’ve been so hungry for it since the minute that game ended last year. We knew we were only losing two seniors, we knew we had a strong group coming back and we knew that this would be our year to really take a run at (a championship),” Pullen said. “Where haven’t we gotten better? They trained all through the offseason, so they’re bigger, faster, stronger. Their stick skills have gotten tighter, their left hands are stronger, their hands are softer. They take care of the ball and they’re patient.”

On Wednesday night, Messalonskee dispatched Lewiston in the A North regional final. The celebration was deserved, yet muted.

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The clear message: The Eagles didn’t believe their work was finished.

“We knew (a state championship) was more realistic this year with the team that we have,” Dexter said.

“Last year, going to states, it gave us a little taste of what we wanted,” Messalonskee senior co-captain India Languet added. “I think everyone left knowing we had to step it up this year, and we’ve done that.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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