In the course of just 13 games, the Erskine Academy boys lacrosse team went from virtually no expectations to piling up a heap of them in a hurry.

“Being a first-year coach, nobody really has any idea going into it what’s going to come of it,” Jason Wade said of leading the Eagles during the 2017 season. “I had high expectations for us. I think everyone did for us to be competitive. The kids wanted to win, but they weren’t sure how to do that. Learning how to win, how to put those simple pieces in place, now we’ll have to learn how to play with those types of expectations going forward.”

Wade led Erskine to its first home playoff game in school history, and for those efforts he has been chosen as the Morning Sentinel Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year. Messalonskee’s Tom Sheridan and MCI/Nokomis’ Chris Hopkins were also considered.

After years of being involved at the youth level of the sport with Central Maine Youth Lacrosse, Wade tried to bring a similar approach to the high school game, though he’s the first to admit he wasn’t sure how his philosophy would adapt. He focused his squad on the fundamentals of the game, spending the bulk of training time and game preparation on drills that emphasized the foundation of the game itself — passing, catching, ground balls.

“It was a really interesting transition from going the youth route where you have a lot of kids that don’t have any of the fundamentals to jumping to the high school game where they’ve had contact with those fundamentals, but making they’re trying to learn the finer parts of the game,” Wade said. “For me, I really felt that if we could stick to the basic concepts of lacrosse — pass, move, play fundamental defense — then the rest of it would take care of itself.

“When we did basic things well, we played well. When we tried to get more elaborate and do things above whole team’s ability, it fell apart.”

Erskine went 8-4 in the regular season to earn the No. 3 seed in the Class B North tournament, the highest-ever finish for the Eagles, and won six of its final regular season contests. The season ended with a loss to eventual regional champion Yarmouth.

Though it was a lopsided, 17-2 loss, it marked the beginning of the next chapter for Erskine lacrosse.

“Yarmouth had 20 guys as good as our best guy. That’s a 25-year program,” Wade said. “Throughout that single game, it was really an interesting picture of our season. We got really punched up in the first quarter, but by the fourth quarter, the kids were able to keep working on things to make this game at least a contest. I call that a success. The guys walked away with their heads held high.”

Though Wade learned plenty of lessons about what goes along with varsity coaching, including managing an entire team beyond just X’s and O’s, he doesn’t plan on changing much about what the Eagles do on the field next spring.

With the program’s growth “into a family,” as he called it, it will continue to make that foundation stronger.

“You can overthink the game. With my group this approach works,” Wade said. “The challenge as a coach is how to keep those things interesting. I’ve always been a fundamentals guy — ground balls, shoot well, possess. If you can do those things well, you’ll have success.”

Changing the perception of Erskine lacrosse, changing the culture within the program, has been rewarding for the first-year coach.

“My family puts in a lot of commitment into this, too, to have me gone. I’ve really got to thank my wife, Erin, for what she’s done,” Wade said. “It’s been a really great experience.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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