FAIRFIELD — The Lawrence field hockey team once again finds itself in the upper echelon of Class B North.

The question now is how far can it go?

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Bulldogs (9-2) have already matched last year’s win total, and they are well-positioned to top it before season’s end. Lawrence, which enters play Tuesday ranked No. 3 in Class B North Heal point standings, is guaranteed another trip to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons since it entered Class B in 2015. It will be the ninth time in the last 10 years Lawrence has seen the postseason, including appearances in Class A.

Despite the run of success, the Bulldogs have yet to clear the biggest hurdles at the end of each season.

The Bulldogs have made two trips to a regional final in the last decade, falling 2-0 to Skowhegan in the Class A final in 2014 and then to Belfast in the Class B final in 2016. There have been five semifinal losses along the way — three straight from 2010-2012 to Messalonskee. Then there was the 2-1 loss to Gardiner in the 2015 playoffs.

Lawrence field hockey players run through drills during practice Monday in Fairfield. The Bulldogs are 9-2 and entered Tuesday third in Class B North Heal points. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

“It’s getting old, I’m sick of being the bridesmaid, it’s time to be a bride,” said Lawrence head coach Shawna Robinson — now in her sixth year — smacking her hand on a table in the Lawrence High School cafeteria to make her point.

So, is this the season Lawrence breaks the glass ceiling and join the elite? The book is still out on the 2019 Bulldogs, but the potential is promising.

Lawrence may have already found its signature win of the season when it defeated defending Class B champion Gardiner 1-0 on Sept. 28. The Bulldogs have shown throughout the season that defense is a major strength. Lawrence has posted seven shutouts in its nine wins, an impressive feat with a young goalie — sophomore Emma Poulin — holding the back end.

Entering the season, Lawrence boasted a strong midfield, but after the graduation of the team’s top two scorers, questions remained on how the Bulldogs would do offensively. Through 11 games, Lawrence has scored 40 goals. However, nearly half of that output came from one game — a 16-0 win over Waterville in the season opener Sept. 5. In the remaining 10 games, Lawrence has scored 24 goals. It’s still an area the team knows it needs to improve.

“We’ve been really working with the front line,” senior back Savannah Weston said. “We’re pretty good defensively, and that’s our strong suit. But offensively is what we’ve needed to work on throughout the year.”

Junior forward Victoria Dunphy has helped jolt the offense, and the Lawrence captains were quick to credit a strong incoming freshman class that acclimated quickly to the size and speed of the varsity game.

“We knew the freshman class had a lot of skill, we just didn’t know if they were ready for the varsity level,” senior midfielder Lexi Lewis said. “We knew we’d have to depend on them, seeing as how we had a small team. They filled in the gap, and we had to get them up to our level, but at this point they’re pretty much there.”

“They’re definitely that piece of the glue that we’ve been missing, to make us a whole team,” senior midfielder Elsie Suttie added.

Robinson gave her four senior captains — Lewis, Suttie, Weston and senior midfielder Miranda Lambert — the credit for getting the freshman class prepared.

“We have great leadership,” Robinson said. “They lead by example, but also, it’s four more coaches on the field. I’m the only coach, I don’t have an assistant coach, I don’t have a (junior varsity) coach, I do everything myself. Their leadership is crucial. They can really take credit for getting these young kids going.”

The Bulldogs are a perfect 6-0 at home. They are are 3-2 on the road. They have struggled on turf, however, falling 2-0 to Maine Central Institute on Sept. 19 and 3-0 to Belfast — which now plays its games at Point Lookout in Northport instead of its grass field behind the high school — on Oct. 1.

“We are a good turf team, we just start slow on turf,” Lambert said. “We don’t get to practice on it very much.”

Lawrence has excellent tests in the final three games of the season, playing No. 5 Old Town (7-3) on Tuesday before playing at rival and B North frontrunner Winslow (11-0) on Thursday. It was the Black Raiders who knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs last season, 3-0 in the quarterfinals.

Lawrence field hockey players, from left, Holly Bolduc, and MaKenzie and Hope Bouchard, stretch at the start of practice Monday in Fairfield. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

“We seem to have a hard time with Winslow,” Weston said. “I think we get it in our heads before the game each time. I think we have the ability to beat Winslow, we just need to have the right mindset before the game, like we did with Gardiner… It’s a really big rivalry. I just really want to work hard that game.”

“(The conference) is brutal,” Robinson said. “Every year, it’s the same. You can always count on Winslow (performing). People say ‘Oh, they lost so much.’ No. It’s (Winslow coach) Mary-Beth (Bourgoin). Same with Gardiner, same with Belfast. It’s what they do. Here, we have a few that play field hockey. But we have athletes. We try to get by with what we have, and we’ve been lucky. We’ve been successful. I’m thankful for it, but the kids have put in a lot of work.”

Either way, the playoffs — and a chance to change history — await for the Bulldogs. Whether they can answer, as Robinson said, is up to them.

“We’re there, and these kids can do anything they want to do,” Robinson said. “At this point, it’s on them.”

 

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