Mt. Blue attacker Keegan Roberts looks down field in a recent game against Oxford Hills Brewster Burns photo

The missed season last spring threatened to change the boys and girls lacrosse scene in central Maine.

The season that was played this spring, however, proved that not much had changed in the power structure.

As boys and girls lacrosse teams returned to the field this season after the lost 2020 campaign, the schools that had done the best and gone the deepest in 2019 and recent seasons were by and large the ones that did so again in 2021.

At Messalonskee, there was two-fold dominance. The girls team, a state semifinalist in 2018, finalist in 2017 and Class A champion in 2016, was dominant again, going 11-0 in the regular season and reaching the semifinals.

“I’m not surprised. The hard work and the time that these girls put in, they probably did more push-ups at practice (than previous years),” said coach Crystal Leavitt, whose team was anchored by seniors Gabby Smart and Shauna Clark. “These girls wanted to work hard, they wanted to push each other. Once we got that framework down, it did not surprise me that we went as far as we did.”

The boys team, anchored by steady defenseman Brennan Wade and sophomore midfield ace Bryce Crowell, returned to form after a down 2019, going 10-1 in the regular season and likewise making the semis.

“We knew we were going to be really strong,” coach Tom Sheridan said. “We were going to be back in ’20, that’s why ’20 was so frustrating for us as a program. … We were all set up to really jump in 2020, and we would have been back strong. I think we did a lot of teaching back in ’19, played a difficult schedule, and our kids picked up a lot from that.”

The Maranacook/Winthrop boys and girls teams reached the Class C final and quarterfinal, respectively, in 2019, and both were strong in 2021 as well. The boys went to the quarterfinals after a 7-5 regular season, and the girls went to the Class C semifinals after a 9-3 regular season, falling to eventual state champion Waynflete.

“I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on where we could be, just because I had enough returning players,” girls coach Shawn Drillen said. “I knew we’d have that, and then we added Gabby Green … and she blossomed into an unbelievable defender. Our four defenders were all seniors and were all lockdown.”

The team that advanced to championship weekend was Oak Hill/Monmouth/Lisbon, which went undefeated in the regular season in 2019, then did the same thing this season and made it all the way to the Class C boys title game.

“I’ll be honest, I had no idea going into the year,” coach Joe Hinkley said. “I did not expect to go undefeated again. I didn’t know what other teams lost, what other teams gained. It was a pretty remarkable season for what we had to go through.”

Maranacook’s Gabby Green pursues the ball between Waynflete’s Jess Connors, right, and Cece Marshall during a Class C semifinal game Wednesday in Readfield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The Mt. Blue boys, a third seed in Class B led by KVAC first-team attack Keegan Roberts, also made a run to the state quarterfinals. Even for some of the teams that picked up where they left off, there was still some uncertainty, mostly from the roster revamping and reshuffling that came from two years away from playing.

“I was not 100 percent sure (how we would do),” Leavitt said. “Out of the 25 girls we had on the team, I’d coached seven of them at the varsity level. At the varsity level, a lot of the girls were newer. … The sophomores hadn’t played since eighth grade. The freshmen hadn’t played since seventh. And that’s a huge jump, from that level up to the varsity level.”

Even for teams that knew what they had, COVID’s continued imprint on the season messed with some plans. The Maranacook/Winthrop boys and girls teams were out of action for the first weeks of the season.

“I had no idea, really, what to expect,” Drillen said. “I was optimistic, and you could see that we had a lot of pieces, a lot of girls that had talent but hadn’t had that chance … to figure out where they fit in on the team.”

Even the teams that sidestepped COVID shutdowns dealt with the ripple effects from the teams that couldn’t.

“It was very much a learning experience for all of us,” Leavitt said. “Some games were 15 games apart, some games were back-to-back.”

It still ended, however, with what the teams missed most from 2020: The chance to not only play, but play for championships and build the lasting memories that come with them.

“It was huge. I know a lot of our kids are passionate about the game of lacrosse,” Sheridan said. “I’m so impressed with how the kids handled everything this year. … They took everything in stride.”

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