After the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the 2020-21 fall and winter high school sports seasons, the spring scene got a taste of normalcy when the Maine Principals’ Association offered postseason tournaments in all sports.

This spring, central Maine lacrosse teams anticipate a further return to pre-pandemic standards, with more games, more players (some took last spring off), more opponents — and fewer masks.

“We had a (preseason) play day where we were on the bus without masks and it was the craziest thing,” said Gardiner girls coach Jessica Prince, whose team went 6-6 last season and lost to Brunswick in the first round of the Class B tournament. “We have 12 different opponents after facing six opponents  twice last year, so it’s nice to get back to normalcy and get back to a traditional range of competition.”

Gardiner boys coach KC Johnson concurred.

“Last year we were  constantly evolving through mask mandates,” said Johnson, whose Tigers went 7-7 last year. “There was an ebb and flow and it was kind of rocky. A little normalcy is nice. The kids are working hard in practice, which is all you can ask. They’re yukking it up in practice, which is good, but the need to put it aside is something new. They’re letting out all they steam they built up from COVID.”

Much of that steam from Gardiner could be unleashed from senior attacker Cam Rizzo, the 2021 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference central zone player of the year. Classmate Sean Doyle joins him up front, while the Tigers greet a slew of newcomers in the midfield and defense in front of returning goalie Connor Cote.


“We’ve got a lot of athletes out this year, and we’ve got some guys who skipped the COVID year, so it should be a fun group to coach,” Johnson said. “There’s going to be some bumps along the way with the new players, but I think we’re going to be all right.”

While Gardiner battles some bumps, Mt. Blue, which went 11-3 and lost to eventual Class B champ Yarmouth in the semifinals last season, looks to get over the hump. Senior attackman Josh Smith, who scored more than 40 goals last season, will provide much of the offense with the graduation of KVAC first-team attack Keegan Roberts. Smith will be supported by sophomore Chase Ranger up front, whose brother, senior Colby Ranger, plays midfield.

“The players have worked hard to fill the gaps left by graduating players and increase the overall lacrosse IQ of the team,” second-year coach Matt Reynolds said in an email.”

Cony (5-7) will look to replace the big stick of the graduated Isaac Beloff and his school-record 57 goals, but returning senior midfielders Jack Morrill and Casey Mills can provide offense, too. Gage Cormier leads the defense and junior Elijah Beland is in goal. Messalonskee, which went 12-2 last year and reached the state semifinals, figures to be a contender in Class B again this year.

Cony’s Maci Freeman, left, tries to get around Maranacook/Winthrop defenders Emerson Davis, center, and Ashley Deschamp during an April 6, scrimmage in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The road to the Class C title could go through Oak Hill/Monmouth/Lisbon (15-1), which was undefeated until it was upended by top-ranked Waynflete in the title game. Senior attack Tiger Hopkins and his scoring touch return to a team leaden with juniors and seniors, including a veteran defense led by Sean Moore, Chance Versey and Alex Hinkley.

Maranacook/Winthrop/Spruce Mountain (7-5) brings back a seni0r-heavy crew back by goalie Matt Fenlason. Classmate Eric Vining, who can play attack and midfield, was an all-KVAC selection last year.


Erskine looks to bounce back following an 1-11 season.

On the girls’ side, Gardiner and fourth-year coach Prince have high hopes after the Tigers lost only two seniors from last year. Junior attack Lilly Diversi scored 45 goals last year, while senior midfielder Emma Bourget and goalie Skye Cotnoir joined Diversi as all-KVAC selections.

“I think the girls have big plans for themselves,” Prince said. “They want to get deep into the postseason. We have a lot of seniors and juniors, and so this is the most ‘up’ we’re going to be before we have to rebuild the next couple years.”

The bad news for Cony (7-5) it that it has to replace KVAC co-MVP Kiara Henry, the Rams’ top draw controller, and fellow all-KVAC selection Abbie Fielding.

The good news? At least 10 veterans return, led by junior goalie Madison Chavarie and junior midfielder Azabell Assaf. Senior Raegan Bechard and sophomore Macie Freeman will look to guide the offense.

Messalonskee boys lacrosse players work through drills during a March 29 practice at the school in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We’ve got experience throughout the field and we just need to bring our younger players into the fold,” coach Gretchen Livingston said. “We’re just looking to rely on our defense to start our offense.”


Messalonskee (11-1), which  reached the Class B semifinals, loses four of its eight 2021 all-KVAC North selections, including league co-MVP Gabby Smart. But seniors Frankie Caccamo, (midfield) and Journey Charles (attack) and juniors Abi Stevens (defense) and Shea Cassani (goalie) lead a deep group of veterans that have coach Crystal Leavitt optimistic for another lengthy playoff run.

“We’re definitely coming out strong,” she said. “We lost a lot of good people last year, but a lot of the girls have been working in the offseason. We’ll have some tougher games in the regular season now that COVID has swayed away.”

In Class C, Maranacook/Winthrop (9-3) hopes to go deeper after losing to eventually champ Wanyflete in the semifinals. The Hawks lose co-KVAC MVP Anna Drillen and their entire defense, but return fellow all-star Anna Erb and fellow midfielders Ella Delisle, Ella Schmidt and Eliza Pattershal. Junior Lily Caban and sophomore Ashley Deschamp lead the attackers.

“We have a lot of new players, but they’re not necessarily new to lacrosse,” coach Sarah Caban said. “We’re jelling as a team in  a way that’s exciting, and hopefully it can all come together.”

Erskine will look to improve on a 4-9 season.

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