Gardiner’s Coleby Vassoll, left, tries to shake Messalonskee defender Walter Fegel during a lacrosse game Tuesday in Gardiner. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — The Messalonskee boys lacrosse team appeared to be in the middle of a dead-even matchup. And then the goals started coming.

Five goals in the second quarter, giving the Eagles a six-point halftime lead. Five more in the third, widening the gap to double figures. By the time Messalonskee was putting the finishing touches on a 14-1 victory over Gardiner, the message had already been delivered.

The Eagles were strong last spring. And this spring, they’ve had no trouble continuing from where they were.

“Absolutely. We only lost two seniors, so we still had a lot of team chemistry,” said sophomore Brady Brunelle, who had four of the Messalonskee goals. “We were also able to do a lot more offseason stuff, like get indoors and not have the COVID bother us, so it helped to get the team chemistry back up when we started.”

It’s looked sharp so far, as Messalonskee has scored 37 goals while starting out 2-0. On Tuesday, Rhys Bridges led the way with five goals while Walter Fegel scored two and Cooper LeClair, Simon Bessey and Bryce Crowell each had one.

“When we came back from preseason, I was just looking to see if our team could pick up where we left off,” said Bridges, a senior. “We only lost two seniors, our offense is pretty much the same group. It’s just getting back in the swing of things.”


Messalonskee broke out of the gates last year following the lost spring of 2020, going 12-2, earning Class B’s top seed and reaching the state semifinals. With so many players back, eyes are on the Eagles to be just as strong as they were — if not stronger.

“This is the beast of the east, or the west or the north or whatever we are,” Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson said. “They look good.”

Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan acknowledged that coming into the season, his team was able to resume, not just restart.

“Pretty much the whole roster’s back, and some kids got improved in the offseason stuff,” he said. “We’re excited about it. It’s still early in the season, still working out some kinks and stuff. But it’ll come together. Offensively, we’re still trying to find our keys and stuff like that.”

The Eagles’ offense took some time to get going as the constant rain and howling wind made for a dreary combination at Hoch Field, but in the second quarter, that firepower showed itself. Brunelle scored twice and Bridges and Bessey had goals in just over a five-minute span, putting Messalonskee ahead 6-1. It was 7-1 after a Fegel goal with 1:56 left in the half, and when Bridges opened the second half with a pair of goals, the Eagles were on their way to running time.

Messalonskee flexed its offensive balance as well, scoring both on one-on-one efforts and well-executed teamwork plays. On the Eagles’ second goal of the game, Brunelle, Crowell and Fegel connected on a pair of quick passes on the attack into the Gardiner zone before Fegel fired into the net.


Gardiner goalie Connor Cote, left, can’t stop a shot by Messalonskee’s Rhys Bridges during a lacrosse game Tuesday in Gardiner. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We have a lot of guys that can put the ball in the goal, and give the ball to people who put the ball in the goal,” Brunelle said. “It helps to have that.”

“I think (Rhys), Walter, Brady, Bryce too, those are our big guys right there,” Sheridan said. “The kids definitely have multiple options out there. As more and more kids get comfortable, they’ll (contribute) as well.”

When Gardiner did go on the attack, the Tigers found themselves running into a strong Messalonskee defense led by goalie Ian McCurdy, who stopped seven of the eight shots on him.

“Ian’s stepping up big time,” Bridges said. “I feel like when we get in those tough situations, Ian’s going to be able to step it up and be a wall in net.”

Gardiner had the first goal of the game when Sean Doyle scored off of a feed from Cody Dingwell. Connor Cote made 10 saves for the Tigers, who are working several newcomers to the sport into the fold, and who Johnson feels will be sharper with more time on the field.

“We’ve got to get reps. The kids have got to get offensive reps, defensive reps, our defense is getting better all the time. We’ve just got to cut the mistakes out,” he said. “I think, realistically, it’s our lacrosse I.Q. that failed us. … We have some good matchups out there, it’s just not deep enough right now.”

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