OAKLAND — Cora Clukey wasn’t sure if she wanted to coach lacrosse this spring.

One program, though, sure wanted her.

After resigning as the head coach of a Winslow program in flux after three seasons, Clukey, who stood to lose that position with the Black Raiders set to co-op with Lawrence, received a number of messages. The same job was open at Messalonskee, and numerous parents wanted her to apply.

“They reached out to me and said I should apply to this job, so I started an application, but I didn’t finish it,” Clukey said. “I went on vacation, and then they called me anyway and wanted to do an interview. … They really wanted me, I guess.”

Now, Clukey is the head coach of central Maine’s most successful girls lacrosse program, replacing Crystal Leavitt. Her task this spring? To maintain that success for a Messalonskee team that doesn’t return a whole lot of production in 2024.

With a Winslow team led by her daughter, Sage, in need of a coach ahead of the 2021 season, Clukey stepped into the role. The Black Raiders went back and forth between varsity and junior varsity, playing at the JV level in 2021 and 2023 because of low numbers and going 4-8 in varsity play in 2022.


Messalonskee captains Emily Hammond, left, and E.J. Parsons do stick drills during girls lacrosse practice Tuesday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Although that three-year stint was Clukey’s first varsity coaching experience, it was far from her first coaching lacrosse. She coached the girls team for the Central Maine Spartans, a youth program for local players. She is also a certified lacrosse official.

“I think being a certified official gives me a unique perspective,” Clukey said. “I know the rules really well. I didn’t play, so I can’t always show them what to do, but I can tell them what to do, and I have some assistant coaches who can show them really well. We make a great team.”

That staff consists of Kristen Nelson and Silver Clukey, another of Clukey’s daughters. Silver Clukey was a star lacrosse player at Winslow, where she led the Black Raiders to back-to-back 12-1 seasons in 2018 and 2019. She also played on state title-winning basketball (2018) and field hockey (2019) teams.

That staff takes over a team that’s much different from 2023. The Eagles have lost three all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A first-teamers in Shea Cassani, Madi Doody and Julia Wade, the former of whom was KVAC A Player of the Year. Also gone are second-teamers Abi Klinge, Alivia Johnston and Abby Stevens.

“I’d say our biggest transition has not necessarily been the coaches but the fact that we lost a lot of seniors,” said senior captain Emily Hammond. “We’re kind of rebuilding the team with some new freshmen coming up, but the team and the coaches have handled that so well, and getting to know each other has been a ton of fun.”

Clukey has already adapted to both the newcomers and the players who have returned, such as Hammond, Bigby Morin, E.J. Parsons and Madison Wills. Morin, who is only in her second year playing lacrosse, said her knowledge of the sport and its rules has expanded greatly in less than two weeks under Clukey.


The team culture, Hammond, Morin and Parsons agreed, has been very positive thus far. Those three seniors want to help lay a foundation for the 12-member freshman class and the new coaching staff, and the atmosphere at practices has been quite conducive to that.

“We want to play a game of lacrosse where it is fun to come to practice every day and fun to play games together,” Hammond said. “I mean, we’re high school girls, so there’s always a negative aspect with sports, but lacrosse this year has been so good at being positive and making it fun to come play.”

The team’s performance at the first play day, Parsons said, was promising, something that’s perhaps to be expected at Messalonskee. Since 2011, the Eagles only had a losing season once (2019), going 132-47 over that span. They won three straight Class A North titles from 2015-17, claiming the state title in 2016.

Clukey knows the task, then, is a big one, especially for someone who’s only coached one year at the varsity level to date. Yet the amenities at Messalonskee and the enthusiasm surrounding girls lacrosse at the school, she said, are two things she hopes she can use to her advantage.

“It’s great to see the facilities we have here and the athletes that I have,” Clukey said. “I had to beg, borrow and steal to get 15 girls at Winslow. … Here, I’ve got 30 girls, and they’re 30 girls who all want to be here. They’re just great, and I’m super excited about it.”

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