Sometimes, all it takes is some time to adjust.
As a freshman, Lewiston girls’ lacrosse defender Emily Paione was timid — shy, even. Most freshmen are.
But with four games remaining in the regular season, Paione’s sophomore campaign has been a complete reversal, much to the pleasure of the Blue Devils’ coaching staff.
Through eight games, Paione is third on the team in goals, draw controls and shooting percentage, and first in assists, ground balls and interceptions.
“She was a starter on defense for us last year,” said Lewiston coach Christy Gardner, who then replied emphatically to the next obvious question of whether Paione put up similar numbers last season.
“Oh God, no,” Gardner said. “Not even close.”
The reason? Gardner believes it’s a combination of athletic and physical growth, as well as shoving aside the expected butterflies of playing a varsity sport as a freshman.
“I think there was a big change in confidence,” Gardner said. “Basically, stepping up to the big leagues, that first you you’re kind of feeling it out, you’re timid, and then after that you realize where you fit in.”
With her stellar numbers, especially given her position on the field, Paione would likely be a natural to move into a midfielder’s role next season.
“I’m trying to convince her to play midfield,” Gardner agreed. “She has the skill and the talent to be there.”
Every win counts
Not all unbeaten teams are created equal.
St. Dom’s has pushed its way to the top of the heap in Eastern Class B boys’ lacrosse, and has done so without dropping a game. But at 8-0, the Saints are still feeling the pressure going into the season’s final third.
“Because of the difference in strength of schedule, it’s pretty tough,” St. Dom’s coach Dave Haefele said. “Those southern teams play a bit of a tougher schedule than we do.”
Yarmouth, in particular, is creeping up from behind in the No. 2 position. At 5-2, the Clippers are hot on the Saints’ heels, and with four games remaining, Haefele isn’t taking anything for granted. Knowing how important each game is going to be in order to accrue the highest Heal Point total possible, he’s going to continue to push his players to improve.
“We’re good in goal, but we’re always looking to improve,” Haefele said. “Our defense, we’re trying to put in a couple of different looks, and our midfield play, we have to do a lot with that.”
The midfield, in particular, is a chore for Haefele, given his team’s low numbers at that position. Conditioning, he said, is critical.
“We’re doing a great job with that, and we even have a special conditioning coach to help the boys out with that,” Haefele said.
The goals keep on coming
Through nine games this season, the Mountain Valley girls have scored 92 goals, and the Falcons have been victorious in three of those contests.
Perhaps even more striking is the fact that junior sniper Ayla Allen needs to average only five goals per game in her team’s final three games to reach 200 goals for her career — in only three seasons.
A bruising lefthander, Allen has put the ball in the cage 62 times this season. She had 78 last year as a sophomore, and 45 as a freshman, running her total to 185.
The striking difference as her third season comes to a close, though? Last season, she recorded only one assist. In her most recent game, she had three.
“She’s been reluctant to pass the ball, but when she did that the other day, we scored,” Mountain Valley coach Rick White said. “I think she’s starting to realize that she can do that and we can still score, or when she does, she’ll get it back half the time, too, with more time and space.”
Playoff push will be fun
After two tough games — one a win and one a loss — the Oxford Hills girls took some time to reflect.
“Those games, against Messalonskee and Mountain Valley, were tough games, and after a stretch like that, sometimes you let yourself think, you get to a part of the season and wonder, ‘Is this still fun?'” Oxford Hills coach Sarah Proulx said. “I think we hit that point and we decided to take a new approach to things.”
Instead of forcing systems on the team, Proulx went back to the basics.
“Every day, every game it’s been, ‘Who’s going to get the most ground balls?’ or, ‘Who’s going to deflect the most passes?'” Proulx said. “The last few games, it’s been more about going out there, playing to have fun, to re-learn the basics and having good sportsmanship.”
With three games remaining, the Vikings know they’ll have to win at least two of them to get into the playoffs. Make it or not, though, they’re going to have fun trying.
“We want to make it to the playoffs,” Proulx said. “But we also want to end the season on a positive note, on and off the field.”