AUBURN — Three regular seasons in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference have been a breeze for Saint Dominic Academy boys’ lacrosse.
The Class B playoffs, on the other hand, have harbored an imperfect storm.
Such is the quandary for St. Dom’s stellar senior class: Celebrating and appreciating the unlikely accomplishment of 36 consecutive conference wins while preparing for the dramatically different challenge that awaits.
“We don’t want to look ahead, but it’s tough not to,” Troy Haefele said. “We want to see our rivals and have those tougher games.”
Those rivals, Yarmouth and North Yarmouth Academy, knocked St. Dom’s out of the tournament the past two seasons. Together with Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Waynflete, they thrive within a 20-mile radius of one another and have dominated Class B lacrosse since its inception.
St. Dom’s once ran stride-for-stride with them, learning on the fly in the rugged Western Maine Conference. As the sport grew statewide and was split into regions, the Saints accepted an assignment in the KVAC, where lacrosse is more novelty than tradition.
So while the Saints are able to smile politely when anyone congratulates them about never losing in league play, they’re wise and experienced enough to keep the streak in proper perspective.
“It’s always nice to have, but we’re still disappointed with last year’s loss to NYA in the playoffs,” Anthony Fagone said. “We’re really looking forward to that. It’s all that matters to us now if we can get a rematch with them. Those of us who have been here three or four years, we know it’s a jump.”
St. Dom’s reached the Eastern B final in 2010 and the semifinals in 2011.
This season’s run-up has looked remarkably similar. The Saints hit double digits in every game, outscoring their opponents by an aggregate score of 178-34.
Six different players have scored at least 13 goals. Haefele, who is headed to Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., on a lacrosse scholarship, led the league with a staggering 104 points.
“I kind of wish we’d stayed in the other league because there would be more competition to prepare us for the playoffs,” said Cody Rodrigue, a four-year starter in goal. “We’ve always had a good team, so I don’t know if it’s been kind of easy for us, but we have kids like Troy Haefele on our team who can score six goals a game. A lot of us started as freshmen.”
While the southern schools may dress a phalanx of players resembling a football team, St. Dom’s prospers with close to the bare minimum.
Coach David Haefele never writes more than 18 names in the Saints’ scorebook. For the first three games this season, while several seniors were away on the school’s annual Mission to Mississippi, the Saints survived with 10 starters and three substitutes.
“This is the best group, even though they’re low in numbers, that I’ve ever had,” said the coach. “I feel the closest to them of any team.”
St. Dom’s will open the playoffs Wednesday with Camden Hills. The Saints shut out the Windjammers in April.
Win there, and the Saints will host NYA in Saturday’s semifinals.
“If we play our game we can keep with them this year.,” Rodrigue said. “Last year we didn’t really bury our opportunities. We got a quick lead and fell from there. This year I think we have a team that can go far.”
"(The conference streak is) definitely a pride thing," added Troy Haefele. "We just want to carry that success into the postseason now.”