Caroline Gastonguay, left, and Maddy Leslie, right, laugh during a letter-signing ceremony at St. Dominic Academy in Auburn on Thursday. Gastonguay will attend Rollins College in Florida, while leslie will play for Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire. (St. Dominic Academy photo)
AUBURN — Teammates for 10 years, Maddy Leslie and Caroline Gastonguay got to share another “first” on Thursday.
The St. Dominic Academy seniors signed their letters of intent to play Division II college lacrosse in front of a packed gymnasium Thursday morning. Gastonguay will be attending Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, while Leslie will set up shop at Franklin Pierce in Rindge, New Hampshire.
“Caroline and I have been playing lacrosse together since we were 7 years old at the local rec league,” Leslie said. “I couldn’t be happier to do this with my best friend.”
Though Gastonguay and Leslie aren’t going to the same school — nor staying in the same region — they’ll be simultaneously pursing a long-held dream.
“I’ve always known I wanted to play college lacrosse, and (Thursday) was just about solidifying that,” Gastonguay said.
“Seeing all of the girls through tournaments and through the Maineiax program, I saw how much they all loved it, and how skilled they were,” Leslie recalled. “It was something I wanted to get good at and keep playing.”
Gastonguay, a prolific goal-scorer and two-time Sun Journal player of the year, was in an airport on her way to a lacrosse tournament when she first heard of the school.
“Rollins emailed me, and I was in an airport heading to a tournament, and they invited me to their camp,” Gastonguay said. “I had never heard of their school before.”
When she went to explore the campus, she didn’t want to leave.
“I immediately fell in love with it,” Gastonguay said. “There was no other school that I looked at that compared to the campus, and the people. It was just perfect.”
Rollins is a Division II school playing in the Sunshine State Conference. Last season, the Tars were ranked in the national Division II top 10 poll, and finished third in the conference regular season.
“I was looking for the ability to go for a national title,” Gastonguay said. “I definitely think Rollins has that.”
Leslie, meanwhile, is about as solid a defender as it gets in Maine lacrosse. That style lends itself well as a complement to Gastonguay on the field, and also endeared her to the college coaches looking at her.
“We try to instill in the team that, not everyone can have the same job,” St. Dominic Academy coach — and Caroline’s mother — Leslie Klenk said. “Each person has their own job, and if together everyone does their job, we can be successful.
“With Maddy and Caroline operating at opposite ends of the field, we’ve been able to successfully transition our team from a relatively new squad to a seasoned team,” Klenk added.
Like Gastonguay, Leslie said she felt “right at home” when she visited the Franklin Pierce campus.
“I went to their overnight, and I went to their prospect clinic, and as cliche as it sounds, it was like home,” Leslie said. “The team was amazing, they were all so welcoming, and Coach (Maud) Lonergan has such a spirit and passion for the game that I was just drawn to their program.”
Colleges aside, at least for now, both players agree that while signing to play at the next level is exciting, there’s some unfinished business here in Maine to which they need to attend. In two years as a varsity program, the Saints have a 21-7 record, which included a 12-0 regular season in 2016. But each of the past two seasons ended in the regional semifinal round.
“The (St. Dom’s) team is always so excited to be on the field, so energetic,” Leslie said. “We love being captains of this team because they’re clearly as passionate about the game as we are, and we’re looking forward to going out with a bang our senior year.”
“Last year it was sad it ended in the semifinals,” Gastonguay said. “This year, we’re looking, like Maddy said, to go out with a bang, and we really want to surprise some people. I think we can do it.”