STANDISH – Back then, it looked pretty easy.

As freshmen on a strong Buckfield softball team, Tiffany Dunn, Shayna Shackford and Desiree Brackett reveled in the 2003 state title.

“Being a freshman on such a good team, you don’t realize all the struggles that you go through,” said Dunn, now a senior catcher. “Being a senior, it’s a real honor to win Western Maine. I’m happy to get a chance to do it again.”

With Buckfield’s tradition, it seemed likely the trio would see more state-title opportunities. That assumption didn’t pan out.

“I was very optimistic as a freshman,” said Shackford, a first baseman on the 2003 team. “Buckfield has a good reputation for going to the playoffs. I was optimistic and confident we’d be back here again. It’s a great feeling to be back our senior year. It was great to come in with a state championship and now we have a chance to go out with one.”

The Bucks have won 10 regional titles and have seven state crowns.

That includes consecutive 13-0 victories over Lee Academy in the 2002 and 2003 state finals. Buckfield and Lee play again in today’s state championship game.

Since then, the Bucks have fallen short. There was a stunning loss to NYA in the semifinals in 2004. Last year, the Bucks lost to the defending state champs from Richmond in the Western D championship.

This team’s success was fueled by the disappointment of the previous seasons. The Bucks have been a relatively young squad building for this goal. Besides the three seniors, the club has six juniors and three sophomores.

“I think we’ve all matured as a team,” Shackford said. “This year, it feels like we’re a team. We’re really close, and we’ve all worked so hard to get here.”

The Bucks (15-1) face a Lee squad that has been in three of the last four state championships games, and lost them all. Though it will be the first state game for most of the Bucks, its veterans stress composure.

“It’s a little nerve wracking,” Dunn said. “You can’t get your head down if you make errors or mistakes because if you put your head down, it’s hard to get it back up. You have to have confidence and play strong, do what you can to help the team and the team will reward you.”

That’s what they learned as freshmen. It was an enjoyable experience then, but a victory today would mean so much more now.

“Freshman year, it didn’t mean as much to me because I didn’t get to play as much,” said Brackett, who was the backup pitcher then. “Over the years, I thought that we deserved it, and this year has been awesome to go out my senior year with this.”

“It’s very exciting, especially since it was such a long time ago,” added Dunn. “To relive it, I know I’ll remember this for a long time. Freshman year, I’ll remember it, but this means a lot more.”

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