STANDISH – Danielle Labbe couldn’t help but be in tears over last year’s state championship softball game. And she wasn’t even at the game.

On the day her Bucks teammates had the chance to win a coveted a state crown, something Buckfield had not done since 2003, Labbe was at her sister Nicole’s wedding.

“It was horrible,” said Labbe. “I was the maid of honor, and I walked down the aisle crying because I was missing the game.”

Her Bucks lost to Lee Academy that day, 1-0. It left Labbe and her teammates wondering what if, and whether they’d ever get another try.

That opportunity arrived Saturday, and the Bucks made the most of their second chance. Buckfield returned the favor with a 3-0 victory over Lee to claim its eighth state championship.

“I wanted this one a lot,” said Labbe, a third baseman. “I knew this would be our last one. I think through the whole year we deserved it, and we learned how to fight back and do whatever we needed to do.”

The Bucks used three unearned runs in the fifth inning to break a stalemate against the Pandas. Buckfield protected that lead with the pitching of Kasey Farrington and stellar defensive play behind her.

“It was the best way to end it,” said senior outfielder Kayla Jordan. “I couldn’t have it any other way. It’s an awesome feeling. I can’t even describe it.”

The Bucks only have four seniors – Labbe, Jordan, Lindsey Neal and Deanna Lavoie. That group has had their share of disappointing endings during their careers. First, there was a stunning semifinal loss to North Yarmouth Academy. A loss to Richmond in the regional final followed, and then came last year’s loss to Lee in the state game.

“It definitely makes up for it all,” said Neal.

Buckfield has been in the state game 11 times over the last 21 years. The last three years without a state title was the longest drought since a seven-year span in the 1990s.

“It really does make up for everything else,” said Jordan. “It pushes everything else aside, and it doesn’t matter anymore. We’re the state champs, and it’s awesome.”

This Buckfield group overcame a great deal this season. Coming off last year’s disappointment, the Bucks graduated three critical starters in pitcher Desiree Brackett, catcher Tiffany Dunn and first baseman Shayna Shackford. With an abundance of holes to fill, only Jordan in the outfield and Neal at shortstop were playing the same position they were a year ago.

While teams like Richmond and Lee Academy returned the bulk of their lineups, including their top players, the Bucks weren’t as experienced as a year ago.

Despite the upheaval, the Bucks split with Richmond and earn the second seed in Western D. Then, Buckfield rallied from the brink of elimination to beat the Bobcats in eight innings in the regional final. When the Bucks and Panda engaged in a scoreless staring contest Saturday, it was Lee Academy that blinked. Seniors like Labbe, Jordan and Neal all played critical roles, but so did freshmen like Ashlee Haman, Brittany Wiley and Melissa Taylor.

This group experienced a number of highs and lows, but had yet to cherish the greatest thrill of them all – until Saturday.

“It’s so much better than I thought it would be,” Neal said. “It’s awesome being my senior year, getting out of here and being state champions. It’s the best feeling in the world.”


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