Morgan Eliasen, left, and Mariah Vaillancourt are freshmen on the University of Southern Maine women’s lacrosse team. (University of Southern Maine athletics)

Neither Morgan Eliasen nor Mariah Vaillancourt entered the University of Southern Maine expecting to suit up for the school’s women’s lacrosse team.

The spring sports season is here, though, and the freshmen and former rivals — Eliasen played at Lewiston and Vaillancourt at Edward Little — are important parts of the Huskies’ lacrosse future.

“They definitely are. They’re part of our present and our future,” USM women’s lacrosse coach Ashley Durepo said. “And I think it’s really exciting for a new coach to come in and know that, this year, we’ll see where we go, but we’ll also have this entire squad back next year. Those two are definitely part of the future, for sure.”

Durepo’s first college head coaching job got off to a late start. The former University of New Hampshire player was hired to take over the USM program in late August, right before school started.

The Huskies lost several starters from the 2017 team to graduation, which left Durepo and the new coaching staff needing to fill several spots on the roster.

So, they turned the fall season of practices and exhibitions into a de facto tryout for players who had played in the past and were interested in playing again.

That included Vaillancourt and Eliasen, who both earned KVAC first team and all-academic in 2017.

Off the hardwood

Eliasen was trying out the lacrosse team as much as she was trying out for it. Her intention for her USM experience included playing basketball and earning a degree in nursing.

“I really only planned to play basketball,” she said, “but I knew one of the (former) USM lacrosse players, Lauren Lessard (who spent three years at Lewiston High School), and she kind of put in a word for me to the coach, and the coach reached out to me, and they were kind of talking to me all throughout basketball season, trying to get me to play.

“At the end of basketball season, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll play.’”

The basketball season went well for Eliasen. She became a contributor as a freshman, averaging 2.4 points in 11.1 minutes per game and helping the Huskies reach the Little East Conference tournament semifinals.

“It was, overall, a really good season,” Eliasen said. “I got more playing time than I thought I would, so that was pretty cool.”

Eliasen had a late start to the lacrosse season and missed the first game. But she made an immediate impact at midfield, and after two games she was named the Little East Conference Defensive Player of the Week and the Rookie of the Week.

Dupero said she isn’t necessarily surprised by Eliasen’s performance, having seen the caliber of player she is in the fall, but she is amazed at how quickly her game has come together.

“It’s crazy, because she came with us late,” Dupero said. “She hadn’t really had a preseason to really get going.

“She does a lot of the little things really, really well. She’s gets back on defense, she’s very solid on defense. She helps us get the ball up the field. … She gets draws, ground balls. She does a ton of scrappy stuff for us. So I think the scoring will come for her as she’s a little bit more comfortable, because she’s really only been back for two weeks.”

Eliasen scored her first collegiate goal in USM’s 14-5 win over the University of Maine at Farmington on Wednesday.

From the ice to the field

Vaillancourt went to USM intending to play her favorite sport, ice hockey. However, as the season drew near, she became anxious about hockey being a distraction from her studies (she’s studying human biology with the intent of being an eye doctor).

“I really wanted to focus on school,” Vaillancourt said. “I didn’t know how playing a sport in school would affect my grades.”

In the fall, Vaillancourt missed playing a sport and being on a team, so she reached out to Durepo about playing lacrosse, and attended the fall sessions.

“She definitely was a welcome addition to the team,” Dupero said. “She’s a really good goalie.”

The Huskies already have an experienced goalkeeper, junior Hala Van Nostrand, so Vaillancourt didn’t make her debut until Wednesday against UMaine-Farmington. Vaillancourt played the second half and made four saves.

Even before that game, Vaillancourt had shown her bona fides.

“She’s our goalie of the future, but she’s also competitive right now,” Dupero said. “She’s played well at practice, she’s very explosive.

“We’re really happy to have Mariah there to back up Hala, for sure.”

Vaillancourt may not be playing much in games, but she is taking full advantage of practices, and is growing as a goalkeeper.

“I do think I’ve learned a lot and have improved a little bit,” she said. “Like I’ve worked out some tics with the coaches that they’ve seen, and I ask a lot of questions.”

Teammates now

From 2015 through 2017, Vaillancourt and Eliasen were on opposite sides of the Edward Little-Lewiston rivalry. When the Red Eddies’ and Blue Devils’ lacrosse teams faced off, Eliasen was trying to score on Vaillancourt, and Vaillancourt was trying to stop Eliasen from scoring.

For them, though, the rivalry is in the past, and becoming teammates hasn’t been at all weird. If anything it’s helpful to have a somewhat familiar face on a brand new team.

“Honestly, there wasn’t really much of a transition period for playing with Mariah, because we’re both kind of in the same position: we’re both freshmen, coming in trying to find our place on a new team,” Eliasen said. “Yes, the high school rivalry is there, but we’ve kind of outgrown it, I guess, at this point.”

“We get along,” Vaillancourt said. “She doesn’t really score on me now, so that’s a good thing. Well, at practice she does, but it doesn’t count against me.”

Edward Little goalie Mariah Vaillancourt closes the door on Kelsey Brooks of Oceanside in Auburn last season.Lewiston High School’s Morgan Eliasen, left, and Brunswick High School’s Jenna Brooks battle for control of a faceoff during their game in Lewiston last May.Edward Little goalie Mariah Vaillancourt reaches out to make a save while Bonny Eagle’s Mollie Ward looks on during the Scots’ 12-7 win in Auburn last year.

Morgan Eliasen is a freshman midfielder for the University of Southern Maine women’s lacrosse team.

Mariah Vaillancourt is a freshman goalkeeper for the University of Southern Maine women’s lacrosse team.

Lewiston’s Morgan Eliasen, left, and Edward Little’s Megan Steele track the ball in the air off a draw during the Class A North girls’ lacrosse quarterfinals at Garcelon Field in June.Lewiston’s Morgan Eliasen leaps above Edward Little’s Megan Steele on a draw during the Class A North girls’ lacrosse quarterfinals at Garcelon Field in June.


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