Lewiston native Mark Theriault gives instructions to the Keene State men’s lacrosse team, which he has coached since 2000. Photo by Peter Blanchard

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about this year’s inductees into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame.

Mark Theriault’s one year at Hebron Academy was life-changing.

The 1989 St. Dominic Academy graduate and Lewiston native was a three-sport star with the Saints in soccer, hockey and baseball. He was all-state in each sport and was a member of the 1988 state champion soccer and hockey teams.

He decided to do a postgraduate year at Hebron in 1989-90 to prepare for his college education with hopes of continuing his athletic career at the next level.

He indeed go on to play a varsity sport in college, but it wasn’t one of the three he excelled in at St. Dom’s. He took up lacrosse in the spring of 1990, and ever since his life has been about the sport.

The transition was smooth for Theriault because lacrosse combined skills from his high school sports, such as the running in soccer and the faceoffs in hockey.

“I picked it up pretty quickly, again, the transferable skills from soccer and hockey, it made it real easy for me,” Theriault said. “I did that in the spring and I became an all-state lacrosse player right away. I think a lot of it has to do with the athleticism and the transferable skills.”

Theriault will be inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston.

After the one year at Hebron, he was still unsure if he was going to play lacrosse in college, but he ended up joining the team at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

When he toured the school’s campus, he still deciding what sport he was going to play at the varsity level, soccer or lacrosse.

“The funny story about that was the soccer coach wasn’t there that day and the lacrosse coach was, so that was sort of my decision to play lacrosse,” Theriault said. “I played ice hockey, as well, on the club team at Springfield.”

Theriault and Springfield lacrosse coach Keith Bugbee gelled pretty quickly.

“I remember he had a lot of interest in (our lacrosse program),” Bugbee said, who’s in his 36th year coaching at Springfield College. “I said, ‘Definitely, I would love you to come out.’ It was almost magical situation because he connected right away and I connected right away. We’ve become really good friends and peers over the years.”

Despite having only one year of lacrosse experience, Theriault saw extensive playing time, taking faceoffs and playing defensive midfielder as an underclassmen. When Theriault was a freshman, Springfield College went 9-8. His sophomore year the Pride finished 5-8, but they were rebuilding.

“I started trying to take faceoffs when I got to Springfield,” Theriault said. “I think being a center in hockey for both St. Dom’s and Hebron, it was a natural thing for me. I started a freshman at Springfield.”

Lewiston native Mark Theriault, a 1989 St. Dom’s graduate, has been head coach of the Keene State men’s lacrosse team since 2000. Photo by Peter Blanchard

Not only did he start taking faceoffs, he used his hockey background to develop into a dominant faceoff man.

“Mark perfected a style, he was really a pioneer, it’s called the motorcycle grip with both hands up forward on the stick,” Bugbee said. “It’s really from hockey, he would grab the stick like would with a hockey stick to take a faceoff. He really perfected that and he was so quick and powerful. His forearms, because from hockey, he was so quick and strong. He was a ground ball machine because of the way he was built; low to the ground and tough.”

Bugbee said Theriault also was a grinding midfielder.

The fruits of the Pride’s labor were shown in Theriault’s junior year when they went 12-2 and captured the NCAA Division II national championship in 1994 by defeating the New York Institute of Technology 15-12. Theriault was the MVP of that game.

“He dominated the faceoffs, he controlled the tempo of the game, we had the ball a lot,” Bugbee said. “We had the ball so much, and he had a couple of assists, I think.”

The Pride nearly repeated Theriault’s senior season, going 13-1, but the lone loss came in the national championship game won by Adelphi, 12-10.

“There were so many great kids on that team. I think that’s pretty much why we did so well, there wasn’t just one superstar, I think that team there were seven or eight All-Americans on that year,” Theriault said of the national title-winning team. “It wasn’t one person carrying the team, it was all of us contributing and doing our job on the team. It’s why we did so well.”

Theriault, 48, was a two-time All American at Springfield, in 1994 and 1995, finishing with 41 assists in his career. He also played in the North-South All Star game and was named the Most Outstanding Midfielder in the country his senior year.

His playing career wasn’t done after Springfield. He played professionally for the Boston Blazers of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in the 1996 and 1997 seasons. He was the team’s unsung hero in 1996.

When the franchise folded after the 1997 season, Theriault called it quits on his playing career to focus fully on the next chapter, coaching lacrosse, which he started doing while he was playing professionally. He became the coach at Western New England College in 1996, leading the team to a 14-3 record and the Pilgrim League championship in 1996.

After one year at Western New England College, he became a coach at the Northfield Mount Hermon School, a prep school in Gill, Massachusetts, before going back to the college ranks for the 2000 season at Keene State, where he has been ever since.

Theriault has a college coaching record of 236-99. Heading into the 2019 season, he’s the 28th winningest active coach in all divisions. Keene State has won the Little East Conference title seven times under Theriault’s leadership and he’s been the conference’s coach of the year seven times.

Bugbee wasn’t sure if Theriault would follow in his footsteps as a coach.

“I didn’t see it right away, but once I saw him get into it and interact (with the kids) …” Bugbee said. “I know a lot of the kids he coaches at Keene, I recruited a bunch of (the same kids), I could see him fit into that role. He grew into it and he has done a great job. He always has had tremendous passion for the game, which is a huge component you need to have to coach, a love for the game.”

Theriault has had opportunities to coach at the Division I level, but found his niche at the Division III level that allows him to have family time with his wife Emma, twin boys Jack and Connor and daughter Addison.

“It’s a lifestyle. It’s a wonderful way to impact student-athletes and at the same time have a wonderful life for me as well and my family,” Theriault said. “That’s the Division III philosophy, too. I had Division I opportunities, but I chose the Division III level because it gives you opportunities to do other things as well.”