Poland’s Kaylin O’Leary swings for a pitch that went for a single during a win over Gray-New Gloucester in Poland in 2019. Wil Kramlich/Sun Journal file photo

In one way, Kaylin O’Leary’s Poland Regional High School softball career will end the same it started.

This season, the senior will again be playing with her sister.

The only difference is that this time she is not the younger sister on the team. She’ll instead be the older sister showing her sibling the way to play the varsity game.

Kaylin O’Leary got to play with older sister Karley during her first two high school seasons, but the two were denied a third together last year when the entire spring season was canceled. Now freshman sister Khloe has joined the team, just as Kaylin is about to wrap up her high school career.

“It truly is so special,” Poland coach Katrina Seeley said of the Knights again having a pair of O’Leary sisters. “They bring so much softball knowledge to the team. Khloe is following Karley’s footsteps, wearing No. 22 and playing shortstop.”

Seeley also has another set of siblings on her roster, in step-sisters Emma Bunyea and Atlantis Martin.

The two sets of sisters are part of a group that Seeley says loves to play softball.

“Their dedication to the sport in the offseason shows their passion for the game,” she said. “This group of athletes are very committed to softball and very coachable.”

SECOND CHANCE AT FIRST IMPRESSION

The canceled season last year not only denied one last season between the two older O’Leary sisters, but it also prevented a handful of local coaches from making their debuts.

Gray-New Gloucester’s Darcey Gardiner, Lisbon’s Nikki Austin, Mountain Valley’s Gary Dolloff, Oak Hill’s Don Theriault, Spruce Mountain’s Lisa Dube and St. Dominic’s Abigail Bowie were supposed to be begin leading their respective programs last year, but the 2020 spring season didn’t happen.

Dolloff enters his first competitive season as head coach with plenty of knowledge of his program, having been an assistant for the team for 18 years. What will be new for the Falcons is a drop down from Class B to Class C, a change that will only come into play if the team qualifies for the postseason. Dolloff said his “scrappy and aggressive” squad should be competitive and hopefully finish above .500.

As a former Greyhounds player, Austin also knows her program well. She said she was selected to continue the Lisbon coaching bloodline that started with championship-winning coach Charlene Bennett in the 1980s and 90s and later included Angel Gamache Tibbetts, who played for Bennett and was Austin’s coach at Lisbon.

“Despite only having 11 players, five of which are freshmen, we have been blessed with lots of raw and natural talent this year,” Austin said. “We had planned on a rebuilding year, but after a few weeks of assessing mechanics and preparing these ladies for a varsity level competition, we are confident that they are ready to compete at this level. The girls are willing, motivated and resilient.”

This isn’t Bowie’s first job at St. Dom’s — she also is the field hockey coach in the fall.

“We are an older team with no incoming first-years,” Bowie said. “That being said, the team still has players who are new the sport. The returners have been amazing at helping to get everyone up to the level of competitive play that St. Dom’s softball will be bringing to the field this spring.”

Theriault has taken over a program that has had plenty of regular-season success in recent years, but it returns only one varsity player from the 2019 team. Senior all-MVC shortstop Adelle Surette will be relied upon for leadership and as a key part of a defense that Theriault sees as a strength.

Gardiner is a former Bates College assistant who has starting pitcher Madison Pelletier among a group of six returners from the 2019 squad.

Dube was set to have a veteran team in 2020, but the program lost 10 seniors to graduation last year. There are only 12 players on this year’s roster, so Dube is trying to rebuild the program. She does have returning seniors at pitcher (Hannah Turcotte) and catcher (Abby Ortiz).

“Having leaders at two key positions will be helpful,” Dube said.

NO BUCKING THE TREND

Buckfield has a new coach in Tammy Tatlock, but she already knows many of her players from both her time as the Buckfield middle school coach and the high school’s varsity girls basketball coach this winter.

She knows she’s taking over a Buckfield program that she said has a long, competitive tradition. This year’s team, she said, is “a very dedicated and talented group of ladies that have a lot of promise.”

WELCOME BACK … SORT OF

Varsity softball makes a long-awaited return to Rangeley this spring. In addition to the 2020 season being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Lakers did not field a team in 2019.

In 2021, only the name on the front of the uniforms is the same as before. Jim Smith takes over the program, but with no seniors on the roster, there are no ties to the time before the nearly three-year layoff. Juniors Emily Eastlack, Winnie LaRochelle and Bristol Quimby will lead a team that Smith said features a host of great all-around athletes who play other sports. Eastlack and LaRochelle were standouts on the basketball team, and Quimby was a star Alpine skier for the Lakers.

QUICK HITTERS

A brief look at other area teams:

Dirigo Cougars: First-year coach Tanya Perreault said she has a young team with holes left from the past two graduating classes. She’s hoping to build the program’s numbers, but with five returners, whom she called strong players and leaders, she hopes the Cougars can be competitive this season.

Edward Little Red Eddies: Veteran coach Elaine Derosby is planning on utilizing this year’s open postseason tournament to try and prepare her team to be playing its best in June. The underclassmen have played a lot of softball outside of the high school season, but have a learning curve to deal with this season as they experience the varsity level for the first time. Derosby said that the returners have welcomed those underclassmen with open arms.

Leavitt Hornets: Kevin Leonard’s team graduated a pair of pitchers among its half-dozen lost players, but have seven returners along with a new group that includes six freshmen.

Lewiston Blue Devils: Ryan Cormier only had one year with the program before last year’s lost season. This year’s group is one that he calls “probably one of the most coachable teams that I have had the privilege to coach. … This group of players takes it all in and uses it to grow as a player on and off the field.”

Monmouth Mustangs: Head coach Dave Kaplan said he has several untested, young players at key positions, which could mean some growing pains, but a solid nucleus of returning players should help them along. Kaplan thinks the collective group should jell together nicely by playoff time.

Mt. Abram Roadrunners: This year’s team is made up mostly of underclassmen, but head coach Bridget Blood said they are talented and eager. Some big bats should help the Roadrunners be competitive.

Mt. Blue Cougars: The Cougars have just one senior returner, pitcher Makayla Gross. But a group of newcomers that, according to head coach Ron Smith, have desire, skill and determination should help the team achieve its goal of growing and improving every time it plays.

Oxford Hills Vikings: The Vikings have some returning players who know what it’s like to be in state and regional final games, and they want to get back to those big games. The team’s strengths, according to longtime coach Cindy Goddard, are defense and speed. The growth will come in players learning each other’s strengths and putting them together.

Telstar Rebels: New head coach Scott White takes over a team with only three seniors. All of the Rebels are anxious to get back to playing again after last year’s lost season. Plus, Telstar teams didn’t play this winter.

Winthrop Ramblers: Head coach Chuck Gurney said he has old faces in new places, with Lydia Rice, Maddie Perkins and Lindsay Letourneau all moving from the outfield to spots around the diamond. The Ramblers also have pitching depth, with three hurlers. There is speed at the top of the lineup, and some power in the middle. There are seven graduated players to replace, but Gurney said the pieces could be in place for a solid season.

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