Oak Hill/Monmouth/Lisbon’s Tiger Hopkins, left, carries the ball toward the goal as Gardiner’s Coleby Vasoll, right, tries to knock it how of Hopkins’ stick from behind during a game in Wales in May. Hopkins outran Vasoll and fired a shot on goal. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Tiger Hopkins had a sour taste in his mouth for two years.

After an undefeated regular season, his freshmen season ended earlier than expected, in the first round of the 2019 Class C playoffs. Then his sophomore season was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hopkins unleashed his pent-up frustration as a junior in 2021, scoring 61 goals and dishing out 44 assists while leading Oak Hill/Lisbon/Monmouth to the Class C state championship game. Hopkins set a school scoring record and was picked as one of nine All-Americans by Maine Lacrosse Coaches Association.

He also has been chosen as the Sun Journal All-Region Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.

“I was really excited to play my sophomore year, then (the season) was canceled,” Hopkins said. “That motivation stayed with me the entire time, and it spread to other players on the team. Everyone wanted to play, and we played well.”

Hopkins continued working when the 2020 season was called off, often working out at home at 5 a.m. and practicing with former teammate Xavier Michaud, who graduated in 2019. Hopkins, who is a predominantly right-handed player, entered the 2021 season much better at using his left hand.

“I was playing an off-ball role my freshman year, where Xavier had the ball on his stick a lot,” Hopkins said. “I was cutting off the ball and in transition by keeping my stick in my strong hand. I always had my stick in my right hand. I worked on shooting lefty because I knew going in my junior year I was going to have the ball a lot. You are more of a threat if you go both ways, and not (just) your strong hand, so the defender (must) guard you both ways.”

Hopkins also played on three different travel teams — Maine Select Lacrosse, Maine Mussels Lacrosse and 4 Leaf Lacrosse New England.

Raiders coach Joey Hinkley noticed in the preseason that Hopkins was ready to lead the team.

“We picked captains either the third or fourth day of practice, and he kind of took over,” Hinkley said. “He did some things like the stretching at the beginning (of practice) and he got everyone motivated to work hard and start the season on the right foot.”

Hopkins always said the last words to the team before games, and he usually preached having fun, looking for opponents’ tendencies, working to improve and cheering on teammates.

TOUGH TO CONTAIN

If they didn’t already know, opposing teams quickly figured out that Hopkins was Oak Hill/Monmouth/Lisbon’s go-to player this season. However, Hinckley said, Hopkins was adept at dodging defenders.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Hinkley said. “Everybody knows he’s our number one player and they put their best defenseman on him. Obviously, he has to work even harder to get by that number one defenseman or work hard to make that cut. He finds a way to do it. I think it has to do with all the extra lacrosse that he does, working hard.”

Hopkins also was a more confident player as a junior, and he thought he could use his skills and lacrosse IQ to force defenders to faceguard or double team him. They opponents did the later, it opened up opportunities for Travis Caron, D’Andre Daniels and other Raiders.

Hopkins’ 105 points is a new Oak Hill single-season record, surpassing Jeremy Trainor, who tallied 98 in 1993. Hopkins also is the school’s first All-American since Trainor in 1993. Hopkins said that he has had a lot of help reaching an All-America level of play.

“It means a lot. I put in a lot of work on and off the field to get better,” Hopkins said. “I just think it’s a tribute to everyone that helped me in my journey, whether it be my coaches, starting from a super young age and all the way up until now; my teammates, from middle school, travel, high school that helped me along the way. I couldn’t do it without them.”

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