SOUTH BERWICK – Lisa Truesdale remembers her first season as field hockey coach at Marshwood High. Zero wins, zero goals, and pretty close to zero respect.

“I was always on the refs, trying to get every call I could, and they would just look at me like, ‘who is this woman?’” Truesdale said of the 2006 season. “It was so frustrating.”

The Hawks were in the midst of a multi-season losing streak, and Truesdale was the latest in a parade of new coaches. Thirteen successful seasons as a head coach across the border at Portsmouth High, competing in New Hampshire’s large-school division, meant nothing.

Truesdale was a Marshwood Hawk. The Hawks had been so bad for so long, the easiest thing to do was simply ignore them.

Fast forward to 2012, and Marshwood is the defending Western Class A champion.

The Hawks turned the program’s first playoff appearance since 1994 into a surprising run, stopped only by perennial state champion Skowhegan, 6-0, in a snowy state final at Yarmouth High.

Still, they aren’t viewed as the favorites in Western Class A despite returning 13 varsity players. That mantle is worn by perennial powers Scarborough and Cheverus.

In fact, most SMAA coaches asked in the preseason to name the top teams in the league mentioned four or five teams other than Marshwood. If the Hawks were noted, it was often something along the lines of “oh, and Marshwood should be pretty good.”

Portland Coach Beth Arsenault thinks that type of assessment devalues the Hawks.

“I watched them at Play Day and they’re going to be there again. They’re not a fluke,” Arsenault said.

“They have been building up and developing a program that has strong hallmarks (like) strong passing (and) they never bunch. They’re doing it across the board with a really strong system.”

Marshwood senior captains and fourth-year varsity players Sammy Crosman and Kaitlin Carr believe their team will continue to improve.

“Every single year we’ve improved so much,” Crosman said, adding, “We did it together, so we just want to keep doing it together.”

And if other teams still aren’t taking Marshwood seriously?

“I guess they can think that,” Crosman said. “We’re just going to come out strong this year and play hard.”

“Last year we weren’t even a (Press Herald) Top 10 Teams to Watch and we ended up making it to states,” Carr said. “We feel the pressure this year to be good again, but we’re not letting it get to us.”

The story of Marshwood’s development starts with Truesdale’s decision to take the head coaching job.

“I felt like this is where I live, this is my community. Do I have the energy to do this?” she said. “I got into it not really knowing everything that was needed.”

She quickly realized that for the Hawks to improve at the varsity level, she would need to start a development program for youth players, girls like her own daughter, Lindsey Poirier, who is now a sophomore center midfielder.

That’s led to more players in the program (45 this year) and the addition of a first team for freshmen and new-to-field hockey players, in addition to varsity and junior varsity teams.

“I’m starting to see where the level of player is changing,” Truesdale said.

“You want to see a definite difference between varsity, JV and first team. As a coach it’s a healthy competition. Kids know that they have to work to earn their spot, and that’s the way it should be.”

A season-opening 5-2 win against Sanford — a squad often slotted above Marshwood by SMAA coaches — followed by a 6-0 win at Portland showed the Hawks have enough firepower to be dangerous again.

That all the goals have been scored by juniors Ashley Hickey, Karissa Boesch, Emily Osborne and Ashley Tice or Poirier indicates the program now has staying power.

It also has a changed attitude.

In the Sanford game, Marshwood let up a bit after taking a 2-0 lead and quickly paid the price, as Sanford rallied for a 2-2 tie.

Truesdale called a timeout and forcefully challenged her team. It was a tactic she said she wouldn’t have dared try a few years ago. Then, her players’ psyche was too fragile for such harsh criticism.

Carr said now the players are strong enough to hear the truth.

“It motivates us. We know she expects the most of us and she’s going to push us to get the most out of us. She does a good job at doing it. We know to take it as motivation, not to get upset. We know how to take it, basically.”

Not long ago, Marshwood was a winless team that would celebrate scoring a single goal. Now the Hawks are fast becoming a winning program with much bigger goals. They saw what the gold standard of Maine field hockey looks like in last year’s state final.

“That’s what you want to aspire to. (Skowhegan is) a program that’s solidified,” Truesdale said. “The girls know we’re just creating a program, and we’re getting there.” 

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

[email protected]