The Brunswick High boys’ lacrosse team heard the preseason rumblings.

Sixteen players graduated from last year’s unbeaten Class A state championship squad. Only one starter was coming back. Therefore, Brunswick would struggle.

“We saw the top 10 teams to watch and we were nowhere near it,” said junior Christian Glover, the lone returning starter.

Instead, Brunswick (11-2) is one win away from its third straight state-title game appearance. The top-seeded Dragons host No. 6 Windham (10-4) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Class A North regional final, the winner advancing to Saturday’s state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium against Scarborough (10-3) or Gorham (12-2).

Unlike the 2015 squad, this spring’s team has had setbacks. The Dragons lost at Kennebunk 16-6 on a day Christian Glover was sick. They also lost twice to Messalonskee, once in the regular season and once in the KVAC championship (an exhibition game that doesn’t factor into team records).

“Last year’s team, lacrosse was the main sport for most of them,” senior attack Jameson Cyr said. “This year we have a lot more three-sport athletes so we needed to just focus on the basics more, like passing and ground balls.”

Coach Don Glover, a math teacher at Brunswick, uses an academic analogy to describe the difference between the 2015 and 2016 squads.

“Last year’s team, I was handed a calculus class. I just needed to make sure everything went perfectly fine and they would have taken care of themselves,” he said. “This year – nothing against the kids – I was back at Algebra I and we were needing to teach a lot of basic concepts.”

But Brunswick did have some foundational pieces, namely 10 varsity backups who were ready to step forward.

“If you think about it, all these backup players that we had they were playing every single day against those 16 seniors,” Christian Glover said. “It’s not like these kids weren’t getting good reps in practice. They were playing against the best players in the state at the time. So now when they come up this year it’s just another day.”

Glover is the rare long-stick midfielder who is a two-way threat. Most are defensive-centric players. Glover moves his hands up and down the stick shaft with a honky-tonk piano player’s dexterity. He’ll choke up on it to dodge around defenders and then deftly telescopes it to its full length to catapult dangerous, accurate shots at wary goalies.

Glover scored twice in Saturday’s 10-9 regional semifinal win against Cheverus.

Brunswick also benefits from the lacrosse tradition in town.

“We just know each other from growing up together and playing lax in the backyard,” said sophomore attack Max Gramins, who scored three goals in the regional semifinal. “We grew up watching all the varsity games and that just helps your IQ.”

“Many of us throughout the summer have definitely been working with wall ball,” defender Andrew Cilea said. “And we are definitely trying to improve every practice with our stick skills.”

The team is also well balanced.

Cilea, Jack Hladky and Nate Granholm – along with goalie Logan Ouellette – have formed a solid all-senior defensive unit that is adept at clearing the ball and starting transition opportunities.

“Instead of having to give it only to one certain guy who can clear the ball we have three defenders who are perfectly fine with carrying the ball,” Christian Glover said. “It helps a lot, definitely.”

Offensively, former backups Cyr and Josh Dorr have mixed with varsity newcomers Gramins, Ben Palizay and Aiden Glover to create a balanced offense that can score in a variety of ways.

Palizay displayed an extremely hard shot and scored two goals in the Cheverus win. Aiden Glover, a freshman and the youngest of Don Glover’s three sons, flashed high-level playmaking and finishing skills.

The coach also deserves some credit.

“Don (Glover) did a tremendous job preparing that team for this season,” said Cheverus Coach Bill Bodwell, who is also the Brunswick ice hockey coach. “They have a bunch of seniors and juniors who haven’t been able to play because they had those very good players ahead of them. They don’t have as much experience but they also are a very deep program so these kids waiting in the wings are very good athletes.”

Don Glover says the team’s collective effort has allowed the Dragons to exceed expectations.

“So many people around the state didn’t think we’d be playing (in the regional final) Wednesday and I, as a veteran coach, I wasn’t sure if we would be either,” he said. “But these guys, as a group of young men, young athletes, have just basically astounded me with what they wanted to achieve and their faith in each other.”