THE BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL boys lacrosse team celebrates after downing South Portland last season in the State Class A championship in Portland. The Dragons held their first practice of the spring season on Monday.

THE BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL boys lacrosse team celebrates after downing South Portland last season in the State Class A championship in Portland. The Dragons held their first practice of the spring season on Monday.

TOPSHAM

Heading into last season, you didn’t need to ask the Brunswick boys lacrosse team about their hunger — after a 2014 10-8 loss to South Portland in the Class A state title game, the Dragons had one thing in mind.

MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL softball players listen to co-coach Al Graffam’s hitting instruction during the first spring practice in the Eagles’ gym on Monday.

MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL softball players listen to co-coach Al Graffam’s hitting instruction during the first spring practice in the Eagles’ gym on Monday.

But this season, the team has a state title of its own (a 13- 9 win over the Red Riots in the 2015 rematch) and the players will be hungry for a repeat.

Brunswick graduated 16 seniors from last year’s team, but despite the turnover, there won’t be as many new faces on the varsity squad as one might think. At tryouts and practice this week, a new group of players will be emerging — players just as hungry as last year’s group.

SAMANTHA GONYEA of the Mt. Ararat softball team hits off the tee during batting practice.

SAMANTHA GONYEA of the Mt. Ararat softball team hits off the tee during batting practice.

“There’s a lot of incredible athletes and pretty good lacrosse players that I have coming up now and the desire is there,” coach Brunswick coach Don Glover said. “They’ve just been waiting so they can put their mark into the program. After one day of tryouts, the enthusiasm was excellent.”

This week, Glover and his coaching staff will run a full week of tryouts. Monday, in the gym, focused on physical tests, and today will be centered around play as they dwindle down to one list of players. On Wednesday, the team will play a full-field domed scrimmage leading into the weekend, where they’ll travel to Yarmouth to play against several top squads from New Hampshire, along with teams from Maine.

As he begins this season, Glover recognizes just how special last year’s team was.

“That was an exceptional class that came through,” he said. “That was my oldest son’s (Cam) group of friends and lacrosse was their main sport — they loved it. They moved on, and a bunch of them are playing in college and it was awesome.”

But Glover also said the big group of seniors was a tricky scenario, because it limited the playing time of other more-than-capable sophomores and juniors on the roster.

“Realistically, we had a cluster of sophomores and juniors last year that could have been contributors on the majority of the varsity programs throughout the state,” he said. “They got kind of boxed out of this.”

Now, it’ll be those players stepping up this season, with 19 new roster spots available. Glover said that graduating 16 seniors and having that many players leave can kill a program, but not at Brunswick. For the Dragons, the changeover merely means the door is open.

“It’s just a test of the program and our coaching ability this year,” Glover said. “I’ve been very blessed to have incredible alumni and incredible parent support. The administration has been extremely supportive.”

Brunswick has three full squads, two jayvee and one varsity, and Glover says that it plays a large role in the program’s success. Out of 54 total kids going out for lacrosse this year, 22 are freshman. Despite a lot of players departing, the interest in Brunswick lacrosse is as high as ever, and new players are starting at a young age.

“That enables us to really develop kids and put them into competitive positions relatively quickly,” Glover said.

As for this season, the goals for the Dragons remain the same — get to the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship game and play in the final playoff game of the season. Glover said that even with two straight state title game appearances, the expectations haven’t changed a bit.

“We never really put a ‘we want to win a state championship,’” he said. “That’s too much. We want to be in those two games — that’s our benchmark. Those are big goals for us, but we’ll come out swinging.”

The key players for Brunswick start in goal with senior Logan Ouellette. Glover said “he’s been a backup for a long time, and he’s anxious to just step out and finish his high school career.” Andrew Cliea, “a great athlete,” will return on defense, while Nate Granholm is a senior “who has great leadership.” Cole Hillis is another “great athlete,” and Christian Glover is “just a good lacrosse player, period!” that will be used in a number of different roles on the field.

Josh Clark, Jameson Cyr and Connor O’Shea are what Glover calls “short-stick leaders” and will run the offense for the Dragons. The three are a prime example of quality players waiting behind seniors for their chance. Josh Dorr and Caryle Boyle are two more returning players, while Ben Palizay (a football and hockey player) and Henry Doherdy (a soccer player) are two of many multi-sport athletes that will see playing time for Glover.

Eagles softball

It’s another season and another young team for Mt. Ararat softball, which had its first full-squad practice on Monday. The Eagles bring back a lot of familiar faces and will be looking to build off a successful season and a trip to the playoffs last year.

Rain forced the team inside the gym on Monday, but there was still plenty to work on. After a brief warm-up toss, the Eagles were split into three groups across the gym floor.

In one group, co-coach Brooke Cox set up bases and had the players fielding ground balls and throwing around the diamond. Players rotated around through different drills and situations. In the middle of floor, the girls tracked back to field pop flys before throwing to a teammate at the other end. The Eagles also rotated in line while fielding longer ground balls that simulated play from the outfield.

Finally, on the far end of the gym, co-coach Al Graffam set up netted batting cages and dropped softballs into an automatic pitching machine for batting practice. While the other Eagles waited, they hit off batting tees on the side, working on one-armed swings and other techniques.

For Graffam, this week is about easing back into softball, and he’s looking for one thing from the players for now.

“Skills,” he said. “Just looking at infield, outfield, hitting skills. With the hitting, we’ve got the cage set pretty slow. “

Senior Sara Lamb, also a standout on the Mt. Ararat girls basketball team, is the Eagles’ captain this year, and she says the team is working on “eye contact, footwork, accuracy on throws, just basic skills” right now.

Lamb also noted that she and her teammates have to be extra careful when they’re in the gym — one, because of the bouncy surface and two because of the new season.

“A lot of people don’t play year round, so their arms get really sore. A lot of injuries happen this week, so it’s really important for us to just take our time getting loosened up,” Lamb said.

Graffam noted his team is going to be made up of mostly sophomores and juniors, and they “aren’t going to sneak up on anyone with their youngness anymore.” But, most of the players have been playing since their freshman year, and he said it will come down to pitching.

Alana Weaver will be a key arm for Eagles, as they’ll be down a player after a transfer to St. Dom’s.

Other key players for Mt. Ararat include Katelyn Cox at shortstop, Kate Guerin at first base, Zoe Stilphin at third base, and Bell Benner in center field. Graffam said that Kayleigh Temple behind the plate is “a real coach on the field.”

“Those are all kids that played last year and should be ready to jump right in,” Graffam said. “We really didn’t have much of a senior presence last year, so Sarah (Lamb) will be a big leader.”

According to Graffam, the varsity roster is almost set, with a few outfield positions up for grabs. The infield will look similar to last season. Lamb is hoping that last year’s experience will allow the team to make another run at the postseason.

“I just really want to make it back to the playoffs,” Lamb said. “We made it to the first round and lost to Messalonskee — they were a good team, so hopefully we get to play them again and just go further this year.”


Comments are not available on this story.