WATERBORO — Michele Martin-Moore looks over to the Massabesic High athletic complex, still under construction, and thinks about what can happen. The facility includes a new artificial turf surface that could be a huge boost to a field hockey program that has been on the verge of joining the elite teams of Class A South for several years.

“We have quickness; we are the Mustangs after all,” she said with a smile. “I think it will complement our style once we get used to how to take advantage of it.”

Throughout the preseason, the players practiced on their traditional grass field while construction continued on the new facility. And that’s OK right now. They believe it will make them better once they get onto the turf.

“It helps slow down the game so we can learn it,” said Emma Desrochers, a senior link and captain. “We have to use our stick skills a lot more, and the ball has to stay closer to your stick on grass because it’s not always going to go where you want it to go. On grass, you have to really focus on keeping the ball close to the stick and moving it.”

But Desrochers, like her teammates, can’t wait to get on the turf.

“It’s a whole different game,” she said. “The ball moves a lot faster, you have to move your feet faster. You can do different moves that you can’t do on grass. It’s more predictable where the ball’s going. On grass, you really have no clue sometimes when you hit it where it’s going to end up.”

The Mustangs advanced to the regional final in 2013 but haven’t made it out of the quarterfinals in any other year since 2010. Martin-Moore said this year’s team has “the most depth I’ve ever had by far … I truly think we’re ready to make that splash this year.”

Other coaches agree the Mustangs should be among the best teams in the region. And they believe the turf will make a difference.

“It makes an enormous difference,” said Scarborough Coach Kerry Mariello. “The game is as predictable as can be on turf. You’re able to make moves without thinking about the other elements and factors that grass brings into the game. It’s a much cleaner game and you have more success because of that. Then you have more confidence and that snowballs into more success.”

Scarborough has played on turf since 2006. Since then the Red Storm have won five regional and two state championships.

Thornton Academy in Saco is another program that has prospered on turf, which was installed in 2010. Before that, the Trojans had three winning seasons in 16 years. Since then, they’ve have five winning seasons, advanced to the playoffs each year and won a regional championship last fall.

Thornton Coach Lori Smith said her players are more fit and better skilled because of the turf.

“I don’t (have the players) do a ton of running without a stick because the ball moves faster on turf,” she said. “Playing on turf gets us into shape quicker.

“Skill development-wise, I just think players can learn how to do a skill correctly on a better surface. I think they feel success quicker, don’t get as frustrated, and that leads to being more confident.”

The Mustangs don’t believe it will take long to adjust. Many of the players are involved in offseason programs that play on turf. The biggest effect the turf will have may be in their attitude.

“It just gives off good energy,” said Emma Rutledge, a junior forward who was the team’s leading scorer last year. “Every athlete here now wants to play on it.”

That attitude is important, said Martin-Moore, who added that the Mustangs have had the skill to compete for years.

“I think it’s just a mental block of being able to push through and get to that next step,” she said. “They’ve all been playing a lot in the offseason. They had great success indoors. I think they’re more confident in themselves and their skills, and their teammates.”

“I feel there’s something special this year that I haven’t felt in the past,” said Desrochers. “So I’m real excited. There’s just this feeling of teamwork. It’s unique, the way we practice and the way we play, and the way we hang out with each other after practice. We’re excited to see each other and we’re excited to be here.”

Colby Williams, a senior midfielder, is returning after missing all of last year because of a knee injury, though she attended every practice and game “in my blue lawn chair.”

She senses a new attitude as well. “There’s no cattiness,” she said. “We kind of look at each other as all being on the same level. We know how to have a good time but still get the work done. So that makes it enjoyable at the end.”

Three juniors will figure prominently for the Mustangs. Sarah Stonehouse didn’t play last year but is back at center midfield. Logan Champlin adds scoring punch and Morgan Pike is a top defender.

“We need to do our thing,” said Rutledge. “Play how we play, with the heart and everything, and we can do it.”


1. Thornton Academy: The Trojans graduated their two best players but return 12 players from the Class A state runner-up. Junior Taylor Ouellette scored 16 goals last year and should have help from Emma Dutremble (seven goals) and a deep forward line. Ali Ouellette, Grace Decker, Sidney Hurst and goalie Isabella Capozzi head the defense.

2. Scarborough: The Red Storm have nine seniors, many of whom played on the 2014 Class A state championship team, so they know what it takes to win. Lily Nygren heads up the offense, which has a lot of versatility and depth. Kristen Levesque and Ashley Levesque help in many different ways. Annika Batista and Edie Frederick provide depth throughout the field. Victoria Timm is back healthy to lead the defense.

3. York: The two-time defending Class B champs have won 36 consecutive games and are ready for another run, led by senior midfielder Lily Posternak, who has 55 career goals and is considered the best player in the state. She’s surrounded by a lot of talent, including senior midfielder Izzy Bretz, senior back Allie Lawlor, junior forward Sydney Bouchard and sophomore midfielder Emlyn Patry.

4. Massabesic: The Mustangs have the talent and experience to play with anyone. Emma Rutledge and Logan Champlin should be among the top scorers, Emma Desrochers is a steadying influence in midfield, and Sarah Stonehouse and Morgan Pike are strong defensively. Midfielder Colby Williams returns after missing last year (knee injury), giving the Mustangs another standout player.

5. Marshwood: Sometimes overlooked, the Hawks have one of the best programs around. Marshwood returns an experienced crew from last year’s Class A South quarterfinal team, including seniors Hannah Costin (11 goals, five assists) in the midfield and Elaine Bachelder on defense. Senior goalie Shannon Giblin is also back, and sophomores Celine Lawrence and Leah Glidden should help the offense.

6. Yarmouth: A new coach, Amy Ashley (formerly of Cheverus), takes over an experienced (10 seniors) and talented crew looking to get past last year’s Class B South quarterfinal loss. Abby McDowell is a clutch scorer, and her twin sister, Nicole, is strong in the midfield. Senior Taylor Robison is back on defense. Molly Wilson, Eliza Hunt, Ally MacLeod and Emilie Martin add to the forward line.

7. Falmouth: The Yachtsmen lost only four players from last year’s Class A South quarterfinal team. They should have a balanced offense, led by Sydney Bell, Devon Sarazin, Bella Libby and Kate Kelley. Midfielders Maddie Rouhana and Lisa Smoluk are very steady, and Olivia Stucker and Mary Budri anchor the defensive.

8. Cheverus: The Stags have a new coach (Sally Cloutier) and lost key players. But last year’s Class A South finalist has a lot back, led by sophomore forward Sophia Pompeo, a top scorer. Junior Hannah Abbott and sophomore Bella Booth should provide more scoring, and seniors Charlotte Noyes and Carrie Hight are leaders. Junior Kat Kane returns in goal.

9. Kennebunk: The Rams have the talent to contend in a tough Western Maine Conference. Liv Kudas, back for a fourth year, is one of the best goalies in the league. Junior twin forwards Brittany and Lindsey Gregoire key what may be a strong offense, and senior Allie Gregoire steadies midfield. Senior Grace Grenier is a very good back.

10. Biddeford: Looking for a darkhorse team? The Tigers are young but return eight starters. Senior four-year starter Amber Magnant will head up the midfield with junior Peyton McKeown. Sophomore goalie Taylor Wildes is back, and the forward line will be headed by sophomores Hailey Allen (seven goals) and Paige Laverriere (six goals).

– Mike Lowe