Thornton Academy field hockey coach Lori Smith thought she still had some more years ahead of her on the sideline. That’s why she spent hours this summer earning her USA Field Hockey coaching certification.

Lori Smith is stepping down after 25 seasons as the field hockey coach at Thornton Academy. Her teams made 18 Class A tournaments. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

But then the end of summer and fall came, the hours of coaching and teaching work piled up, and Smith knew the time had come to make a change.

“It was just really hard to find that balance, and once I started thinking about it a couple of weeks in, I thought ‘This is going to be it,'” she said. “Something has to give.”

Smith is stepping down after 25 seasons as the Golden Trojans’ head coach, one of three longtime high school field hockey coaches in southern Maine who are retiring. She joins Michele Martin-Moore, who is leaving after 22 years at Massabesic, and Beth Arsenault, who is stepping down after 23 years leading Portland and the Portland/Deering co-op team.

“(It’s) right on the heels of Diana Walker (at Sanford) last year, (Westbrook’s) Beth Murphy a few years ago,” Arsenault said of the coaches retiring. “It is a little bit of a changing of the guard, for sure.”

Smith, 52, took over at Thornton in 1996, with a two-year hiatus from 2000-01. She’s also served on the Maine Field Hockey Association board of directors and is the northern New England chair for the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association.


“There are things I am going to miss about it, and the biggest thing is the relationship with kids,” said Smith, an arts teacher at the high school. “I won’t miss the grind. And it is a grind.”

From 2008 on, excluding 2020, the Trojans had winning seasons 12 of 14 years. Her teams made the Class A South semifinals four times, and the Trojans reached the regional final in 2015.

“They were easy,” Smith said of her 2015 team. “They were skilled, and so practice planning was easy. I knew pretty much any drill I threw at them, they could figure it out quickly and do it.”

Smith said she’ll miss leading a team that was typically in the postseason fray.

“I’m just a competitive person,” she said. “That’ll be one aspect that’s missing in my life.”

Martin-Moore began talking with her assistants about retiring after the 2021 season.


“It’s been a fun ride, it really has been. It’s just time to move on,” said Martin-Moore, 59, a math teacher at Massabesic. “I’m a couple of years from retiring from school itself, so kind of dialing it back makes sense.”

Michele Martin-Moore’s field hockey teams at Massabesic made it to the postseason 11 straight years. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Martin-Moore recalled an early win in which the Mustangs rallied to beat Bonny Eagle and Coach Faith Littlefield, whom Martin-Moore referred to as “the Paula Doughty of the south,” on a last-second goal.

“That was my first real ‘You made it, kid’ (victory),” she said. “(Referee) Denise Morin to this today reminds me of that game.”

Martin-Moore’s teams had 12 winning seasons and made five regional semifinals and three regional finals. Her 2016 team reached the state championship game.

There was a lull from 2004-09, when Massabesic had six straight losing seasons. But the freshman class in 2010 was strong and helped kickstart a run of 11 straight postseason berths.

“I would come after games and just be in tears, wondering ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ Then I got that special group,” she said. “Those kids changed my coaching for the better.”


The results, however, weren’t the most important thing.

“The thing I’m going to miss the most is helping not just player development, but developing the person,” she said.

Few coaches got more out of field hockey than Arsenault, who ended up adopting one of her players, 2016 graduate Gianna Romano.

“It’s kind of hard to not look at that and say that field hockey has been pretty amazing for me,” Arsenault said. “Field hockey will always have an incredible place in my life.”

Coach Beth Arsenault addresses the newly formed Portland/Deering field hockey co-op team in August 2019. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Arsenault, 53, left an imprint on the sport by organizing the SMAA play day in 2002, which brought all of the member teams together in the preseason for an all-day slate of games.

“It was really about saying ‘This is our league,'” she said. “It became something that just was a given for SMAA teams to do. I’m very proud of it.”


Arsenault’s teams rarely got the year-round field hockey players that other programs did.

“I often would have teams that had almost a 50-50 split between kids who played the sport and kids who were like ‘I heard you don’t make cuts, and you’ll teach me how to play,'” she said. “But it was a blast to have that. You don’t win a lot of games that way, but you meet a lot of amazing human beings.”

There were highlights on the field. In her first season, the Bulldogs beat Thornton to end a 29-game losing streak. And in 2011, Portland reached the regional final.

“When your summer gets relegated to basically two weeks, it’s a big imposition. So I’m not going to miss that,” she said. “But am I going to miss showing up and seeing those girls and meeting a whole new set every year? I’m going to miss that immensely.”

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