A decade ago, for Deering’s Lauren Reid, one of the finest girls’ lacrosse players in the state of Maine, the concept of playing out of season or having the chance to display her game in front of coaches from elite programs out of state was virtually unheard of.
“I had really great coaches and there were a ton of great athletes from Maine, just like other states, but there just wasn’t a platform to develop the way we deserved to,” Reid said.
Fast forward to 2012.
Reid, who spent a year at the University of Maryland, earning a trip to the Final Four in the process, before playing at the University of Massachusetts, is now in her fifth year as head coach at the University of Southern Maine. She is also the high school girls’ director of the Maineiax Lacrosse program, which provides exactly the opportunities Reid once lacked.
Reid, along with USM men’s coach and high school boys’ director Sam Lane, Cape Elizabeth varsity girls’ coach and executive director Jeff Perkins and several more of the top coaches in the area, are ensuring that local girls and boys can play all year and have a chance to make their college dreams come true.
The Maineiax lacrosse program has positioned itself as the most comprehensive program for the serious player, as well as those who just want to better their games.
Per its website, maineiax.com, Maineiax Lacrosse is committed to the development and growth of Maine lacrosse, providing a full spectrum of programs from instructional clinics, camps and private lessons to recruiting services and tournament teams, while offering the best coaching Maine has to offer to all players, ages 9-18.
“A lot of kids play soccer and hockey year-round, but lacrosse really hasn’t been offered in Maine, in one spot, year-round,” said Reid. “We offer you a la carte what you’re looking for, whether it’s instruction, pickup leagues, or trying out for a premier team that will go to recruiting showcases in the summer and fall as well. It’s important for kids who are taking lacrosse more seriously and if it’s becoming their first sport, helping them take it to the next level.”
Perkins, who was named The Forecaster’s Spring 2012 Southern edition Coach of the Year after leading Cape Elizabeth to a perfect regular season and the Western B Final, explained that Maineiax started from humble origins a few years ago but quickly mushroomed into something big.
“We were looking around and parents got together and we put a couple teams together,” Perkins said. “We studied soccer programs from a club standpoint. We started with three boys’ teams and two girls’ teams. Youth teams. No high school at that time. That group has gone through and graduated. The 2012 boys were our first and oldest club team. As it grew, we went from five teams to 11 or 12. If we were going to do it, we knew we had to be better than what had been offered before. It’s all about the coaching and giving the ability to showcase the kids.”
Lane grew up in Fairfield, Conn., an area with more of a lacrosse culture in place, and played at Washington College, a Division III school in Maryland, before coming to USM. Lane hoped to create a club program in Maine, but discovered Maineiax and quickly got involved.
“Maine is so far behind everyone else,” Lane said. “The coaching isn’t there yet. That’s something we want to change. In other states, hotbeds, kids have year-round lacrosse. Fundamentals are perfect and kids are getting recruited. There’s no reason why Maine shouldn’t have that. Our year-round programs, combined with our coaching, will get kids get up to speed. We have year-round indoor and outdoor offerings, Sunday leagues, tournaments, clinics, private instruction.
“Ideally we want 20 kids on every club team. We want to have two teams at each group. We aim to have 50 kids at each camp. We want to have 100 kids on Sunday nights. It’s somewhat small compared to other clubs, but for Maine, it’s the leading club.”
The fruits of the program’s labor produced some of the finest high school players in the state last spring.
Both girls’ All-Americans (Cape Elizabeth’s Lauren Steidl and Falmouth’s Alex Bernier) and six of the eight boys’ All-Americans (Cape Elizabeth’s Timmy Lavallee, Deering’s Karl Rickett, Falmouth’s Mike Ryan, Willy Sipperly and Mitch Tapley and Scarborough’s John Wheeler) also represented the club. Additionally, seven of 12 Western Maine Conference girls’ all-stars and eight of 12 boys’ all-stars also called Maineiax home.
While that excellence is something the program touts, it also appeals to the less accomplished player with its offerings and coaching (a list which includes current and former varsity coaches like Cape Elizabeth’s Ben Raymond, Molly Moss and Jeff Thoreck, Scarborough’s Joe Hezlep and Marcia Wood and South Portland’s Tom Fiorini).
Kait Johnson, who played at U. Mass and Vermont and led Portland High’s girls’ team to a program-best 10 wins last spring, stressed that the coaches’ approach helps make Maineiax stand out.
“It’s different from other club teams,” said Johnson. “You’ll go tournaments and hear coaches say something like, ‘Number 22 sub for number 42.’ We really get to know the girls and their families and what they want out of it. If they want to go D3, we help them do that. If they want to do D1, we help with that. If they don’t want to play in college, we offer support for their high school season. It’s geared toward the individual. We watch them grow.”
Maineiax travel teams have really impressed of late.
“Five years ago, we were losing 20-2,” Perkins said. “Now, we’re winning tournaments. The U-15 girls won two tournaments and lost in the finals of another. Our 2013 team lost two games all season and made it to the championship game. It’s come a long way. We used to get slaughtered. Now we get coaches calling us interested in our players.”
The program’s camps are another calling card.
“It’s really about growing the sport through the Maineiax name and the camp part is huge,” Perkins said. “Next year it will explode. We had over 200 boys and girls in the summer. We had a team in every age group. We had two teams in the 13 boys’ age group. It’s catching on and growing. The hard part for all of us is figuring out what’s the right number.”
Maineiax is even taking its camps on the road in an additional effort to grow the sport in the state. Camps were held in Gorham and Wells this summer and more are expected in 2013.
“We have satellite camps, going out to towns who don’t have a great feeder program,” Reid said. “We’re putting ourselves out there. We’re happy to travel to towns and provide a place for kids to try lacrosse at a good rate. If they don’t have a stick, we’ll give them one for the camp. We want to grow the sport.”
For the elite players, there is the option to use Maineiax as a tool for playing at the collegiate level.
“It’s open to everybody, but it’s a great tool for kids who want to play in college,” Lane said. “The recruiting piece is such a whirlwind for kids. Having coaches as a connection to ask question is important. High school kids are playing for college coaches. Middle school kids are playing for high school varsity coaches. They’re getting a peek at the next level.”
At the end of the day, Maineiax gives and receives and has allowed Reid to come full circle.
“Being part of Maineiax helps get the USM name out as a great place to play in Maine,” Reid said.” I’ve reaped the benefits of giving back to the community. It’s been a very fulfilling job for me.”
For more on Maineiax Lacrosse, visit maineiax.com.
The Maineiax 2016 girls’ team won their bracket championship at the Crimson Tournament at Harvard University this summer.
Girls (and boys) just want to have fun and the Maineiax program offers that up, in addition to top-level instruction and playing opportunities.