By Keith Wehmeyer
For Endicott College in Beverly Mass., the I-95 corridor from Maine has become a pipeline of women’s lacrosse talent.
Maine won’t be rivaling the Mid-Atlantic states for lacrosse supremacy anytime soon, but Endicott is enjoying ample success with the help of its friends from the north. With 10 of their 26 players, seven seniors and three underclassmen, from the Pine Tree State, the Gulls are vying for their fourth consecutive Commonwealth Coast Conference title.
Locally, there’s a trio of Mollys helping them get there; seniors Molly Hamel and Molly Moss, along with sophomore Molly Sowles.
Hamel and Sowles were teammates at Greely for two seasons.
Moss, who attended North Yarmouth Academy, and Hamel were familiar with each other on a different level. Hamel played goalie for the Rangers while Moss helped lead a powerful NYA offense.
“It was brutal,” said Hamel of their past matchups. “It was Molly versus Molly. I always looked forward to that game because I knew (Moss) was phenomenal and all I wanted to do was stop her.”
“She stopped a lot of my shots,” admitted Moss. “That’s what I remember. She is one person that always stood out on the other team. Coach would warn you about her.”
At Endicott, Moss moved to defense, playing with her back to Hamel instead of firing shots at her. Even after a high school rivalry, the transition from foe to friend, advisory to ally, wasn’t a difficult one for the Mollys.
“I like it better,” Moss said. “I like it a lot because I haven’t been used to having a goalie that communicates really well with defenders. Having (Hamel) out there, she is a really big voice on the field.
“I like only shooting on her in practice and not in the games, too.”
Head coach Meghan Fitzgerald was not a part of recruiting any of the Maine players –she is in her first season – but saw the Maine connection from the start.
“I didn’t know (Hamel and Moss) as seniors in high school or as recruits,” said Fitzgerald. “When they said they were rivals in high school, I was surprised. They have come together so nicely as a team. The Maine connection is really strong, especially with the seniors.”
Kate Colley of Wells, Katie Leighton of Saco, along with Sara Gunter, Samantha Morin and Hannah Pelletier, who all attended Kennebunk High School, join Hamel and Moss as senior starters for Endicott.
By comparison, the University of New England, the only Commonwealth Coast Conference school in Maine, has five Maine players to Endcott’s 10. Endicott is 5-2 this season, while UNE is 1-5.
Before the season began, Endicott was picked by Commonwealth Coast Conference coaches, again, to finish first.
Former coach Kate Mullen was the architect of the Mainer-laden squad. She grew up in Maine, playing lacrosse at Sanford High School, so when she took over as head coach in 2005, recruiting players from Maine schools came naturally. Her first recruiting class was the current batch of seniors.
“I was familiar with the Maine high school teams and felt like I could evaluate those types of players more readily knowing what their programs were like already,” Mullen said. “Quite a few of the girls showed interest in Endicott initially, anyway. It was a matter of following up with them and staying in touch with them through the admissions process and finding out if Endicott was a good fit for them or if they were a good fit for us.
“I think everything fell into place for me that year.”
Hamel was not initially part of the recruiting class. She wasn’t recruited by Mullen and, regardless, had no interest in the school. However, after spending her first semester at Elmira College, she called Mullen.
She transferred in time for the spring semester and before long was carpooling home with Moss and the other Mainers.
That spring, with seven freshman from Maine, Endicott went 17-3, at the time its best record ever, and won its first Commonwealth Coast Conference title.
“They are an unbelievable group of young women,” Mullen said. “Personality- and character-wise it was a no-brainer. The fact they all turned out to be starting players was great. It was just as much about their personality and attitudes as their abilities.”
This year, with that freshman class now seniors and with a new head coach, the Maine connection continues. Endicott played both Bowdoin and Colby Colleges as a part of their non-conference schedule this season. They fell in both contests, but with only one player from Massachusetts, the games in Maine provided a fitting homecoming for the Gulls.
Endicott even wore their white jerseys, typically reserved for home games, at Bowdoin.
“Its a different atmosphere (playing in Maine),” Hamel said. “This is our home state; its kind of like our home playing field.”
When the Gulls traveled to Bowdoin, they left campus early, leaving plenty of time for a stop at Travis Roy arena in Yarmouth. There, with the help of Hamel and Moss’ families, they threw a birthday party for Hamel.
A party with the Endicott womens’ lacrosse team, for a Greely grad, at NYA – for this team, it makes perfect sense.