The Mount View High School softball team had a down year in 2010, finishing near the bottom in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Eastern Class B standings. The good news for the Mustangs is there is plenty of room for improvement, which they plan to do in 2011.

Led by veteran coach Mike Gagnon, now in his 10th season leading the squad, the Mustangs hope to stay competitive with the rest of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B division and improve on their win total from last season.

Mount View lost to rival Belfast 9-3 in a season- and home-opening game April 22.

“I know where we are, but I think this team can really do well if we just work hard and stay focused,” Gagnon said. “Ultimately, we just want to be a real competitive team and whichever way the ball bounces we’ll take it.”

Team members include seniors Channing Murphy (shortstop), Brianna Moody (outfield), Amanda Hall (third base) and Vicki Lufkin (catcher); juniors LeeAnn Larrabee (outfield), Wendy Gibbs (second base), Amanda Larrabee (first base), Hailey Giggey (pitcher) and Fran Stevens (infield, outfield); sophomore Brittany Masessa (outfield); and freshmen Alex Fowler (pitcher) and Shania Gilley (catcher).

Lost to graduation from last year’s squad were Terri Belcher, Aloina Horton, Rachel Andrews and Danielle Ludden. Both Belcher and Andrews were VillageSoup softball notables last year.

Last season, the Mustangs finished with a record of 2-14 and 18th among 19 teams in Eastern Class B, failing to qualify for postseason play.

Coach Gagnon said he feels he and his team may have set goals that were too lofty last season in trying to make the playoffs, which may have led to the Mustangs’ downfall. Rather than paint the plans for the entire season with one broad stroke, this spring he plans to go pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning and game-by-game.

“I think we stretched our reality last year,” he said. “We had a team that thought they were going to do something but didn’t really put any effort in and didn’t go anywhere. This team remembers that and they don’t want to be there again.”

After stumbling a bit in their first scrimmage of the year, Mount View rebounded and began to play well as a team in its next few contests.

“One of the high points for this team is that they’re very coachable and they’ve very much been working hard together,” he said. “I mean, our first scrimmage against Madison to the Belfast play day were apples and oranges. They’ve really taken things and gone forward with them.”

Murphy tore ligaments in her ankle during her sophomore year prior to softball season in a basketball tournament, which Gagnon feels she may not have been fully recovered from even last season as a junior. However, this year Murphy appears healthy to Gagnon and is making the transition from first base to shortstop with ease, filling the void left by the departing Belcher.

“I don’t think she ever really healed, though I don’t think she wanted to admit that,” he said. “But she’s healed and focused and taking on a new role this year. Moving to shortstop is something she’s never done before, and she’s handling it very well.”

He added that as a freshman Gilley has a lot of potential, which he hopes she can get a handle on and “be able to handle being a freshman playing with a bunch of seniors.” Hall also has impressed in the early going, along with Gibbs, a first-year varsity player who appears to have found herself a home at second base.

Gagnon said above all else, his team will benefit from more game time in the field, adapting to game situations and “being able to anticipate what happens next.” He added there are many talented teams in the KVAC this year, but added he feels the conference is wide open and “there for somebody to step up and take it.”

The veteran coach was mum on any team goals this season, other than working hard each game and staying focused.

“I have a goal in my head as far as a number where I’d like to be, but continually improving on things we did wrong every week will be the key,” the coach said. “And if we can do that, we will be competitive.”

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.