It was a memorable year for the girls teams at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland.
It was capped by the softball team’s 11-6 win over Greenville on Saturday in the Class D state title game in Standish.
The girls soccer team was the top seed in the Class D North Heal Points standings and wound up 13-3 after losing to Madawaska in the semifinals.
The basketball team won the Class D North title before losing to Boothbay Region in the state championship game.
And in cheerleading, which is co-ed but is composed predominantly of girls, the Howlers were second to six-time state champ Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.
Several of the girls on the softball team play three sports.
“We’re really blessed with how competitive everybody is,” said ace pitcher Leine McKechnie, the Penobscot Valley Conference Class D softball Player of the Year.
McKechnie, who also plays soccer and basketball, said everybody has a favorite sport but they work just as hard in the other sports they play to ensure success.
“I know Lexi’s [Ireland] favorite sport is basketball and I go out and play hard for her in basketball because I know what it means to her,” McKechnie said. “And Lexi knows how much softball means to me so she goes out and gives 100 percent for me.”
Both girls came through for the Howlers, who finished at 19-1, in the softball playoffs.
Ireland, the first baseman, hit over .700 in the postseason including a 4-for-5 showing with four runs batted in during the 6-1 Class D North championship game win over Stearns of Millinocket and the state title triumph over Greenville.
McKechnie pitched a no-hitter against Stearns and allowed just nine runs in her four playoff victories.
For the softball team, it was its third consecutive state championship game appearance.
The Howlers ended Richmond’s 88-game winning streak in 2017 with a 4-0 victory. Greenville upended PVHS 4-3 in last year’s state game before the Howlers avenged the loss on Saturday.
“We have a real good group of girls who feed off each other,” said PVHS coach Pat Leonard. “They jell very well with one another, they get along. They work hard for one another.”
Leonard and McKechnie agreed that the team saved its best for last in the playoffs.
The Howlers outscored their four opponents 59-9.
“We’re a completely different team in the playoffs,” McKechnie said. “We compete at a whole new level.”
The hard-throwing McKechnie feels she has improved every season. This season, one of her points of emphasis was her location.
“I’m not going to throw much faster so I worked on hitting my spots all the time,” said McKechnie, who trained with pitching guru Rick Roberts on some new pitches.
“I’ve been working on my curve and my screwball. They’re slower than my fastball. I’m more of a side-to-side pitcher than an up-and-down pitcher,” said McKechnie, who likes to have an expanded arsenal when she has to face quality hitters.
McKechnie said this state championship felt better than the 2017 title.
“It was a completely different feeling. My freshman year, we didn’t think we had a chance against Richmond,” McKechnie said. “This was even greater because we got revenge. It was so heartbreaking last year.”
The future appears bright for the Howlers.
Second baseman Erynn Williams is the only starter who graduates off this year’s team, and there were only three junior starters in McKechnie, Ireland and right fielder Morgan Banks. Center fielder Emily St. Cyr, shortstop Kara Theriault, left fielder Emma Buck and third baseman Natalie Spencer were sophomores, and catcher Maggie LeBlanc was a freshman.
“It’s so exciting. We were really successful in sports this season, and we could have an awesome year next year,” McKechnie said.