It’s often said new seasons bring new faces, as the next batch of contributors replace the ones from yesterday.

Some teams, the fortunate ones anyway, return an abundance of talented players that usher in lofty expectations, even in the early going.

For a pair of championship soccer teams — the Richmond girls and Messalonskee boys — the opening of the fall sports season meant a little of both.

“We expect to be successful,” said Messalonskee boys soccer coach Tom Sheridan, whose team won the Eastern A championship last fall. “The last two seasons, we’ve been really, really good. Last season is last season, though.”

The fall high school season began Monday, when golf, field hockey, cross country, soccer and football teams all practiced in preparation for season openers that are less than three weeks away.

About 40 players came out Monday for the Eagles, who finished 13-3-2 last season.

Messalonskee graduated several key players from that team, including Nate DelGiudice and Chris Hall, but return enough talent to make it a formidable foe yet again.

Sheridan said the focus this first week is acclimating the newcomers.

“We have a lot of freshmen out,” he said. We need to get everyone on the same page. We do have a number of kids returning, which is nice. They have that confidence because they’ve been there before. We’ll continue to play the same style. We’re exciting to get going.”

So, too, are the Richmond girls, who enter this season looking to plug a few up holes in key positions.
Danica Hurley scored 38 goals last season and 104 in her four-year career. She will play at the University of Maine this season. Goalie Lindsy Hoopingarner also graduated and will play at Thomas College this season.

“They were both great players but we do return seven of our 11 starters,” said Richmond coach Troy Kendrick.

Elsewhere Monday, the Skowhegan field hockey team opened with what coach Paula Doughty termed an “organizational day.”

“The first day there is a lot of paperwork,” she said. “It’s a lot different than how it was 40 years ago. We always go a little longer on the first day so we can go over expectations, the athletic code. (Today), we’ll get down to business.”

Doughty, whose Indians have won 10 of the last 11 Class A state titles, added that she’ll spend the first week evaluating players to see who will fit where.

“I’m a creature of habit,” she said. “It will be the same old, same old. The first week there is a lot of conditioning. We’ll evaluate kids to see where they’ve come over the summer. There will be good surprises and not so good surprised. It’s a whole new team this year and it will take time to get to know each other.”

The Lawrence football team wasted little time delving into the season. The defending Pine Tree Conference Class A champs had 50 players show Monday.

“We feel this is a great time to install a lot of things,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said. “Since we can’t be in full pads until Friday (Maine Principals’ Association rule) we do a lot of installing and teaching systems. When we get into Thursday, Friday we can start getting focused on contact.”

Hersom said the Bulldogs return as many as eight starters on each side of the ball.

“The strength of our team will be in our skill positions,” he said. “We have a lot of depth there. We don’t seem to be real deep on either side of the ball, but the skill position players, we’ll be pretty talented and deep. We’re ready to get going.”

Waterville girls soccer coach Ian Wilson said his first day involved a fitness test for his players.

“It serves two purposes,” he said. “No. 1, we have varsity tryouts so it’s to see who is fit and who worked in the summer. No. 2, we repeat the test in three weeks and most kids see improvement. When kids see improvement, it builds confidence.”

The Purple Panthers, who reached the Eastern A semifinals last season, feature 18 freshmen and sophomores, forcing Wilson to change his approach this week.

“It will be very much technical skills,” he said. “I’ll probably spend a lot of time reinforcing those for awhile. Some years, when we are heavy with juniors and seniors, we might gloss over that and move on to tactical stuff earlier. We’ll see how this goes.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640
[email protected]

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