WINSLOW — The hottest day of the summer served as an antithetical but not unexpected setting for the start of fall sports for high school teams around the state.

Central Maine soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf teams battled temperatures approaching 90 degrees, usually through double sessions, as schools across the state opened practices in preparation for the fall season, which begins the first week of September.

Many of the Winslow girls soccer players already know new coach Steve Bodge quite well, having played softball for him the last two years. With 34 girls scattered across Kennebec Savings Bank Field for the Black Raiders’ initial practice Monday afternoon, Bodge was glad to have a head start on introductions.

“That’s pretty exciting, to be at a new place and actually know some kids,” said Bodge, whose coaching resume also includes a stint coaching Monmouth Academy girls soccer. “Most of the time, new coaches will take the first three days just to figure out who the people are.”

Bodge spent the last four years coaching Skowhegan girls soccer, increasing participation despite competition from the powerhouse field hockey program. At Winslow, he’s eager to help the Black Raiders take the next step after finishing ninth in Eastern Class B last year and losing to Caribou in the preliminary round.

“Nice numbers, real nice numbers,” Bodge said. “I’m really happy with that. I don’t have to cut, first of all. And I’ve got enough uniforms for everybody.”

Senior goalkeeper Hillary Libby, who pitched for Bodge last spring, said the Raiders are ready to start fresh with their new coach.

“He does expect a lot. He expects us to always put in our best effort, everyone as a whole, not just individuals that he already knows. He wants everyone to do their best,” Libby said.

The preseason is a time to start developing roles and rotations and developing new identities for the new season. Scoring proved to be a thorn in the Raiders’ side during their 6-9 campaign last year, but Libby is encouraged by the offensive production she saw during summer soccer.

“We played a lot of games over the summer and as a whole, we played very well together,” Libby said. “Hopefully, that plays out during the season and everyone works with each other.”

Bodge, who got a chance to lay some of the groundwork for this season during those July sessions, kept Monday’s practice low-key and light-hearted in the heat. Many teams hold morning and afternoon sessions this week, but Bodge packed the Black Raiders’ activities into one three-hour late afternoon/early evening session.

While KSB Field offers little shade for the players to get a break from the steamy sun, a couple of miles north at the high school, the defending Class C state field hockey champions had plenty of shady spots in which to work on conditioning to kick off their title defense.

Coach Mary Beth Bourgoin’s team will be busy with double sessions throughout the week leading up to Saturday, when it will host a play date at the high school involving 22 teams from around the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. The Black Raiders’ home-opener is two weeks later against MCI. They open the season at Belfast on Sep. 3, so the last thing Bourgoin wanted was to overdo it on the first day.

“We try to get most of the conditioning in the morning when it’s cooler and more towards the beginning of practice than the end,” Bourgoin said.

Monmouth Academy girls soccer coach Gary Trafton gave his players plenty of water breaks and had a bottle of cold water ready to spray any time someone needed to cool off during his team’s early morning and late afternoon sessions. But the Mustangs knew not to expect a leisurely practice in the sultry conditions, especially with the annual conditioning run in the morning session.

“I gave them all times to run in the mile,” Trafton said. “There were quite a few that got the time that they needed or they just missed it by two seconds. I think they came in in better shape overall.”

Trafton still reminded his players that even though they hope their season ends in the chill of November, much of their success depends on how prepared they are for the steamy conditions they encountered Monday.

“I told the girls that last year the game that we opened up at Mountain Valley was just like this. Mountain Valley was tired and we weren’t,” he said.

The more seasoned veterans on the team knew the heat would test them right away and started preparing for it several days ago.

“Usually the first double session of the day is pretty hard,” senior Sammy Grandahl said. “You’ve got to drink a lot of water. I started drinking a lot of water, like, Saturday. Then Sunday I drank even more and you’ve got to add in some Gatorade.”

The Mustangs lost two seniors and a handful of other players to injury, transfer and other factors from last year’s 12-2-1 team but return a potent offense led by senior Sidney Wilson and junior Haley Fletcher.

“The goal is to be as successful scoring as we were last year, but not to always depend on offense because it comes down to defense,” senior Mikayla Cameron said.

“Hopefully, we can avoid some injuries,” Wilson said.

 

Athletes kicking off their field hockey, soccer, cross country and football seasons might have been envious of the more leisurely pace their peers playing golf enjoyed for their first day of practice, but the heat was still a concern for those hitting the links Monday. Winthrop coach Lonney Steeves kept a close eye on members of the defending Class C champion Winthrop golf team, even though they had the luxury of retiring to an air-conditioned clubhouse after nine practice holes in the mid-day sun at Springbrook Golf Club in Maine.

“I had a cooler of water and chased them around to make sure they had something to drink,” he said. “They were all pretty chipper when they got done today, but I told them to make sure to get some water when they got home and do the same thing tomorrow morning.”

The Ramblers lost a number of key contributors to their title, including Taylor Morang, Adam Hachey and Ben Caprara, but hope always springs eternal, even on the unofficial first day of fall.

“We want to defend our title. We want to at least give it a spirited defense,” said Steeves, whose team will be led by senior Anthony Owens when it opens its season Sep. 9.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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