MONMOUTH — It was the start of a new season for the Monmouth Academy girls basketball team. And a new era.

The Mustangs gathered Monday evening for their first practice of the season, and their first practice without coach Scott Wing after he was dismissed shortly before the season began.

The news caused a splash in the high school basketball scene, particularly since the Mustangs’ last two years under Wing resulted in Class C state championships.

Monmouth athletic director Wade Morrill declined comment Monday as to why Wing was abruptly relieved of his coaching duties.

Calls to RSU2 superintendent William Zima and Monmouth principal Rick Amero were not returned Monday. Wing has also declined comment, only saying he had “done nothing illegal.”

The players left from that championship core acknowledged that Wing’s dismissal came as a jolt.

“Yeah, I think it definitely affected us, because we found out about a week ago who our new coach was and everything, and it definitely was a big adjustment,” senior forward Kaeti Butterfield said. “We just kind of reassured everybody that we would be fine no matter who our coach was. To not stress about it, everything would work out fine. Just go with the flow.”

“Yeah, it was definitely a surprise to us, but there’s not much we can do, really,” senior guard Julia Johnson added. “You’ve just got to go with the new.”

New coach Rick Larrabee, an Erskine Academy graduate who was hired after two years coaching in New Hampshire, said he wasn’t sure about the circumstances that led to this position opening up.

“I don’t know what happened with Scott,” he said. “The job was posted, I applied, I interviewed, and a couple of days after my interview I was hired.”

Larrabee did say that he was confident he could continue what has become a winning culture at Monmouth, even without all of the offseason opportunities that coaches have to work with players.

“My coaching style and the coaching knowledge that I feel as though I have, I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I’ve coached every style, having worked with boys and girls. I feel that I can coach at any program and have success.”

Having several players back with big-game experience will make that task easier.

“We have plenty of talent to work off of and experience, so I’m going to try to take what they already know and what they’re working with, and implement some new stuff that maybe might help them take their program a step further,” he said. “I’m looking to write a new chapter. Not start a new book, write a new chapter. I want to add on to their success. I want to keep it going.”

Unlike last year, when Monmouth returned almost the entire roster from a state championship team the year before, this Mustangs team will have personnel hurdles to get over. Gone are Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist Tia Day, playoff standout Abbey Allen and defensive leader Hannah Anderson, three players who helped comprise Monmouth’s identity as a tough matchup for any opponent. Adding to the graduation losses, Destiny Clough, perhaps the team’s best returning rebounder, tore her ACL during the track and field championships and is out for at least the start of the season.

Larrabee, however, said the returning players are ready for the responsibility.

“I think there are girls that are excited to take on roles that maybe were (playing) supporting roles last year,” he said. “That’s a lot of offense, that’s a lot of defense, that’s just a whole lot of team chemistry that you lose. But these girls have been playing together all their lives, so they know what they can and can’t do.”

The players echoed those thoughts.

“We’re all pretty confident coming into this year,” Butterfield said. “Knowing that we’ve all played together a lot and our seniors are pretty confident we’ll be able to help the younger girls with catching on and helping coach Larrabee get to know us and the team.”

Butterfield acknowledged that getting familiar with Larrabee and learning his coaching style will be a process, but added the experience on the team will help with the transition.

“It would have been nice if we could have spent the summer with him and everything, but we’re all really smart and I think we’ll catch on really quick,” she said. “I think we’re all really excited for what the season has in store, because we have a lot of the same people coming back and we still have a lot of really good talent.

“I think coach Larrabee has a lot to offer us with new material and helping us hopefully win another Gold Ball.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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