WINTHROP — Braden Dorogi is 17 years old. He’s been playing soccer for 15 of those years.

And for the bulk of that, he’s looked forward to senior night at Gardiner Area High School, in front of his school and community — and, in recent years, on the school’s new artificial turf field.

“Us seniors, we’ve been dreaming about a senior night on our home field,” he said. “I love this sport more than almost anything, it’s something that I really care about. That senior night, that one last game on your field that you’ve been playing on your whole life, is something that we really looked forward to.”

That night, and every other day of the season, will look different for the Gardiner boys and girls soccer teams. The new turf surface at Hoch Field is unfinished and the normal fields the teams have used behind the Boys and Girls Club went under repair, forcing the two programs to spend a season on the road.

While the field hockey team still has its field and football can at least practice near Hoch, the soccer teams will likely have to play their home games — and even hold their practices — away from the school. Monday’s first preseason practices took place in Winthrop near the YMCA camp, roughly a half hour from where some Gardiner students live.

There was a noticeable buzz at the Winthrop fields as players were excited to begin their seasons. But the players acknowledged that the circumstances and logistics going forward won’t be easy.


“It’s unfortunate, obviously, and it’s not just our program. It’s every Gardiner sports team,” said Dorogi, a senior midfielder. “All the underclassmen, their parents are getting up at 6:30 in the morning, sometimes even earlier, and driving a half an hour-plus. Some kids are driving 40 minutes here one way. … It’s not easy on any of us.”

Natalie Fossett, a senior center back whose brother Chase graduated in 2020, said she was looking forward to playing on the new Hoch Field.

“I believe it was supposed to be ready for my brother’s either junior or senior year, so I was either a freshman or a sophomore, and it was hard for him not to have that,” she said. “And now for me not to have that, and not even have a home field, for the last year I’m at the high school, it’s kind of a bummer.”

Gardiner soccer players practice Monday at the Winthrop Area YMCA. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Gardiner will practice the next two weeks in Winthrop, but there are no definitive plans for afterward regarding either practice or game locations.

“It obviously weighs on you,” Gardiner boys coach Nick Wallace said. “I’m a planner. I’m a guy who likes to plan everything out, I typically have my stuff handed out in June, where we’re playing, where we’re practicing. So it does. I’m hoping we find out in the next couple of days and get it set up.”

Having to hold practices and games away from the school poses challenging transportation issues. Both teams tried to ease the travel burden Monday, holding longer single sessions instead of shorter two-a-days.


“We have a massive incoming class, we have a lot of underclassmen that don’t drive themselves,” new girls coach Jess Prince said. “So they have to coordinate those rides, which is a lot tougher on parents as well. We’ve got some great upperclassmen that parents have signed off on giving carpool rides. We are fortunate to have that, but it’s definitely a challenge.”

Wallace said he’s hoping the situation won’t wear down his team.

“I really hope not. But it could,” he said. “I don’t think wearing down (is a concern). I think maybe getting discouraged by having to travel all the time could be a part of it.”

This is not the first time Gardiner teams have dealt with life on the road. In 2011, the hockey team didn’t have a home rink when the Kennebec Ice Arena collapsed, and in 2017 the boys and girls basketball teams needed a new place to play when a storm damaged the roof of the high school gym.

Gardiner soccer work through a drill during practice Monday at the Winthrop Area YMCA. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Now it’s soccer’s turn, but the members of both teams are already focusing on how to make the best of a tough break.

“This whole past year with COVID has been one adversity after the other. This is just another thing,” Prince said. “I think we’re also grateful to actually play. We’ll do it anywhere, we’ll make it work.”

Players are already looking forward to turning the inconvenience into a positive.

“I thought at first it was hard, knowing we wouldn’t have a home field,” Fossett said. “But I feel like it creates more of a social bond, bringing freshmen to the field, singing in the car. I feel like it creates a bond that sometimes doesn’t happen.”

“It’s always been a resilient bunch,” Dorogi said. “This is a year that is always going to stick out. … In the years to come, no matter who comes into this program, this year’s going to be talked about for the resilience of us.”

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