Summer may just be getting started — if you’re looking at things from a weather perspective — but while teenagers throughout the state are still laying on beaches and enjoying state fairs, fall is already in the air for a select group of others.
That’s because most athletes in Aroostook County have already started tryouts and practices for the fall season, and many soccer teams kicked things off last week.
County teams were allowed to start practices three weeks before their first scheduled game while the rest of the state will open tryouts Aug. 17.
The late-summer ritual is nothing new to coaches, some of whom have seen an increase in numbers.
“We actually had to cut kids this year,” said Caribou girls coach Todd Albert, who had 48 players come out for the team, including 20 freshmen.
“It’s a pretty good freshmen class,” he said.
Other teams, however, tend to fight enrollment issues but still manage to remain competitive on the field.
“We don’t have the large number of kids like we’ve had in the past,” said Ashland girls coach Peter Belskis. “The school’s getting smaller, [our enrollment] is 110 right now. If we can stay with 125 and keep them fairly healthy we should be in the thick of things.”
The Hornets were right in the hunt in Class D last fall, advancing to the regional title match before falling to eventual state champion Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, and should be again this year with 10 returnees.
Senior Taylor Baker returns to tend to Ashland’s goal, while juniors Whitney Donovan and Rylee Graham fuel the back line.
“We’ll be decent down the middle with those three,” said Belskis.
Mariah Cook, Chelsea Hammond and Tayra Saucier should also be expected to chip in defensively.
Ashland will once again play its home games at the Johnson Complex in Presque Isle, as the town’s new K-12 school is on target to open for the 2010-11 school year.
Ashland’s new fields will be located on the grounds of the current school.
Macie Pelkey and Elena Reynaga will be counted on to lead the Hornets’ midfield, with other key cogs up front including striker Brooke Labelle and forwards Anna Paradis, Kayla Cote and Jessica Jimmo.
Belskis noted the team to beat in Class D is Southern Aroostook, which lost only two seniors.
“They’ll be the team everybody will be pointing at,” he said.
As for Caribou, it has a healthy corps of returnees, including 2008 PVC All-Conference choices Brittany Doak in goal and striker Jenna Selander.
Selander will look to spark a veteran offense which racked up 47 goals last fall — including 41 from returning players.
Also leading the front line will be midfielders Liz Barbosa, Abby Small and Lydia Kieffer and striker Jamie Martin.
But the Vikings will need to reload defensively, an area where graduation took the biggest hit.
“I think most of my subs from last year and a couple of JV kids will have to step up,” said Albert.
Offensive consistency will also be key in supporting Doak, one of the region’s top goalkeepers.
Caribou, which lost in the quarterfinals to Ellsworth last fall, strengthened its schedule this fall and will face every PVC opponent at least once during the 16-game regular season.
“In years past we’ve played MDI and not seen Ellsworth, now we’ll see everybody at least once,” said Albert. “That’ll be a good thing based on strength of schedule.”
That schedule still includes reigning regional champ and rival Presque Isle, whom the Vikings haven’t defeated since 2003.
Even though the Wildcats lost top offensive threats Sarah Porter and Kayla Legassie, PI should still be tough, Albert said.
Caribou opens its season at Class C regional finalist Madawaska on August 20 while Ashland’s season-opener is in Presque Isle against Wisdom on Aug. 18.
All-Star games this weekend
The Maine Maniacs Basketball Club will host four KVAC Class A girls basketball all-star games Saturday, which will pit the top players from the North and South division from the Classes of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 (incoming freshmen).
The games will be held at the Augusta Civic Center, with the 2013 game at 2 p.m., the 2012 matchup at 3:30, the 2011 contest at 5 p.m. and the 2010 clash at 6:30.
All four games will have plenty of local flavor, particularly the 2010 affair, in which four Bangor players will suit up.
Stephanie Comstock, Melanie Jackson, Brianna Tocci and Melanie Jackson, who will all be seniors for the Rams this fall, will dot the North roster.
The 2011 roster includes five area players — four from Hampden Academy and another from Brewer.
Representing the Broncos are Julia Snyder, Michaela Stephenson, Kate Parsons and Mattanawcook Academy transfer Katelyn DeRaps while Holly Nickerson will represent Brewer.
HA’s Ashley Danforth and Katie Treadwell of Bangor will play in the 2012 game while incoming Hampden freshmen Jordan Maxwell and Alex Winchester are in the 2013 contest.
Civic Center doors will open at 1 p.m., and admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children age 18 and under. Tickets guarantee admission to all four games.
Thompson alumnae game set
The third annual Bangor High School alumnae girls soccer game, featuring the 2009 varsity edition of the Rams against the school’s alumnae, will take place Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. on the high school field.
The game was established by Cathy and Kevin Thompson in memory of their daughter, Danielle Marie Thompson, who passed away in January 2007 after a brief illness during her senior year at the University of New Hampshire.
Thompson, a 2003 graduate of Bangor, played four years of soccer at the school and captained the squad as a senior.
Admission to the game is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Danielle Marie Thompson Scholarship Fund, and a concession stand will also be available.
Alumnae who wish to play must sign up by Aug. 19, and the $20 registration fee, which includes a game T-shirt, will benefit the scholarship fund.
Call Pam Tweedie at 947-7245 for more information.