The University of Maine field hockey team will hold its first practice on Saturday.
They just aren’t sure where.
Third-year coach Josette Babineau and her players are waiting for their third and last artificial surface for their second-year field.
“We’re working to get that surface in place as soon as possible. The goal is to have it done in time for the start of the season or as soon afterward as humanly possible,” said Maine athletic director Blake James.
The problems for the field began at the outset of last season.
“The first surface that was installed was longer than we had wanted and it slowed down the play of the game,” explained James. “We recognized that and removed it.”
The second surface was used for the entire season. It has since been removed.
“We had some challenges with it but we were easily able to work through them,” said James. “It met our needs in a number of ways. However, we didn’t feel it would work for us in the long haul.”
That’s because the Astro-Turf type of surface warped and had to be watered consistently which made it “challenging” for multi-purpose use, according to James.
The field was to be made available to the institution’s recreation services for the students, faculty and staff.
So now the field is without turf and waiting for the general contractor, Sargent Corp., to oversee the installation of the new turf when it arrives, according to James.
“Ultimately, we’re going to have a surface in place that will provide a tremendous facility for our team to use now and in the future. We want what is best for our kids and our program,” said James. “We’re ready to go. They just have to lay the carpet.”
Maine doesn’t play its home opener until Sept. 6 when Dartmouth College invades Orono.
“It will definitely be in place by then,” said James.
James said until the field is ready, the field hockey team will practice in the field house or on the baseball field, the football field or in the Mahaney Dome.
“We’re still in the middle of it right now,” said Babineau. “The tricky part is finding what is going to prepare us best for the opening weekend.”
Maine opens the season on the road against Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Aug. 29 and the Bears will play Bryant University (R.I.) also at Hofstra the next day.
Most Division I schools play on the faster Astro-Turf type of surfaces as compared to the grass-like FieldTurf.
“We’re definitely going to be in the field house to work on our penalty corners and to work with our goaltenders on their technique,” said Babineau noting that the slick field house surface more closely mimics the speed of an Astro-Turf field.
“And we’ll work on our individual skills inside,” said Babineau who added that they will hold small-group scrimmages inside.
She explained that it’s important for the passing and receiving of the ball and their first-touches are best served by playing on a fast surface.
“But when we want to work on full-field situations and scrimmages, we’ll have to go outside. We’ll try to delay that a little bit,” said Babineau.
They can also do their conditioning outside, she indicated.
She said they are taking the situation in stride.
“We have some players on campus and their first reaction has been disappointment,” said Babineau. “But they don’t think it’s the end of the world. We’re always going to do our best.
“We aren’t going to use it as an excuse,” added Babineau. “When we get it, it’s going to be a better surface [than we’ve had before].”
Maine’s football team played on an Astro-Turf surface on Morse Field for 10 years until it wore out and that’s where the field hockey team played.
That was replaced by FieldTurf last season as part as part of a three-pronged $2.2 million facility upgrade.
That upgrade also included a FieldTurf surface for Mahaney Diamond and the new field hockey facility with its new surface.
Phillip and Susan Morse donated a $1 million gift for the facilities upgrade through the Boston Red Sox Foundation while the other $1.2 million is coming from internal loans to be repaid from athletic revenues and/or future gifts and recreation funds.