For most folks, it might be a bit early to think about another high school sports season getting under way, especially with a whole month of summer vacation still to be enjoyed.
But for many student-athletes in Aroostook County, it’s that time of year again when shin guards, cleats and balls are dug out of the closet.
July 26 was the first official day for tryouts and practices for high school soccer and cross country teams in Aroostook County, while some other teams, such as the Presque Isle girls soccer team, opened tryouts Monday.
The first countable games are scheduled for Aug. 13, after a number of scheduled round robins and preseason matches.
The remainder of the state’s high school athletes won’t begin preseason practices for two weeks, with the first countable games set for Sept. 3.
Turnouts were high at some Aroostook County schools, particularly at Easton.
“That’s one of the biggest teams that Easton’s had,” said Bears’ girls soccer coach Rachel Tomlinson, who hopes a few more girls will join the squad once school starts later this month.
The high numbers are mainly due to the fact the Bears qualified for postseason play for the first time in 12 years last fall. Easton advanced to the Eastern D semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook.
“A lot of them went to soccer camp this summer. I’m excited that they did that,” said Tomlinson, a former athlete at Presque Isle who played on that school’s Class A state championship basketball team in 1997. “They’ve all been showing up to practices.”
Easton graduated only one senior from last year’s squad but it was goalkeeper Taylor Burtt.
“That’s a pretty key senior to lose. Right now we’re starting from scratch [at the] ’keeper [position],” she said. “That’s a big challenge for us this year.”
Last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Carla Halverson, returns to fuel the Easton offense. The team also features six seniors: Sydney Trask, Samantha Fuller, Katie Cyr, Brooke Hammond, Brooke Lunney and Marissa Parlin.
The Bears’ first game is Aug. 13 at home against Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.
While some County teams will start playing games next weekend, Presque Isle won’t open its season until it hosts rival Caribou on Sept. 2.
Coach Ralph Michaud explained that is because there aren’t many large schools, except for Caribou and Class C Fort Kent, that will play any games during August.
The lengthy time between tryouts and the season opener also means more practice time, and Presque Isle will host a preseason tournament starting Aug. 12. Western A entry Windham will make the long trek up north for a scrimmage with the Wildcats.
“We’re excited to get going,” said Michaud, whose team graduated eight seniors, including goalkeeper Kelsey Park.
Michaud said he expected roughly 28 to 30 players to participate in tryouts Monday.
“Last year we had 13 freshmen try out,” he said. “This year we’ll probably get a handful of freshmen. It depends on your incoming [freshman] class.”
Presque Isle fell to Caribou in the regional semifinals last fall, but played for a Class B state championship just two years ago. It has two of its leading scorers back in Kayla Richards and Chandler Guerrette.
Michaud expects the Penobscot Valley Conference to be as tough as ever this fall, with Caribou and Old Town among Presque Isle’s chief challengers.
Easton, meanwhile, will be part of a deep Class D field in which Tomlinson believes Southern Aroostook is still the favorite, followed closely by Ashland.
“Those will be our toughest competition,” she said. “I think this year everybody’s going to be pretty balanced.”
The Bears, who will have to stay healthy since they don’t have a lot of depth, hope to build off last fall’s success.
“It was pretty exciting, especially for the community,” Tomlinson said. “The girls had never won a playoff game for soccer. It really made them excited for this year, knowing they can compete with the other teams.”
Shaw to coach Hermon girls
Stori Shaw, who played four years of college soccer at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, will coach the Hermon girls soccer team this fall.
The 1993 Central Aroostook graduate’s last head coaching stop was in Roswell, Ga. Shaw moved back to Maine in 2006 and had been looking for a head coaching job in the Bangor area.
“I’m very excited, I haven’t been a head coach for a few years,” said Shaw.
Adam Leach coached the Hawks for the remainder of the 2009 season.
Hermon has participated in a summer league in Bangor and Shaw has liked what she’s seen.
“They are extremely determined [and] they have good attitudes,” she said. “They’re really looking forward to this fall. It’s a fresh start for all of us, for me and for them.”
Shaw expects the Hawks to be one of the most well-conditioned teams in Class B.
“My philosophy is you just need to [be in shape]. A huge portion of soccer is conditioning,” she said. “I want every single person to be able to run; you’re running for 80 minutes.”
Depending on the makeup of the team after tryouts in a couple weeks, Shaw likes to play either a 4-4-2 (four backs, four midfielders, two strikers) or 3-5-2 alignment.
“I personally like a 4-4-2, it depends if I have two wings that are willing to bust it up and down the sidelines,” Shaw said.
She expects Presque Isle, Caribou and Old Town to be among the top contenders in Class B and hopes Hermon can qualify for the playoffs.
Nine teams will qualify in Class B.
Frozen Ropes to nationals
The Frozen Ropes 18-under softball team, which features three players from Bangor High School, continued its torrid summer recently at the Champions of the Nor’easter Tournament in Laconia, N.H.
Bangor graduate Sam Bedore, who will pitch for the University of Rhode Island next season, picked up the win in the championship game for coach Lynn Coutts’ team, which stands at 25-2-3 this summer.
The team includes Bedore, other Bangor players Sadie Redman and Jeri Cosgrove, along with other local players Ashley Smith of Ellsworth, Whitney Jones and Becca McCarty of Skowhegan and Jules Fekete of Messalonskee of Oakland.
Frozen Ropes will depart today for the 18-under nationals in Sterling, Va.