An early-morning excursion to the gym on Monday provided a slight sign that winter is around the corner, with some wet snow on a couple of sidewalks in Bangor and Brewer.
But Bangor High School girls basketball coach Katie Herbine didn’t seem to mind.
“It’s supposed to snow on the first day of basketball, so we’re ready to go,” Herbine said.
Although the white stuff was long melted by late Monday afternoon, there were plenty of signs of winter in gyms and rinks across the state as high school basketball, ice hockey, competitive cheerleading, wrestling and track and field teams opened their preseason practices.
The first games and matches are set to start after 3 p.m. on Dec. 10.
Monday’s opening of the preseason officially kicked off a new coaching era at Bangor, in which Herbine, a former Bangor and University of Maine player, is in her first year guiding the Rams’ varsity squad after longtime coach Tom Tennett retired at the end of last season.
“I’m really excited to get started. I luckily had a lot of the kids this summer because I was able to run the summer program,” she said. “Working with them in the summer was really great, just because I got to know the kids and their personalities.”
Herbine takes over a Bangor team that has missed out on the Class A postseason the last two seasons, but the Rams nearly got in last winter after a shaky start, and Herbine hopes that momentum, along with some from regional championships in softball and soccer, will carry over.
“That’s a great point, softball was very successful last spring, soccer had a great year this year,” she said.
Among Bangor’s key returning players are Kim Jordan, who was a big part of the aforementioned regional championship squads, along with Hillary Throckmorton and Kate Treadwell.
Herbine is hoping to take the lessons she learned from Tennett as both a player and as the Rams’ JV coach last winter and pass them along.
“I think as a player for him I think I really learned the pride in Bangor sports and Bangor athletics. I’m really proud to be from Bangor and to be a part of it, so I think that’s what I learned as a player,” she said. “Coaching under him last year I think really keeping an even field and not getting too high, not getting too low, learning how to be a coach for the long haul.”
Just down Route 1A sits a Hampden Academy team that enters this season with some lofty expectations.
Not only did the Broncos have a solid run to the Class A semifinals in coach Chad Bradbury’s first year, Hampden didn’t have a single senior on its varsity squad, so that makes the KVAC North very interesting.
“They can shoot the ball, for sure, that’ll be a challenge,” Herbine said.
Among the Broncos’ lead horses are the 1-2 guard punch of seniors Michaela Stephenson and Katelyn DeRaps.
Add in the fact that Messalonskee of Oakland welcomes two proven transfers in Mary Badeen, formerly of Nokomis, and Megan Pelletier, who came in from Winslow, while Skowhegan has All-Maine third-teamer Whitney Jones running the point, and this could be a very hot winter in Eastern Maine Class A.
“I think it’s great, though, for the league. We have all these teams that are sort of top-two teams, and every night will be a battle,” Herbine said.
There certainly will be a battle on Dec. 11 when the Broncos head to Red Barry Gym for an opening-day showdown with the Rams.
With this being her first year coaching Bangor, Herbine will use the first couple of weeks to instill her system and get to know her players a bit more.
“I’ll probably put in a different offense than they’ve run in the past, so obviously we’ll have to get that in, and I need to get used to coaching them and what their personalities are,” she said.