As seniors on the Ashland girls soccer team, Brooke Labelle and Anna Paradis would like nothing better than to play a home game on their school’s campus.
But they’ll likely have to wait for an alumni game.
Labelle, Paradis and other Ashland students moved into a brand-new school building last fall, but that building was constructed over the previous two years on the school’s former athletic fields. The replacement field, complete with lights, isn’t expected to be ready in time for any home games this season.
So “home” for the seniors on the school’s boys and girls soccer teams, as it has been for the last three years, will be the Gehrig T. Johnson Athletic Complex a half-hour away in Presque Isle.
“It is hard because we have to travel every day and it’s an hour to go there and back,” said Labelle between games of Saturday’s Presque Isle Invitational preseason tournament. “It does kind of wear us out a little, but we’re just grateful we’re able to use this nice field. We’ve had to adapt to it, but we’ve done pretty well.”
Coach Peter Belskis’ Hornets went 11-3-1 last year and advanced to the the Eastern Maine Class D championship game.
One benefit of playing at the Presque Isle facility is that it features an artificial-turf surface where the Hornets play their home games.
“We try to practice on it once or twice a week,” said Paradis, a midfielder. “It’s faster — when it’s wet it’s a lot faster — and the bounces are different, so it’s lot different for teams that don’t play on it and that gives us an advantage.”
Still, the additional travel, for both players and fans, makes it less than an ideal situation.
“We are fortunate enough to be able to play on the turf, so that’s an advantage to a certain extent because the other teams don’t play on it as much,” said Belskis. “But we’re still not home, and even though we have great fan support from Ashland and they do come to Presque Isle for the games, I’d like to think at home even more would come, especially night games.”
When completed, the athletic facilities at the new Ashland High School will include two soccer fields, including one with lights for night games.
“That’s going to real nice to have games at 5 and 7 next year, I assume,” said Belskis. “It will help the fan base because people can come to the games after they’ve been working, and that helps to build the support in your program.”
Labelle, a striker, and Paradis are among several starters back as Ashland seeks to make another strong postseason run.
“We’ve got a decent nucleus, but we’re very, very young on the defensive end,” said Belskis. “This will be a year that when and if the defense matures and comes through, then we should be a formidable team, but there are going to be some growing pains.
“We have a very talented offense and a pretty steady midfield. The biggest key is going to be our backs and how they mature.”