PORTLAND — After nearly two full weeks of practices and drills among themselves, Southern Maine field hockey teams were more than ready for changes in scenery and opponent.
So it was that Wednesday’s Southern Maine Activities Association play date featuring 17 Class A teams at Fitzpatrick Stadium was a welcome break from the daily practice grind.
“It feels good,” said Sanford junior co-captain Caroline L’Heureux. “It’s good to see people who we played last year, to see who’s gotten better. And who we had a chance of beating last year that we didn’t this year.”
Kayla Hinkley, entering her third year as Kennebunk coach, echoed the sentiment.
“I think we were excited to see what we could do,” said Hinkley, “plus see where everyone else is at. You don’t want to compare, but you want to see where everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses are at.”
Hinkley said that the play day, which qualifies as one of the Maine Principals’ Association’s “non-countable” events, gave her a chance to experiment with line combinations and personnel matchups.
“I got to see what kind of chemistry we had out there,” said Hinkley, who will have 15 seniors returning from last year, “and to try to fill in some of those gaps and holes.”
The SMAA, which is comprised of schools from Cumberland and York counties, is known for its balance and competitiveness.
In the past eight years, six different SMAA schools have represented the West in the state Class A title game, with Scarborough having interrupted Skowhegan’s current run of titles (nine in the last 10 years) in 2009.
The season ahead promises to be just as hotly contested, and Lori Smith, who hopes to force her Thornton Academy squad into the title conversation for the first time, expects that it will be.
“It’s going to be a battle every game,” said Smith, whose team will open the season on its new turf field, Aug. 31 against defending West champions Cheverus. “It’s going to be exciting for the fans, I’m sure. But not so much for my blood pressure.”