Foxcroft Academy athletic director Tim Smith figures he is in a win-win situation.
When longtime field hockey coach Gene Philpot took a leave of absence for personal reasons during the preseason, former Foxcroft Academy standout and Hall-of-Famer Stephanie Smith was hired to take over on an interim basis.
Smith, who started the field hockey program at Bangor’s John Bapst High School, guided the Ponies to a 14-3 record and a berth in the Eastern Maine Class B finals, where they lost to defending state champ Belfast 2-1.
So if Philpot doesn’t return, Smith will be able to turn to Stephanie Smith.
“It’s still very much up in the air. We’re in a good spot. We’re very fortunate whichever way it goes,” said Tim Smith. “I’m not overly concerned about it. If Gene returns, we’ll definitely welcome her back.”
Philpot has guided the Ponies to more than 350 wins in 35-plus seasons and won state Class C titles in 1991 and 2007 and an Eastern Maine crown in 2010.
Smith said he was elated with the job Stephanie Smith did this season.
“We were very fortunate she was able to step in and do such a great job,” he said.
“She’s very professional. She’s really structured and really organized. She knows the sport and how to deal with the kids, other coaches and officials. She exudes professionalism in my eyes,” he added.
Stephanie Smith said she isn’t sure if she would be able to return because of the demands of her job as a financial analyst for Sappi Fine Paper in Skowhegan. She said her bosses were very understanding in allowing her to fill in for Philpot this season.
“We’ll see,” said Smith, who added that she would like to see Philpot return “and end her career the way she would like to. She has had a heck of a career.”
Smith played for Philpot.
Smith was “very happy” with the season.
“I enjoyed it very much. I had a great group of girls,” said Smith.
The future is bright for the Ponies.
They will graduate six seniors but will have several important regulars back, including goalkeeper Avery Carroll, forwards Julia Annis and Fern Morrison, midfielders Amber Anderson and Jen Boyer, midfielder-forward Emily Higgins and backs Mackenzie Coiley and Abby Simmons.
“It should be another big year,” said Stephanie Smith.
“And we have a very good feeder program in town,” said Tim Smith. “We’ll be competitive year in and year out. I’m pretty confident of that.”
Neutral regional finals possible
Regional championship games in field hockey, baseball and softball are played at neutral sites.
But in boys and girls soccer they are played at the home field of the higher-seeded teams and that can be problematic if there is inclement weather and the field conditions deteriorate.
Many fields already have deteriorated due to the prolonged usage.
The storm caused some scrambling around this week as several games were rescheduled and/or moved to artificial turf fields.
Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said the MPA’s soccer committee has discussed holding the regional title games on neutral artificial turf fields “but the question is are there enough centralized [artificial turf] fields to make it possible?”
The state championship games are held on artificial turf fields, with Saturday’s finals being scheduled at Scarborough (Classes B and C) and Hampden Academy (A and D).
Durost is a proponent of going to neutral artificial turf sites for the regional championship games when there are enough centralized facilities available.
“At some point in time, it would be good if we could do it. But I’ll leave that to the wisdom of the soccer committee for the time being,” said Durost. “I don’t think the committee has ruled it out for the future. It will continue to be talked about.”