GUILFORD, Maine — Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford has a proud tradition in field hockey. It was was highlighted by Class C state championships in 1987 and 1992.
Those followed Eastern Maine titles in 1981 and ‘85.
But dwindling numbers, which coincided with the addition of girls soccer 11 years ago, and the decision by 13-year coach Trisha Moulton to resign to spend more time with her family, have left the program with an uncertain future.
“I’m going to do everything I can to keep the program,” said PCHS athletic director Brian Gaw. “There’s a lot of history here. Two of our few state championships came in field hockey. But it’s almost April and we don’t have any coaches.”
Gaw is also looking for a middle school field hockey coach after veteran Cori Todd decided to retire from Piscataquis Community Middle School.
“I knew at some point that I needed to get done,” said Moulton. “My two sons (Brian and Ethan) play soccer and I want to watch them. It was hard to juggle (coaching and watching them play) this year. I felt so guilty. I was jealous of the parents who got to watch their kids play.”
The team’s numbers are also a concern for the program.
“Three years ago, we started two games with 10 players,” pointed out Gaw.
There are 11 players on the field for each team in field hockey, so the Pirates were one player shy in each game.
“We actually started one of those games with nine players,” said Moulton.
There were 13-14 players this past fall and that has been the norm in recent seasons.
There have been 24-26 players in the girls soccer program on a consistent basis.
“There were 290 kids in the school during the 2003-2004 school year and now we’re down to 220,” said Gaw. “I’m pretty sure we’re the smallest school [enrollment-wise] in eastern Maine with both soccer and field hockey.”
Wins have been hard to come by in field hockey. PCHS went through three winless seasons due to the player shortage and then had a one-win season.
But the Pirates had a respectable season last fall, going 5-8-1 to earn the sixth seed in EM Class C before losing to No. 3 Stearns of Millinocket 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
Three of their other losses were also by one goal.
The Pirates lose three seniors off last year’s team and Moulton said she expects 10 freshmen to join the team next fall.
“We have a foundation of core talent coming back,” said Gaw. “We should be competitive next year and our numbers are sustainable.”
“The team should definitely make the quarterfinals again,” said Moulton, who said the new coach will inherit a “great bunch of girls.
“They’re a fun bunch and they love the sport. They made it easy to coach. I loved coaching field hockey,” said Moulton, who played at PCHS and at the University of Maine where she was a co-captain (Trisha Vainio) her senior year.
Gaw said Moulton will be difficult to replace.
“She was the heart and soul of the program, from kindergarten through high school,” said Gaw. “She ran the summer field hockey program and coached in the [recreation department] program for kids up through sixth grade.”
Moulton also ran a week-long field hockey clinic and she will continue to do so, she said.
“She has been involved in all aspects of field hockey in our district. She was a player’s coach who was very well-liked and she always had a number of team-bonding activities,” said Gaw.
Gaw said Moulton “never gave up” even when the program was on the “brink of collapse.”
“She was always positive. She kept fighting. She knew there was a wave of players coming in but she would have to sustain the numbers until they got here and she did it,” said Gaw. “It’s going to be tough to fill [that void].”
Gaw said the budget news from the state and town aren’t good.
“We’ll have to look at every single sport and we don’t have a ton of them,” said Gaw. “It’ll be a matter of how can we serve the most kids possible with the dollars that we have.”
PCHS offers boys and girls soccer and field hockey in the fall, boys and girls basketball and co-ed wrestling in the winter, and baseball, softball, boys and girls track and boys and girls tennis in the spring.
“It would be so sad if the program got cut,” said Moulton.