The Central High School field hockey program used to be a formidable one. The Red Devils won back-to-back Class C state championships on two occasions: 2005-2006 and 1982-1983.
But the program has fallen on hard times of late, going 1-12-1 a year ago with only eight players on the roster.
That meant the Red Devils were always outnumbered, since 11 players normally are on the field for each team.
Central hasn’t made it past the Class C East quarterfinals since 2011.
Enter first-year head coach Terri-Lynn Fowler, who played for the Red Devils in the 1990s and graduated in 1997. She intends to rebuild the program and has made an immediate impact by boosting the roster to 18 players.
Nine girls showed up to the first practice, but the science teacher has been able to recruit more players in school. Some of her players also got involved by encouraging schoolmates to come out for the team.
“We have to make the best of it,” Fowler said. “Half of my players had never held a stick before.”
The Red Devils must balance teaching new players and challenging the veterans.
“It makes practice a little interesting. We have a small pod of girls who have played for a long time and are ready for more advanced play but half the team is still learning how to hold the stick and what a push pass is,” Fowler said.
Fowler replaced Kaitlin Dolloff, who moved on to become an assistant coach at Husson University in Bangor.
The 41-year-old Fowler spent the previous two seasons as the head coach at Mount View High School in Thorndike after assisting Diane Rollins at Central for three years.
“I want everyone to grow individually. The team is so diverse in skill levels, it’s going to be challenging,” she said. “But they have team camaraderie. They are wonderful with each other. It’s a great group of girls.”
Fowler said one of the nice developments is that the experienced players have been helping teach their teammates who are new to the game.
“They will stop and pull them aside and show them how to do something. It has been great,” she said.
The players’ work ethic and attitude have motivated her.
“They are starving to feel good about their team. They are starving to have success because they don’t know what it feels like,” said Fowler, who earned a degree in education from Unity College.
Fowler played for Rollins, whom she called a coaching legend. She picked up most of her coaching traits from her mentor, who was a demanding coach who got the most out of her players.
“You had to work hard for her,” Fowler said. “She built that reputation. I am a product of hers. They are going to learn how to work hard but we’re also going to have fun.”
She said Rollins’ influence didn’t stop on the field.
“I learned more than just the game from her, I also learned a lot about life and that’s the bigger picture,” said the former Terri-Lynn Pinkham, who has three daughters: Willow, Iva and Matti.
Fowler intends to build a feeder program in the younger grades and understands she will have to be patient.
The Red Devils lost their first two games to Nokomis of Newport (12-1) and Foxcroft Academy (8-0).
“I don’t like losing but I have to remind myself that we’re not there yet,” she said. “I have to stay positive for the girls.”
First-year Central athletics director Jared Foster said Fowler is the right fit for the program and said expanding the roster to 18 players is a noteworthy first step.
“She has been great. She is an amazing teacher. She is personable and she has a lot of knowledge of the game,” Foster said. “The kids really like her and respect her.”