Soccer and field hockey players thrilled to have playoff goals again

Walk to the field of the Skowhegan field hockey team, and one of the first things you see is the championship sign, the one that lacks room to list all of the state titles the program has won.

There is no error in the message. In Skowhegan, deep tournament races are part of the expectation. And last year, the River Hawks – like every other field hockey team in the state – didn’t have this scene to play for.

“Last year was really tough because we’re still such a competitive team,” said junior Eleanor Tibbetts. “But not having a playoff and all that almost made us not have anything to look forward to, and I feel like that has diminished our competitiveness during the season.”

For the field hockey teams, as well as the soccer teams, this fall, those aspirations are back. There will again be playoffs, tournaments and championships to aim for, and for the players and coaches involved, having these familiar goals in place makes it feel more rewarding and fulfilling as the seasons are about to begin. .

“That’s it,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “The kids are much better mentally than they were last year. Last year they were like zombies. I was talking to them and they had this dish (expression), and I was trying to give them hope, and they were looking at me like there was no hope.

There is hope now, and the River Hawks have worked with that in mind.

“We’re so competitive in training,” said junior Samantha Thebarge. “Last year it was kind of like ‘OK, we’re here to play’, but it wasn’t that intense. This year, we train every day, we run so much to get back in shape. I think it’s going to be a very good year for us.

Skowhegan field hockey head coach Paula Doughty puts her team to work during practice on August 25 in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans / Morning Sentry

“I feel like last year has been a learning year for all of us, and it’s made us better for this year,” said junior Callaway LePage. “We have prepared, we know what we want to do. “

Don Beckwith’s boys’ soccer team in Maranacook is another program that has grown accustomed to annual championship competitions. Like Doughty, Beckwith said it’s hard to motivate and inspire players without the goal of winning a title at the end of the season.

This season, however, Beckwith said his job was easier.

“It made a big difference. Huge, huge, ”he said. “Children show up because they want to play too. It’s a whole different look, a whole different feeling. It’s really special now. And he taught the kids that things can go away. Things that you think are still there may go away. “

Beckwith players said there has been more buzz, more energy and more excitement heading into the season with the traditional goals in place.

“When we started going into the preseason I started to feel it. I started to get back into the rhythm a bit, ”said junior midfielder Jake Nisby. “There’s a little more momentum in everyone, especially me. Last year everyone was down and there wasn’t much motivation to play. I think this year it has improved so much.

“It takes it to a whole new level. The intensity is there, it’s really exciting, ”said senior center-back Ryan Emerson. “It totally changed the game (last year). It was anticlimactic. It was just weird, it was weird. It’s hard to describe.

“It was good that we had a season, because some sports weren’t so lucky. But that kind of took the “oomph” out of it, of not being able to make the playoffs, because that’s kind of what we’re building (for) all year. “

Some conferences have tried to organize all the competitions they could at the end of the year. The boys and girls soccer teams from Monmouth, Hall-Dale and Richmond, for example, competed in a one-day tournament they called the “COVID Cup” to determine the informal RSU2 district champion.

Monmouth / Winthrop football player Lydia Rice remains focused on the ball during practice Tuesday in Monmouth. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

It was fun, the players said, and it was better than nothing. But that wasn’t the real thing.

“Last year we had the COVID Cup, but it wasn’t something to look forward to like a state game or playoff games,” said Megan Ham, a senior striker for the women’s football team from Monmouth / Winthrop. “It makes it a lot more exciting, in that there’s a lot more competition now, because I love to win. I like this competition from other teams that we are not used to playing.

Her teammate, senior stopper Lydia Rice, said she feels rejuvenated heading into this fall after what was a season of compromise last year.

“I feel like there’s something we’re actually playing for,” she said. “It was disappointing (last year) to think ‘We can’t go to the States, we can’t play against teams that we haven’t played before.’ … I’m not gonna lie, it went through my mind, ‘There’s nothing to play for, it’s just not that fun.’ But I’m excited for this year.

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