The high school field hockey season begins today – with a bang.

Two games featuring four of The Portland Press Herald’s preseason 10 teams to watch highlight the start of what should be a very interesting season. You’ll have to check out next Monday’s paper for our field hockey preview to find out who the rest are.

Defending Western Class A champion Cheverus visits regional semifinalist Thornton Academy on the Trojans’ new artificial surface at 6:30 p.m. And Portland, which got a big boost from a couple of transfers, plays at 4 p.m. at Massabesic, a surprise team last year that returns most of its lineup.

In all, 10 games herald the opening of the season that features a significant rule change and a lot of new faces on the sidelines.

Before we go any further, here’s a look at five things you should know about the upcoming season:

RULE CHANGE

It’s never easy to score a goal in field hockey, and this year it might even be harder. That’s because of the new rule on penalty corners.

Under the rule, the offensive team must first clear the circle and then put the ball back into the circle before shooting on goal.

In the past, all the offense had to do was insert the ball into the circle and then shoot.

Now, if the ball doesn’t clear the circle before the ball gets shot into the net by an offensive player, there is no goal and the defense gets a free hit.

Good? Bad?

Well, it depends on what surface you’re playing on. The rule, which is now consistent with college field hockey, should be fine on fields with artificial turf. But if you get on a field with long, thick grass?

“Anywhere the grass is not cut short, it’s going to be hard to get the ball out of the circle quickly and get it back in,” said Camden Hills Coach Janet Holmes-Jackson.

Fryeburg Coach DeDe Frost added: “If you dub the ball, that means both teams are going to be playing defense, trying to get the ball out of the circle.”

Coaches will need to become innovative in their corner plays.

NEW COACHES

There are 10 new coaches in the region:

Alex Murphy at McAuley, Amanda Jean at Noble, Leslie Dyer at South Portland, Julie St. Pierre at Morse, Karla Pattershall at Wells, Kaitlin Iuzzolino at Boothbay Region, Julie Wescott at Lisbon, Tracy Quimby at North Yarmouth Academy, Kelly Miller at Traip Academy and Kelly Hoffman at Waynflete.

Some are returning after an absence from coaching. All have played field hockey at either the high school or college level.

In fact, Hoffman was an All-American goalie at Johns Hopkins and is still second there in career saves (452).

Which is why it’s surprising she said this:

“My focus is on the offensive line. It hasn’t always been that way. But the longer I coach, I realize you don’t see a lot of 4-3 games in field hockey.

“There are a lot of zeroes in field hockey. I really stress offense I think that the best defense is to always think offensively.”

THE DEFENDING CHAMPS

It’s never easy taking over as head coach of a defending state championship team. Quimby’s job at NYA, which won the Class C title last year under Julia Sterling, is made more difficult by the loss of six players to transfer.

Added to the seniors that graduated “We’ve got a real young team,” said Quimby, the assistant coach last year. “But we’re fast and energized. We’ve got to work on some stick skills, our defense is looking good. It’s a matter of putting the ball in the cage.”

Quimby does have someone who does that quite well: Katherine Millett returns. She scored 38 goals last year, a phenomenal number considering some teams don’t score that many.

TRANSFERS WELCOME

While NYA lost some students, a couple of teams should benefit from transfers.

Portland, which was going to be pretty good anyway, received Kylie Dalbec from NYA and Gabby Cardona from Cheverus. Both played in state championship games last year.

Falmouth received midfielder Megan Fortier, also from NYA. Fortier had 25 goals last year, including the winner in overtime in the Class C state final. And senior Sasha McLean transferred from NYA to Greely.

The experience those three players gained last year will be invaluable to their new teammates.

“I think it helps a lot,” said Falmouth Coach Robin Haley. “Any time you’re on a team that wins states, the confidence level you have and the experience of playing at that level elevates your team in terms of initial confidence.”

Of Dalbec, Bulldogs Coach Beth Arsenault said, “She has a presence about her.”

And McAuley got, according to first-year coach Alex Murphy, “a huge gift” in sophomore midfielder Kat Ouellette from Winthrop.

IMPORTANT DATES

The regional championships are Oct. 25.

The Western title games will be played in Saco at Thornton Academy. The Eastern games will be played on Hampden Academy’s artificial grass.

The state championship tripleheader is Saturday, Oct. 29, at Yarmouth High.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH