SCARBOROUGH — The softball diamond at Scarborough High looked like a small pond in the final stages of ice-out, as the temperature Monday afternoon hovered around the freezing mark.
It must be the first day of spring practice in Maine – a day to celebrate according to Scarborough senior lacrosse player Ainsley Jamieson.
“I’ve had a countdown on my phone for three months for this day,” Jamieson said. “We knew it was going to be cold going into it. It didn’t mean our spirits would be.”
The Scarborough lacrosse teams, due to the school’s artificial surface field, were among the few teams with the means to brave the weather on the official starting day for spring sports (baseball and softball pitchers and catchers began last Monday).
Most natural surface fields are snow-covered, under water, or a combination of both – conditions made worse by Monday’s morning precipitation.
“I’m a skier so I woke up this morning and was like, ‘Oh, snow. I should still be skiing but I start lacrosse today,’” Scarborough senior Abby Mills said.
“I know a lot of schools aren’t as fortunate to have the turf fields,” Jamieson said. “Getting ready for the season we’re one step ahead of the other teams because we’ve been out on our home field playing as opposed to being in a gym or some inside facility. Every day. This is the road to states or at least deep into the tournament.”
The Scarborough girls, coached by Marcia Wood, advanced to the West regional semifinal in 2013.
As the girls’ team headed inside, the four-time defending state champion Scarborough boys’ lacrosse squad walked purposefully down the path from the school to the field.
“I think it’s perfect,” senior midfielder/attack Austin Doody said. “It’s definitely a little cold but we’ve been excited about (starting). Everyone’s really excited about the season and coming back and trying to win another state championship.”
Scarborough will have to replace John Wheeler, the team’s leading scorer over four straight years.
“In the past it was always easy to rely on one person if we needed a quick goal before the half or something like that,” senior defenseman Brendon Smith said. “This year scoring is going to be a lot more spread out. We definitely have people who are going to step up.”
Over the past two seasons Wheeler accounted for over 60 percent of the team’s total points, according to Scarborough Coach Joe Hezlep.
“We always felt we had a lot of other options. Now we have to start proving it,” Hezlep added.
According to senior Teddy Prosack, a defender and leader in the locker room, this was a day to set the tone for a new season.
“Four state championships mean nothing now,” Prosack said. “We’ve got to get ready for a fifth one. Other teams are going to be after us.”
While some teams reveled in the cold weather, others were happy to have an alternative plan.
At the Raquet & Fitness Center of Portland, tennis teams from Waynflete, Cape Elizabeth, North Yarmouth Academy and Deering High were happy to be in climate-controlled temperatures.
“Oh my gosh, I think it’s going to be three weeks before all the snow is gone from our courts,” Waynflete senior Allie Armstrong joked. “We’ll definitely be (inside) this week.”
Armstrong is the Flyers’ returning No. 3 singles player. Waynflete has won three straight Class C state titles under Coach Linda Cohen. Armstrong said when they do get outside there will be an adjustment period. “But for today, this is great. I’ll take this,” Armstrong said.
Inside or out, opening day starts the process of melding new and veteran players.
“The first day is the time when we can get a sense of each others’ skills and what we need to support each other with,” said senior Emily White, Waynflete’s returner at No. 1 singles.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or firstname.lastname@example.org