September 9, 2013

Field hockey preview: Falmouth up for new challenge

The Yachtsmen are now a Class A program, and they have the talent to contend.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH - Falmouth High field hockey coach Robin Haley knows a trip to uncharted territory is probably waiting for her team at the end of the season.

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Falmouth Coach Robin Haley has an experienced team that should fare well during the regular season in the Western Maine Conference before facing a new set of opponents in the postseason.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Leika Scott (7) is part of a veteran cast for Falmouth, which is one of several field hockey teams affected by the Maine Principals’ Association’s new classification enrollment figures.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Assuming they qualify for the postseason, the Yachtsmen will be competing in the Western Class A tournament for the first time. A bump in enrollment at Falmouth means a veteran group of athletic and skilled seniors will likely see some new teams come tournament time.

"In some respects it is a little different. We're still competing in Class B with our schedule, but we're going to be in Class A in the tournament," Haley said. "You just hope that you have the most competitive schedule that you can and make sure you prepare the best you can."

But at a preseason scrimmage day well before the Yachtsmen's first official game, Haley said it was too early to worry about what might happen come playoff time.

"Our team just needs to go game to game. If we get ahead of ourselves we could get in trouble."

Haley said she's been told Falmouth's enrollment growth is a two-year "bubble," so there was little desire to try to move from the Western Maine Conference to the SMAA -- a Class A league.

As a result, any playoff games will be against unfamiliar opponents.

"I got a chance to scrimmage them," Westbrook Coach Beth Murphy said. "(Falmouth) will be one of the top teams in (the WMC), and come playoff time they could shock a couple of our schools (in the SMAA)."

Deering Coach Liz Koharian, a former assistant at Falmouth, voiced an opinion echoed by many coaches: classification labels mean little when it comes to the top teams.

"I don't see a real skill level difference coming from Class B to Class A," Koharian said. "All of the top teams in Class B could be very successful in Class A."

Falmouth's enrollment (727) is larger than Class A public schools Marshwood (719) and Westbrook (689), as well as private schools Cheverus (519) and McAuley (356 girls). Westbrook, Cheverus and McAuley petitioned the MPA to stay in Class A.

But there is no escaping the fact that Falmouth will build its resume against a completely different group of teams -- none of which are in Class A.

"To gain Heal points in one league and go play in another (in the playoffs) is difficult at best," Portland Coach Beth Arsenault said. "It seems to go against the spirit of the Heal points."

OTHER SIGNIFICANT changes because of enrollment-based reclassification include:

Kennebunk has moved from Class A to Class B.

Former Class B teams Wells, Yarmouth, Mountain Valley and Oak Hill are now in Western Class C.

Freeport moved up from Class C to Class B.

In Eastern Maine, Winslow, Foxcroft Academy and Mt. View moved from Class B to Class C; Brewer dropped to Class B; and Mt. Blue moved up to Class A.

The movement was created primarily because the MPA shrunk the Class B enrollment range in field hockey from 300 students (450-749) to 250 students (475-715).

Kennebunk's move was anticipated and is part of a school-wide adjustment for the Rams. After 10 years as one of the smallest schools in the SMAA, Kennebunk made the decision nearly a year ago to return to the Western Maine Conference. Kennebunk was a charter member of the league in 1987.

One of the larger effects of reclassification is that Class C now has much greater depth, says North Yarmouth Academy Coach Tracy Quimby. The Panthers won four straight Western Maine titles from 2008-11, and only 2012 state champ Lisbon has been a serious threat the past two years.

"And it's gotten a lot stronger in Eastern Maine," Quimby said. "They had three teams move down to Class C. It should be a competitive season.

"It's going to be interesting. Going into our game with Wells (on Tuesday) we have no idea what to expect."

Wells Coach Karla Pattershall said she made sure her team understands that moving down in classification does not mean an automatic rise in the standings.

"Some of the teams in Class C are better than the B teams we played," Pattershall said. "I look at it as a very competitive league. It will definitely be just as challenging as B."

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig

 

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