Beth Arsenault, the field hockey coach at Portland High for two decades, is taking on five players from Deering High this fall for a co-op team that has yet to select a nickname. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Beth Arsenault is entering her 20th season as the Portland High field hockey coach. This year, she’ll have a team like no other.

That’s because the Bulldogs also will include some Rams this fall. Low numbers at Deering led the schools to combine players for one team. The team, which has yet to determine a nickname, has five Deering players.

“I think they’re going to add a lot to the team,” said Arsenault. “They clearly have a love for the sport. This isn’t an easy thing to do for them. They have a love and passion for the game and they have some experience … It would have been tragic if they had not been able to continue playing.

“We benefit from it, but it’s good for the city of Portland. It’s good for the sport of field hockey.”

Deering made the playoffs last year, finishing with a 6-9 record, but graduated 10 seniors. And when Coach Amethyst Hersom announced she was leaving to become the Bonny Eagle coach, the returning players knew the program was in trouble.

“This became our only option,” said senior midfielder Aleah Murph, a first-team all-SMAA selection last fall. “Honestly, we’d love to be playing for our school and with the team we’ve had the last couple of years, but we’re playing and that’s all that matters. I get to play my senior year.”

Added Deering senior midfielder Lexi McNally, “Different uniform, same game. That’s all.”

McNally said they played with some of the Portland players in middle school. “It’s nice to be back with them,” said Portland senior midfielder Talia Casale.

Lexi McNally and Aleah Murph of Deering High, along with Talia Casale, right, of Portland High, listen to field hockey coach Beth Arsenault during a recent practice. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland went 0-13-1 last fall, so its returning players are welcoming the infusion of talent. “They all have really good skills and I think they will bring a lot to our team,” said senior midfielder Audrey Dufour. “I’m excited to see how it goes. We’ve had some tough seasons lately, so it will be good to mix it up. In the end it will benefit us.”

“The only issue with the different schools is not having that chemistry of seeing each other every day,” said Murph. “The only time we’ll be together is on the field and at games.”

Arsenault realizes that. “When we’ve had success, that was a big part of it, doing things together,” she said. “In this case, we have to be even more invested in it so it’s not seen as, ‘Oh, there’s Portland with those Deering girls.’ ”

She addressed that to the team during a recent practice, saying, “We want to make everyone feel this is our team, regardless of the name on the jersey.”

Arsenault is used to having players from other city high schools on her roster. The Bulldogs have had players from Casco Bay High and Baxter Academy, and do again this year. But the Rams?

“For a kid who grows up in Portland, and I don’t care what sport it is, you circle that Deering date on your calendar, and it’s the same for them,” said Arsenault. “It’s sort of sad to not be playing against them, so I hope for their sake and the sake of the sport in the city it’s a one-year arrangement.”

FOR THE second straight year, Old Orchard Beach won’t have a varsity field hockey team. But unlike last year, the Seagulls will play a junior varsity schedule.

“We wanted to make sure we were on solid ground before implementing a varsity schedule after sitting out a year,” said Dean Plante, the school’s athletic director. “Our numbers are stronger and we’re up to a 12-game schedule.”

A year ago, Old Orchard canceled its season after the preseason began because of a lack of players. The Seagulls tried to field a junior varsity team but didn’t even have enough players for that. This year, the team has about 17 players.

THERE WAS some shuffling done by the Maine Principals’ Association this year, moving teams from the North to the South.

Boothbay Region, Hall-Dale and Winthrop/Monmouth Academy were moved from Class C North to Class C South. Winthrop/Monmouth is the defending state champion.

Dirigo, Mountain Valley and Spruce Mountain were moved from Class C South to Class C North. They were the top three teams in Class C South last year, with Spruce Mountain winning the regional title.

In addition, Morse went from North to South in Class B.

Mike Bisson, an assistant executive director at the MPA, said the moves were made to balance the regions and put those teams closer to possible playoff opponents. “If you looked at a map, the people we had in Class C South and North really didn’t match last year,” he said. “We were asked to look at it, and it made sense to reshuffle some of the schools.”

Boothbay Coach Donna Jordan said the shift won’t affect regular-season schedules. “It’s just a different group of teams we could potentially face come playoffs,” she said. “We might see some people we haven’t seen in the past.”


Comments are not available on this story.