Field hockey coach Barb Marois watches players run through a drill during the first day of practice at York High on Monday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

YORK — Barb Marois stands off to the side, watching her York High field hockey players complete a stickhandling drill.

“Hello,” she says. “Here we go, back at it.”

As a player completes the drill, she says, “That felt weird. I forgot how to look up (while dribbling the ball).”

Marois, returning to coach the Wildcats after a two-year hiatus, tells her, “Don’t worry, it will come back.”

That was Monday, mere minutes into the first practice of the fall for the school’s fall sports teams. Like all high schools in York County, the Wildcats had been unable to hold any practices or games since the start of the school year because the county had received a “yellow” designation in the state’s color-coded school advisory system during the pandemic. Last Friday, York County turned green, allowing sports to begin to begin Monday.

At York High, that meant a return to practice only. For now, the Wildcats are not planning on playing any games in this abbreviated fall season, which ends for all schools in Maine on Nov. 14. Even their practices are unconventional.

York is following the hybrid model of its academics, splitting its athletes into cohorts. Students who attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays will practice together, as will students who attend school on Thursdays and Fridays (Wednesday is a virtual day for all students). Each cohort group will receive virtual workouts on the days when they’re not in school.

“This is how we’re going to get started and hopefully move forward,” said York Athletic Director Jeff Oliver, who added that games might be added during the last week or two of the season. “(The color-coded system) is so unpredictable. If we keep getting good news, we’ll take what we can get. I know the kids are just thrilled to be out there.”

The York High field hockey team practices Monday. For now, the school is not planning to participate in interscholastic games this fall. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

While coaches wish they could have a full-team workout, the athletes are, indeed, simply glad to be together again. For many of them, their last high school competition or practice was in February.

“The no-games thing is sad and too bad, and it would be awesome to have an opportunity for playoffs,” said senior field hockey defender Gemma Hopkins. “But everyone is going through the same thing and I’m just happy to be out here with my team and making the most of it.”

If any team had a reason to be miffed about a lack of games, it would be York’s field hockey team. The Wildcats have won the last seven Class B South championships and 14 of the last 16.

Christina Dargie, a senior midfielder, said that doesn’t matter.

“Field hockey is a sport I’ve been playing since the third grade, so I couldn’t imagine giving it up any way,” she said. “Just being with the team, the team motivates me. I get to see them, I get to practice with them, we encourage each other. I just have so much fun with it.”

Marois, a former U.S. Olympic field hockey player, said she’ll coach differently this year.

“There’s usually a lot of preparation and situational things that we work on, and other things we can’t do because of the safety protocols,” she said. “I just want them to have fun out there and play the game.”

Nick Hanlon, the first-year girls’ soccer coach at York High, watches players run through a drill during the first day of practice on Monday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

First-year girls’ soccer coach Nick Hanlon put his team through a series of drills that not only worked on improving their skills, but building relationships.

He said he could tell his players were having fun during their practice.

“(You can see the) smiles behind those masks,” he said. “You can hear it in their voices, you can hear it in their chatter. That hasn’t been there. I’m a teacher in the building and that (fun) hasn’t been in the building yet. But it was out here today, which is awesome. This is a step forward in the right direction.”

His goal? “To learn names with the face masks on, with the face masks off,” said Hanlon. “That may seem like a silly little goal for October, but it’s only been Zoom meetings since July.”

And the players are glad to be rid of those, for the most part.

“We were definitely excited because it was good to see each other again,” said midfielder Eliza Linn, one of seven seniors on the girls’ soccer team. “We’re all good friends … And while it stinks that we’re split up, we’re happy we can at least do this.”

Junior goalkeeper Allie MacDonald said just seeing teammates was motivation enough to be out on the field.

“I just think everyone is in the same boat,” she said. “You can either make the best of it or don’t show up. What motivates me is to come here and see everyone and see what we can do.”


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