JAY — As the field hockey game goes on, Ashlee Quirrion listens for voices.

Most of the sounds off the field she blocks out, but the goalkeeper can still hear the voice of her coach from the sidelines. Now she hears two coaches.

“I hear Jane (DiPompo) because she was my coach last year,” said Quirrion, who played for Jay. “I’m starting to hear Julia (Parker). “When I’m playing, I don’t hear other people. I hear my coach. So I have to get used to hearing her voice.”

Now that Jay and Livermore Falls are combining their schools and sports teams, it is forcing adjustment for athletes. On the field hockey team, both coaches from Jay and Livermore Falls have teamed up. DiPompo, and Parker, who was the Andies coach, are sharing coaching duties.

With basketball, it is a different scenario. While most of the athletic teams have at least one coach returning, the girls’ basketball squad has a whole new coaching staff.

“With field hockey, we’re used to the coaches and know how they work,” said Kathryn Ventrella, a senior guard that led Livermore Falls to the regional final game last winter. “I think its a good experience to have a new coach. Everyone has a new coach and not used to the old ways. It ties in a new beginning for everyone.”

This summer is the start of Spruce Mountain athletic programs. That means students that have competed against each other and have known each other around town are now teaming up.

“They all know each other,” said boys’ soccer coach Bill Acritelli, who was the Andies head coach last year. “The rivalry is a rivalry, but they know each other and talk to each other all the time. They’re all a really great bunch of kids. They’re doing well.”

For the coaching staffs, this is a time to lay the groundwork for the season to come. Gavin Kane ended up taking the girls’ hoop job later then usual. It hindered the number of games he was able to set up for the summer but has allowed for more practice time.

“That gives players an opportunity to learn our system,” said Kane. “We’ve been able to start to instill our new system. We certainly do things different than what they did in the past and there are some similarities to what Jay and Livermore Falls did in the past.”

Both girls’ basketball teams were strong defensive clubs that worked hard. That was always the trademark of Kane’s successful Dirigo teams as well. It has allowed the hoop team to build team chemistry and understanding as teammates.

“It’s actually been a good experience,” said Ventrella. “It’s about us getting to know each other and how we play and getting to know the new coaches. I think it’s working out really well.”

The other squads have had to meld their styles of play. The field hockey team has split into two clubs this summer, mixing and matching at times in their weekly games and practices.

“In field hockey, we pass more and (Livermore Falls) seemed like they hit and ran,” said Quirrion. “Now we’re all doing the same thing.”

It is the same in boys’ soccer. Acritelli’s Livermore Falls program has been more of a possession team as the Andies have improved into a competitive MVC squad in the last decade.

“It’s two different styles,” said Acritelli, who also coaches the ski teams, which often practiced together when they were separate . “Jay was more of a boot ball team. We were more of a passing team. The last few games they’ve started to come around.”

Players are accustomed to adjusting and getting used to new coaches, teammates and levels but merging two established schools and athletic programs is a significant change.

“It’s a unique situation with the merging of the two schools,” said Kane. “I’ve been really pleased with how quickly we seemed to adjust to it this summer. It’s not an easy transition but the kids have all been very positive and done it very smoothly.”

It may ultimately be a bigger challenge for people in the community to adjust to the Tigers and Andies combining as the Phoenix. The players are excited about the new opportunity and challenge, even if some old allegiances still exist.

“Being the first to graduate from Spruce Mountain High School is a cool thing,” said Quirrion. “But I’d still rather graduate as a Tiger, but that’s how it’s going to work the next few years. Down the road, nobody is going to even remember the Tigers and the Andies.”

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