Monday morning, it didn’t matter.

The Lisbon High School senior was awake and alert a half hour before it sounded. She couldn’t sleep.

“I was so excited, I woke up before my alarm even went off,” Kahler said. “What makes me the most excited is, during the summer when we play, not everybody is there. Some people have plans or other commitments. But today, the whole team is here. You get to see everybody, and you get to see what your team looks like, what you’re going to be able to do.”

The first thing the Lisbon squad got to work on at their 8 a.m. session was running — coach Julie (Wescott) Petrie sent the team on a two-mile run to open practice.

“It’s more like 2.2 miles,” Petrie told the players as they finished, “so, good job.”

Conditioning and participating as a team have been the backbone of Petrie’s teams the past few years, and the work has paid off. Two years ago, the Greyhounds were Class C state champions, leading to heightened expectations — and a bit of pressure — a year ago.

“Last year, I think we were a little nervous, being the defending champs, and it’s hard to live up to that pressure,” Petrie said. “I’m sure they had it in the back of their minds, even though it was never verbalized.”

“I feel like there’s a lot less pressure,” Kahler said. “I feel like since we lost a lot of people, and we have to rely a bit more on the people coming up. I feel like it’s more like an underdog season, but I still think we’ll do really good. we had a good summer.”

A dozen miles away at Lewiston High School, coach Randy Richardson put his sizable squad through the paces, as well, using a mix of conditioning and skill work as a measuring stick.

“It’s about reminding the girls that the stick is part of the game, and that it’s a running game,” Richardson said. “The running we did was purposeful, first left hand (carrying the stick), then right hand. It’s not running just because we like to run, it’s running with a purpose.”

That purpose has changed in recent years as the game itself has evolved.

“The game has been modernized, and the way the rules have been adapted, especially to turf surfaces and the way International teams play the game, it’s much more up-tempo,” Richardson said. “It’s not a stop-and-go kind of game anymore. It’s more go-go-go-go. The need to be in shape right from the beginning is important. Those teams that run and run well will do well.”

Running early on a Monday morning isn’t normally motivation for teenagers to crawl out of bed. Starting a new sports season, though, changes attitudes.

“It was worth it,” Lewiston senior Taylor Collins said. “I love being here with the team. Even though we struggle early, it’s worth getting up for.”

“They self-select, and it’s clear that they love the game and love being with each other,” Richardson said.

Teams across the tri-county region took to the fields for the first time Monday in all sports, hoping to get a jump start on the season that, for most, begins Sept. 5 or 6, including football, soccer, field hockey, golf and cross country running. Across the parking lot from the Lisbon field hockey team, coach Dick Mynahan put his smaller, rebuilding squad through its morning paces. On the soccer field adjacent to Lewiston’s field hockey pitch, new girls’ coach Brant Remington ran a high-tempo workout, as well.

At St. Dominic Academy, where classes began Monday for all student-athletes, running two-a-day practices was a challenge. Some succeeded, but field hockey coach Brian Kay elected to hold one, longer practice.

The Saints, once a powerhouse, have been rebuilding their program in recent years. Kay knows the team isn’t far from being in serious playoff contention once again.

“Having that program at the middle school level, now you have players coming in with some experience,” Kay said. “We have players with three years experience with us as seniors, but now the freshmen have been playing right along, as well.”

A youth movement in the past few years has helped sustain the team, and some veterans with a nothing-to-lose mentality are setting a solid example for them.

“The freshmen are new to the school and to the team on the same day,” senior Jessica Buteau said. “We try to make them feel like they can talk to us. I’m really looking forward to working hard this season.”

Spruce Mountain began fall practices Monday for the first time as a member of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, a switch the school made after last spring season. The Phoenix lose rivals from Dirigo, Mountain Valley, Lisbon and Winthrop, but gain opponents from Leavitt Area High School, Maranacook, Belfast and Nokomis.

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