AUBURN — A week ago, the St. Dom’s girls’ soccer team was playing in a playoff game. Many of those same players were already on to the next sports season Monday, the first day of practices for high school girls’ hockey programs across the state.

“There’s no down time,” St. Dom’s senior Tia Rotolico said. “We had a week to have free time after school, and now we’re right back at it.”

While the first day of the fall and spring seasons can often mean a wake-up call for athletes as far as conditioning, girls’ hockey players who also play a fall sport normally are already in shape when they hit the ice.

“I think 99.9 percent of them play a fall sport, so they’re in fairly decent shape coming in,” St. Dom’s head coach Paul Gosselin said. “So we’ve got a good start.”

Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland head coach Shon Collins contended, however, that his teams — and others — aren’t always up to full speed, even with a good number of fall sports participants.

“Hockey conditioning, it’s rather unique. Hockey’s different,” Collins said. “The stops and starts and everything else, using different muscles. Hockey shape is different. We probably won’t get there for a couple weeks.”

In addition to getting physically ready for the season, Gosselin and Collins have to get their teams mentally and emotionally set for when the games begin. Building chemistry is just as important as building endurance.

“We’ve got a lot of built in chemistry,” Gosselin said. “Either the soccer season or the field hockey season has kind of done that for me.”

Gosselin pointed out that St. Dom’s attracts students from multiple towns, meaning not all his players — notably freshmen — know each other very well before the season begins. The Saints have eight freshmen on their roster, but many played together on the girls’ soccer team.

“It’s real big, because more than half the game is mental, and how you connect and how you see the plays develop,” St. Dom’s freshman Kristina Cornelio said. “Especially playing soccer with a bunch of us, that’ll help with the flow of the game.”

Both Cornelio and Rotolico were on the girls’ soccer team, and many of the freshmen have played travel hockey together, giving Gosselin a good head start for a team with 14 total players and 12 underclassmen.

“I think the skill set is pretty good, considering they’re freshmen coming in,” Gosselin said. “They’re coming in with a higher skill set than we’re normally used to, in such great numbers.”

Building chemistry will also be key for Collins, who must bring together players from three schools

“Fortunately a lot of these girls have played together at some point growing up,” Collins said. “Most of them know each other, which is really a helpful thing to have. It does take a little bit of time, I think, for them to figure out where their place is and how to interact with a lot of these girls that they don’t know much about.”

The Red Hornets added Poland players to the program, but the lone player to join — Madison Simard — was injured for much of the year. Simard is back, along with two freshmen players. Collins said adding Poland players to the mix of Edward Little and Leavitt players shouldn’t change anything for his team.

One thing that will change for a Red Hornets team coming off a 16-3-1 season last year is who mans the crease. Last year’s starting goalie, Savannah Shaw, is now at North Yarmouth Academy, leaving Collins to fill the void with two new goalies.

The Red Hornets are well stocked at other positions, however, as expectations remain high.

“I think that we still have the ability to be a strong team,” Collins said. “We have plenty of talent.”

The other team that calls Norway Savings Bank Arena home — St. Dom’s — hopes to get back to that level. The Saints won a state title in 2011, but didn’t field a varsity team just three years later. The Saints missed the playoffs last year.

Rotolico, the lone St. Dom’s senior, hopes to finish her career on better terms.

“Being a senior, it’s kind of difficult because I don’t play a spring sport. So after hockey this is done for me,” Rotolico said. “I think everybody’s really optimistic. We want to make it this year. This is the year to do it, I think.”

“We want to win just as much as Tia,” Cornelio said. “We want to do it for her, and we want to help her to get her goal too.”

Just a week ago Rotolico saw her high school soccer career come to an end, and Cornelio was right there with her.

Simard finished her season with the Poland girls’ soccer team two Mondays ago, while Red Hornets teammate Samantha Martineau was playing field hockey for Leavitt this past Wednesday.

Now all of those players have moved on — and moved inside — as the quest for the girls’ hockey state championship has begun.


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