WESTBROOK – On Saturday morning, two of Westbrook High School’s most promising girls teams took the field in scrimmage matches against out-of-division opponents.
For the Blue Blazes’ field hockey team, the foe was unfamiliar Oxford Hills, while the Westbrook girls soccer squad took on an Edward Little club that went all the way to the Eastern quarterfinals in 2009. And although neither game resulted in a win for Westbrook field hockey or soccer – it was 3-1 and 4-1, respectively, in favor of the opposition – both teams saw positives to be taken away from the experience.
“I thought today they played pretty good,” said Westbrook field hockey head coach Beth Murphy about her players. “It’s not bad after the first two days’ practice. I am pleased, but I think we have lots of room to improve. With the new self-pass rule that was passed this year, it seems to speed up the game a little bit.”
Westbrook field hockey was left on the outside looking in, in 2009 after the team’s 7-6 record made them the 10-ranked team in a nine-team playoff pool.
“We probably would have been the sleeper team because we gave up only 14 goals defensively [last year] – that’s not much,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, we only scored 19 goals, and you have got to score a little bit more than that to get into the playoffs.”
A major benefit of getting back out on the field in practice play for the players seemed to be the opportunity to shake off feelings of what might have been. In speaking about the near-miss last season, senior forward Sarah Howard appeared eager to prove that Westbrook will be a factor this post season.
“The end of last year was stressful,” she said. “It makes me want to try harder this year, since it’s my last year.”
With regards to facing an opponent in Oxford Hills that the Blue Blazes have not played in recent years, senior forward Olivia Marsden argued that the club derived a number of benefits from seeing different faces on the other side.
“I think we always worry about teams in our division,” she said, “so it’s good to see what else is out there, because in the end it’s not really about your division. I mean, hopefully we make it to the point where we win the Western Maine finals and we’re out playing everyone.”
The Blue Blazes will open their season at Massabesic on Sept. 2, and are already thinking ahead to how they match up against the Mustangs.
“They have a lot of talent gone from last year, and a lot of seniors who were very good,” Murphy said. “(Massabesic head coach Michelle Martin) does a good job over there. I really think our speed is our strong point. We’ve got some kids who can run, and hopefully that will take us a bit further than Massabesic. We’re hoping to win – and that’s the goal, obviously.”
Girls soccer looking to stay healthy
For the Westbrook girls soccer team, 2010 may prove to be the season of promise fulfilled. Last fall the club was hard-hit by injury, losing two of its top players – then-juniors center midfielder Lauren Blais and forward McKenzie Johnson. Both girls had ankle surgery during the off season, but are expected to return at some point this year.
“I think everyone worked hard and played hard, but this was not our best today,” said senior forward Vanessa Bradbury following the loss on Saturday. “We’re missing some of our key players, and we have to get people healthy. Lauren Blais keeps everything in position when we’re out there, and she and McKenzie Johnson are both pretty big parts of our team.”
Head coach Ryan Hayes also said that he believes that the key to Westbrook improving upon last year’s disappointing 4-9 record lies in keeping his experienced club whole.
“In our first two years we’ve been on the brink,” Hayes said. “Our inability to stay healthy and keep the same nine or 10 or 11 on the field – that really been the deadly part of it all. We just have to maintain health and have no serious injuries at the beginning of the year so we can get a lot of upperclassmen on the field. That’s going to make the biggest difference.”
Despite the 4-1 loss to Edward Little, Hayes did see a number of benefits from the encounter with the playoff-seasoned Red Eddies, including the opportunity to get a number of underclassmen some field time against a very experienced team.
“One of the positives was that a lot of the younger kids were playing with a little more emotion and an absence of fear,” he said. “It’s nice to see them do some of the things we’ve been trying to teach them throughout the summer.”
The Blue Blazes will kick off the regular season at South Portland on Sept 3. Senior Lindsay Driscoll said that she believes the Red Riots are amongst the league’s best teams, but that Westbrook will be ready for them.
“They are somewhat in the back of our minds, like Scarborough and Gorham,” she said. “But we want to become that kind of a threat as well, so were kind of hoping to be able to take them on. The first game, though, is always is kind of a rough one. You never know what to expect.”