KSC Fall Teams Begin Practice
KEENE, N.H., 8/24/10 – There was a distinct and timely chill in the air Monday as Keene State College fall teams began their first full week of practice.
After spending hours drawing up hypothetical line-ups in their offices, KSC coaches actually get a chance to put the pieces of the puzzle together on the field and the court, mixing returnees with promising recruits in hopes of finding the winning combination.
For Owl athletes, fond summertime memories give way to the harsh reality of three-a-day practices and preparation for the upcoming season.
“The first few practices are all about getting the players in shape,” said KSC men’s soccer coach Ron Butcher, who is hoping to improve on last season’s 13-7 record and return to NCAA tournament play. “We then start integrating the freshmen with the upperclassmen and see what we've got.”
“Basically, I’m looking to find out where we are, talent-wise,” said Keene State women’s soccer coach Denise Lyons, who guided the Owls to a 16-6-3 mark and the ECAC New England championship last fall. “A lot of times, we have to move players around to fit the needs of the team.”
“We have a lot of new faces, so we’re trying to get them acclimated to the system we play,” said KSC women’s volleyball coach Bob Weiner, looking for his team to rebound from an 18-17 season. “It takes time and a lot of repetitions.”
As far as the players are concerned, it’s a question of the known versus the unknown. While there is a certain comfort level in knowing what to expect, veterans like junior Luke Sisco of the men’s soccer team still begin fall practice with a little anxiety.
“It’s something you look forward to, but also something you’re dreading at the same time because it’s difficult,” he said. “You’re not used to practicing three times a day, so it takes a while for your body to get over the soreness and stiffness.”
“The last few weeks of the summer are pretty nerve-wracking,” said Nora Mahoney, a senior on the women’s soccer team. “You start wondering how the team is going to be and if everybody will mesh.”
Coming to camp for first time can be a harrowing experience for freshmen. Many are away from home for the first time and must make the emotional and physical transition to their new surroundings. “I was terrified. College cross country is a lot different than high-school cross country,” said Emily Laplante from Hudson, N.H. “I was afraid that I would be unprepared.”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Leddy Gallagher, a field hockey recruit from Acton, Mass. “It’s been really tiring, but you have to push yourself through it.”
“Freshmen ask, ‘Is the whole year like preseason?'," said Mahoney. “You just tell them it’s like a test. And once you pass, the year gets a lot more fun.”
While their training methods might differ, all the teams go out of their way to help first-year players adapt and not feel isolated. Several squads, including soccer, field hockey, and volleyball, use a buddy system, pairing newcomers with team veterans.
“They’re nervous, and you can’t blame them,” said junior Jackie Benson of the field hockey team. “I felt the same way when I first came here.”
“We all try to help them out, and by the second or third day they’re pretty comfortable and not getting lost anymore,” said teammate Chelsea Blackmer.
The freshmen in return appreciate the effort of the returning players.
“They are so welcoming. They don’t treat you like freshmen at all,” said Kim Roy, a first-year volleyball player from Rochester, N.H. "It makes coming to a new team so much easier.”
“The team has been great," said Gallagher. "I really like meeting everyone. It's going to make freshman year so much easier, knowing all these people already.”
The coaches hope that the team bonding will result in a successful season. With just a few practices under her team's belt, an optimistic Lyons can already sense some good things.
“Early on you can tell from a talent perspective and from team chemistry if things are coming together,” she said. "I’m excited, but I’m excited every year. I can’t wait for the season to begin.”