PITTSFIELD -- Sounds of whistles blowing, football pads thudding and groans from soccer players running laps around the perimeter of the field can only signify one thing -- all the fall sports teams are practicing in the Berkshires.
With the start of the fall season less than two weeks away, coaches around the Berkshires are working to install their schemes and gauge the level of talent on their squads.
Across the county, soccer, golf, volleyball and cross country practices began. Thursday was also the first day for full-padded practice for football teams.
The Pittsfield High School girls soccer team is returning 10 seniors to a team that made it to the Western Massachusetts Division I final last year. The Lady Generals' morning session is used for drills and conditioning, while the second practice has players competing in intrasquad scrimmages. Coach Andy Waluszko said he uses both sessions to evaluate players.
"What we're looking for: First touch is key. What the girls do with the ball, are they nervous with the ball, do they just boot the ball. ... We like to possess the ball. That's how we play," Waluszko said. "We're looking for girls who control the ball and compete."
Senior captains Kara and Nicole Alfonsi, Meghan Driscoll and Morgan Matthews have been focusing on conditioning during the offseason to prepare for practice.
"We try to incorporate something from our warm-up or something we do at tryouts to get the girls ready and get ourselves ready," Matthews said.
The Generals take pride in being a family. Senior Lindsay Neuberger said that camaraderie was one thing that she was looking forward to when joining the team for offseason practice.
"I was a new student last year and it's really nice to return to a team where I actually have friends, because I've gone to different schools every year of high school," Neuberger said.
At the other end of the county, the Hoosac Valley High School boys soccer team will return all of its star power from last year.
The Hurricanes will be led by three returning seniors at key positions on the pitch, and head coach Camilo Bermudez said team chemistry will play an important part in the team's success.
"We have a group of three that's been on varsity since ninth grade," Bermudez said. "[Matt] Waltermire sweeping, Shaun Knapp in the middle and Sean Ryan-Kut at the forward. Right down the middle we have our most experienced players, and they're going to anchor this team potentially."
The first session of the Hurricanes' two practices consisted of light drills. Forward Sean Ryan-Kut said the energy Bermudez brings makes practice much more enjoyable.
"He gets himself involved in the drills with us. I'm so excited to have him here; he's a wicked cool guy and a great coach overall," Ryan-Kut said.
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