Photo Gallery | Pittsfield High School girls soccer practice
The first full day of fall sports practice unofficially starts the school year. Like the players, the coaches couldn't wait to get started.
"Absolutely. All summer, you're trying to think of different ways you're going to approach things," Mount Greylock boys soccer coach Blair Dils said. "How you're going to change things up and give them a positive experience."
It's exciting for the players and coaches alike. It is not, however, nerve-racking.
"Now, it's not so much nerves as excitement," Greylock tri-captain Jake Foehl said.
"It's not so much nerves any more."
While football practices began Monday, the other fall sports -- soccer, cross country, golf and volleyball -- opened practice Thursday.
The Pittsfield High School girls soccer team, like many others, started early. The Generals began their quest for a third straight trip to a Western Mass. Division I final by dodging morning rain at Kirvin Park.
PHS graduated seven starters from last year's squad, but coach Andy Waluszko says his returners reported for the fall in strong shape.
"You can tell the girls came in ready," he said. "The captains have done a fantastic job with captains' practices. The majority of the girls are in really good shape, and they're ready to go."
Back in Williamstown, while Foehl said that he slept well, Dils, the veteran Greylock coach, said some night-before nerves can keep a coach from sleeping as soundly as he or she might like.
"I think anytime you're back on in the spotlight, whether it's teaching in a classroom or out here on the field, it's a restless night for sure," Dils said.
The Mounties spent part of Thursday morning doing a conditioning run. Then they all gathered on the practice field at 4 p.m. for the first practice of what they hope will be another successful season on the pitch.
"Our primary goal is just to get better as a team every single day," said Foehl. "Looking past that, we start to look at what we can achieve as a team. That's whatever -- be the best in Berkshire County, the best in Western Mass., whatever we want to be. As long as we work hard enough, I think we can accomplish whatever we set out to do."
Dils, who is entering his 16th year at the Greylock helm, said that planning for 2014 actually began on the bus ride home from last year's Western Mass. Division III championship game loss to Belchertown.
The Mounties entered the tournament seeded second and had to beat Wahconah and Monument Mountain to reach the championship game.
The Mounties graduated five players off of last year's team, returning seven seniors including All-Eagle picks Foehl and Grant Raphiael, who are captains along with David Majetich.
"These guys have known each other. We have seven seniors, so they've known each other a long time," said Dils. "They've been looking forward to this year for quite some time."
In the evening, Hoosac Valley's cross country and girls soccer teams wrapped up their first practices. The mood at each was relaxed, and the coaching staff was able to see who had put in the offseason work and who hadn't.
The main difference in the teams was coaching seniority. Kirstin Holmgren, a former Mount Greylock JV coach who has also coached with the Berkshire Ajax select team, is in her first season at the helm of the soccer team. In cross country, Ron Namislo is beginning his 23rd season at the helm.
"A lot of the girls ran during the summer quite a bit," Namislo said. "I would say four of my boys ran quite a bit.
"I broke them into two groups. The group that did a little extra work today is in good shape. Now I can get them in running and racing shape. The other group, I'll have to work on getting them in shape the next 2-3 weeks."
On the Hoosac pitch, senior co-captains Marissa Felter, McKenzie Robinson, Megan Richardson and Cali Romaniak had nothing but optimism for the season.
Romaniak said she'd love nothing more than for the Hurricanes to win the North in their first season in the upper division. Richardson, the Hoosac goalie, sees Berkshire County as wide-open due to graduation losses.
"A lot of schools lost a lot of key players," she said. "We lost Meg Rodowicz, Courtney Hayer, Jenn [Gale]. PHS lost a lot of key players. I feel like a lot of them are rebuilding. ... We're all in the same spot."