PITTSFIELD — If Joe Racicot wasn't the happiest man in Pittsfield on Monday afternoon, he was right up there at the top.
As his Pittsfield girls basketball team worked through the motions on the first day of tryouts, Racicot looked on with a smile stretched across his face.
"The first day is one of my favorite days [of the season]," Racicot said.
And who could blame him?
After a lengthy stretch away from the hardwood, Berkshire County teams were back out dribbling and shooting on Monday as the start of winter sports kicked off across the state. For Pittsfield guard Peyton Steinman, that meant that this Monday was way better than the other ones she has had this school year.
"I wait all year for this to come around and now it's finally back," Steinman said. "I'm excited."
Teams have nine days before the first games of the season on Dec. 10. The first teams scheduled to go that Thursday are the Taconic boys at home, the Mount Everett teams at the Franklin Tech Tournament, and the Pittsfield girls up at Mount Anthony.
With nine days, give or take a few, before teams get underway, Pittsfield boys coach Steve Ray said that once tryouts are over, practices are about getting the basic systems in before the first tip.
"Unfortunately, you can't really leave too many aspects of the game out," Ray said. "What we do, we make sure we're prepared to do the things that people are going to do to us.
"We get our systems in, then from then on for the rest of the year we are perfecting those systems."
Across the county, several teams are looking to either defend hardware this season, or take that one extra step to hoist a winner's trophy.
On the boys' side of things, Hoosac Valley returns nearly the entirety of its squad that made it to the state Division III championship game. Wahconah was the team that fell to Hoosac in the Western Mass. championship game, and Hoosac took down Drury in the semifinals. Up a division, the Pittsfield boys were Western Mass. D-II semifinalists.
For the girls, Hoosac made the state Division III championship game and Pittsfield fell in the Western Mass. D-II finals.
The Hurricane girls will have an interesting season trying to recapture last season's success. With a bulk of the team graduated, coach Ron Wojcik said the start of the season has to be basic.
"While we have some kids back, four kids are back with experience, breaking in a whole new group was interesting today," Wojcik said. "Things we were doing in practice [last year] which were probably common, normal, that everybody would know, we had to step through and walk through [today]. It's definitely going to be a process, but it's exciting."
Wojcik, though, said that his team's energy was where it needed to be for the first day.
"It was definitely good energy with the girls," Wojcik said. "The first few days are a little rough on the kids from the standpoint of conditioning. I told the kids today, we have eight practices before we play next Friday night.
"It's a matter of conditioning, trying to get in everything that you think you need to have in for the first game."
Area teams will play their typical league slates during the season, and nearly all will play in some form of a tournament during the season. For Ray, the non-league schedule is fun, but he thinks playing in the county is even more exciting.
"I'm most excited about playing Hoosac Valley and Taconic, it looks like there's going to be some good teams up here in the [Berkshire] North," Ray said. "As much as we like our schedule with [Pioneer] Valley teams and a tournament in New York, I really look forward to that time of year when we are going head-to-head with our [Berkshire] teams."
The regular season runs through Feb. 25, with the Western Mass. tournament beginning shortly after. Check back next week for the Eagle's winter preview capsules.