FITCHBURG — It didn’t take long for the Fitchburg High Field hockey team to break a sweat Monday.
Under slightly hazy skies and with a scenic view of Wachusett Mountain not far off in the distance from their practice field, the Red Raiders got to work in the first session of the fall at the Game On complex in Fitchburg with a bit of humidity.
Picturesque vantage aside, the Red Raiders weren’t alone in getting in the opening reps of the 2023-24 school year. Other than football programs, which kicked off workouts on Friday, the MIAA mandated Monday as the first day for practices and tryouts for the remaining fall sports.
Soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf and girls volleyball got their initial tastes of what lies ahead for the upcoming season and at Game On, spirits were high.
“They’ve been putting in a lot of work. We had some girls who put together some workouts all summer long at Fitchburg State, so they’ve been working on their conditioning and skills,” second-year Fitchburg head coach Kelly O’Connor said. “They’ve been working on team-building and all that stuff, so they’re ready to get going.”
Similar to most teams in North Central Massachusetts, the first practice of the fall season gave O’Connor a glimpse at some very basic things, like program size and her players’ level of conditioning on Day 1.
“We have a pretty number of girls signed up with some girls trickling in,” said O’Connor, whose team opens the season Sept. 6 at Lunenburg High School. “We lost seven seniors and a couple girls who were going to be seniors this year. We’ve got three seniors so far for the season, as well as some pretty solid juniors and sophomores. I think they’re ready to work hard and they’ll improve as we go.”
Game On also played host to Fitchburg High’s soccer teams and Monty Tech’s field hockey team for practices on Monday afternoon. The Red Raiders will use the facility for home games throughout the season, save for volleyball — which calls the Doug Grutchfield Field House home — and football, which will be played at Crocker Field.
Across the city on the grounds of St. Bernard’s, multiple fields were in use as the Bernardians saw soccer programs, the field hockey team and the football team all getting in practices. Inside the school’s Activity Center, the girls volleyball was getting in its initial workouts.
“The kids are excited. It’s been great to see multiple teams out here working,” Bernardians athletic director and football assistant Ray Cosenza said. “It’s been busy here today and that’s a good thing. We like to see our teams out here working.”
Most local teams will get a couple weeks of work in before starting their seasons during the week of Labor Day.