The sun is shining, the sky is blue and optimism abounds.
Those observations describe the scene of Honesdale's varsity field hockey practice Monday afternoon at the HHS Athletic Complex nicely.
Smiles and laughter abounded as Coach Becca Maciejewski's young squad ran through drills in anticipation of its first real action.
The Lady Hornets were heading to Lake Lehman Tuesday morning for that school's annual Play Day. After that, focus will shift to the advent of the Wyoming Valley Conference campaign.
"I'm always excited for the start of the season, but this year it's a little bit different," said Coach Maciejewski. "This year I honestly don't know what we have yet and that's definitely unusual."
Honesdale is scheduled to kick-off its 2013 season on the road with three consecutive away games.
The Red & Black will travel to Montrose (Aug. 27) for one last exhibition match. They then trek to Wyoming Seminary (Aug. 30) and Hazleton Area (Sept. 3) for Week One WVC encounters.
Local fans will finally get a chance to see their team when the Lady Hornets make their home debut on Thursday, Sept. 5 against perennial powerhouse Lackawanna Trail.
That contest is slated for a 4:15 p.m. start here in the Maple City.
Young & Exciting
Honesdale is coming off one of its most successful seasons in program history.
Last fall, the Lady Hornets went 8-6-0 in WVC action, good for third place in Division One and a berth in the District Two playoffs.
The local lasses defeated Valley West in an epic semifinal, but sustained a heartbreaking loss to Wilkes Barre Coughlin in the Class AAA championship game.
Nine girls from that silver medal team graduated, including Mary Martin who will go down in HHS history as one of the program's greatest offensive players.
Page 2 of 3 - "I think one of the reasons I'm so excited for this season is that we have a blank canvas," Coach Maciejewski said. "All that's really left from last year is a few traces of the midfield. Other than that, we can really make this team into anything we want."
Competition for starting positions has been intense all throughout pre-season practice, leaving Honesdale's veteran mentor with quite a quandary heading into Lake Lehman's Play Day.
"It's the first time in six years that I haven't been able to fill out my line-up card this late," she said with a smile.
"We have so many talented girls going head-to-head ... it's kind of a nice problem to have, but it's really causing me anxiety, too."
Two experienced players are taking up the mantle of leadership for Honesdale this fall.
Sarah Redick and Jamie Rosencranse have been named team captains. Both are seniors and each brings something special to the table.
Redick will be penciled in at center-back this year. She's a battle-tested veteran who helped ignite the offense last season from the right wing.
"Sarah is a quiet and confident presence on the field," Coach Maciejewski said. "She's very poised and really gets us moving in the right direction on transition."
Rosencranse also played a key role in the Lady Hornets' run to the District Two finals in 2012.
"Jamie is much more vocal as a leader," said Coach Maciejewski. "She's the one out there giving directions. Jamie is a very versatile kid who could probably play any position on the field."
Janie Murphy will likely be the focal point of Honesdale's offensive attack. An aggressive, physical sophomore, Murphy is the heir apparent to Martin's position at center forrward.
Page 3 of 3 - "Janie really wants to score," Coach Maciejewski said with a laugh. "I can't even count the number of people she's run over in scrimmages. Janie attacks the cage just as hard as Mary did and I think you'll be seeing her name in the scorebook a lot this year."
A pair of freshmen will flank Murphy and provide the Lady Hornets with a potent three-pronged assault.
Ally Meyer will be on one side, while Clayre Smith occupies the other.
"Those two girls are fast, aggressive and just very annoying to play against," Coach Maciejewski said.
"Ally and Clayre are very athletic and I don't think many teams will be able to hang with them too long."
Bailey Martin will anchor the Red & Black offense. A junior who's moving up front from the midfield, Martin proved the be a consummate team player last season by stepping on the defensive end.
"Bailey has so much heart," said Coach Maciejewski. "She's a very experienced kid who plays club hockey everywhere she can. Bailey has a lot of urgency to the cage. She makes the best of whatever situation she's put in."
Defensively, a great deal rides on the development of two very different players.
Mackenzie Jackson is making her varsity field hockey debut at keeper. A sophomore who's been working hard all summer, Jackson will be Honesdale's starter.
Valerie Gaglione is a senior who'll anchor the back line. A 3-year starter, Gaglione will be tasked with taking some of the pressure off a young goalie.
"Val is a very good veteran player," said Coach Maciejewski. "She's really tough, really consistent and tough to get around."