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Athletes return for first day of practice in YAIAA

Carter Luckenbaugh, Pierrce Miller and Nick Starr Jr. are ready to move on from a heartbreaking end to last season. They turned the page Monday, on the first day of practice for fall sports teams across the YAIAA.

It could be easy for the Panthers to dwell on 2015. Central looked to have all but sealed a first-round win in the state tournament when it let a 2-1 lead slip away in the final minute of the game. After two overtime periods, Fox Chapel eliminated Central in penalty kicks.

“It’s a new season, fresh start, new goals,” Miller said. “We knew what happened last year, but this year we’ll try to do our best and see what will happen in the end.”

Central will have a much different look this season after graduating eight seniors from last year’s team. The new group of Panthers will have some big shoes to fill after the team won the YAIAA Division I title and made it to the league and District 3 championship games.

The 2016 version of the team will be a much younger team than last year’s squad, and Central will need younger players to step up. That is why the first few days of practice are so important, according to Luckenbaugh.

“We just have to set the tone quick,” said Luckenbaugh, who is a senior captain on the team. “They’ll know the expectations by our first couple of scrimmages. Hopefully we’ll get things rolling pretty early.”

While Monday marked the first official day of practice for the team, the players had been spending time working with one another during the summer to get in shape for the upcoming season. Those practices helped the players build chemistry for this season before things really got underway.

“What I really like last year was our team chemistry,” said Starr, who is also a junior captain. “You knew what each player was going to do before you even got to the ball. That’s one thing we gotta do here in practice, and over the summer, was work on our chemistry. Really build on that.”

Littlestown off to early start: The defending YAIAA Division III boys' cross country champions made sure to beat the heat on the first day of practice.

The Littlestown Thunderbolts cross country teams started practice at 8 a.m., with coaches handing out cups of water at every corner during a 3-mile run. Practice finished around 9:30 a.m.

Coach Dan Lawrence chose to start practice early so a school district policy wouldn't interfere with practice. The Littlestown Area School District is strictly enforcing a policy that dictates how practices are managed based on the heat index, calculated by using a chart to factor in the temperature and humidity.

According to the policy, there are no restrictions when the heat index is below 83, and there can be no practices when the heat index is above 105. Varying rules about breaks for water are implemented depending on how high the index is between those two numbers.

“I’m more worried about next week when we’re gonna be practicing after school," Lawrence said. "It’s the hottest time of the year.”

Gettysburg field hockey focused: The Gettysburg field hockey team spent most of the day in the heat, working through a morning practice and an afternoon practice on the hot Warrior Stadium turf.

The Warriors worked on individual skills in the morning and team passing and shooting in the afternoon. Coach Janelle Ebaugh pondered ways to also help her girls work on composure. It's an element of the sport that really struck her while watching the U.S. women's national team compete at the Olympics during the past week.

“The biggest thing I’d like to see is for them not to be fazed by the officials, for them not to care if the call is great or terrible," Ebaugh said when discussing team goals for the upcoming season. "I’d really just like for it to be a non-issue. I’ve been watching so much USA Field Hockey, and they let the officials get into their heads. I would like that to just be a non-issue for us, that’s my goal for this year.”

The Warriors have won the YAIAA Division II title both seasons since joining the league in 2014, but will now compete in Division III in the league's new four-division format.

Watch: YAIAA teams begin fall practice
Fall sports teams in York and Adams counties officially started preseason practices on Monday. Here are some highlights.
Matt Allibone

Eastern football becoming more balanced

Jeff Mesich wanted to bring more balance to Eastern York’s offensive game and he put that plan into action on the first official day of practice.

The Golden Knights have used a run-based offense, but, as Mesich alluded to during media day earlier this month, he wants his team to be able to mix things up a bit. So the first-year head coach had his players doing passing drills and adjusting to passing routes.

“We’ve been a really strong running team, obviously that sets everything up,” Mesich said. “But if you want to be successful in Division II and District 3, and be as successful as we want to be, then we’re going to have to throw more than we have in the previous years.”

Eastern's run game has been successful in the past, with the Golden Knights running the ball for 2,243 yards last season, the third most in the YAIAA. On the other hand, they threw for a league-low 351 yards.

Mesich’s plan going forward isn’t to eliminate the run game, rather he wants to give equal time to the passing game. The same goes for when the team is practicing.

There will be an adjustment period to the changes, Mesich said, but his hope is the team’s passing game continues to improve.

“Our kids are still getting used to it,” the Eastern coach said. “Every day we’re getting as many reps as we can in the time we have. Hopefully each week we should show improvement. It’s kind of how it’s looked all summer. Every week, every month has gotten better.

“Hopefully during the season we’ll see the same thing.”