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Spring Preview: Falmouth Yachtsmen

Sports

Spring Preview: Falmouth Yachtsmen

Falmouth could be championship-caliber in several sports this spring. Girls' tennis is coming off a state title and is a heavy favorite to repeat. The boys' saw their long match win streak end in last year's state final, but should be formidable like always. Both track teams feature an abundance of stellar athletes. Baseball projects to be a contender in Western Class B, while softball is hoping to make a run to the playoffs. Boys' lacrosse is viewed as the up-and-coming program in the area, while the girls expect to enjoy another solid campaign.

BASEBALL

Coach: Dana Dresser (fourth year)

2008 Record: 12-6 (Lost 2-1 to Lincoln Academy in Western Class B quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Kyle Weeks (Senior), Ben Wilson (Senior), Mitch Beaulieu (Junior), Matt MacDowell (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Yarmouth, April 29 (H) GREELY, May 7 @ Greely, May 13 (H) YORK, May 25 (H) YARMOUTH, May 27 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, June 3 @ York

Coach's comment: "We are a very young team. We lost eight of nine starters from last year. We have great kids and great team chemistry. We have many kids can pitch. Now, we have to see if they can pitch at this level. We have many interchangeable players and parts. Lastly, we have hungry players fighting for spots and looking to leave their mark. That should serve us well."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Yachtsmen got off to a tough start last Thursday with an 8-1 loss at defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth. MacDowell had no answer for the Capers' hitters, but did get a couple of hits to lead the offense. Despite the loss, Falmouth appears primed for a successful campaign. Dresser believes this team's chemistry will pay big dividends as the season progresses. The Yachtsmen don't have a lot of experience. Beaulieu will play third base and pitch and should contribute in both spots, as well as at the plate. MacDowell became the No. 1 pitcher during his freshman season and will only get better as 2009 continues. He'll also catch and wields a potent bat. Weeks (centerfield, pitcher) is known for his clutch hitting and had a solid Legion season last summer. Wilson (shortstop, pitcher) was a reserve in 2008, but should be an integral part of this team. Senior Alex Beaton is the top newcomer. He's an outfielder with great speed and can hit as well. Several other underclassmen are vying for spots as well. After a vacation week trip to Florida, Falmouth figures to be better equipped to compete upon its return. The Yachtsmen better be as they get top contenders Yarmouth and Greely right away. It might take some time, but Falmouth will win its share of games and make a run at a playoff spot. By June, this group of Yachtsmen could be a very dangerous opponent.

Fun fact: Falmouth has posted a winning record in each of the past three years. The last time the Yachtsmen had such a run was in the glory days of the 1990s, when they had winning records for an eight-year span (1992-1999).

SOFTBALL

Coach: John Keyes (fifth year)

2008 Record: 5-11 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Kiley Flynn (Senior), Kelsey Graffam (Senior), Angie Lotfey (Senior), Gabby Wansaker-Kirsh (Senior), Katie McCarthy (Junior), Emily Whitmore (Junior), Sarah Collmus (Sophomore), Kelsey Freedman (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Yarmouth, April 29 (H) GREELY, May 1 @ Fryeburg, May 4 (H) GRAY-NG, May 7 @ Greely, May 15 (H) LAKE REGION, May 20 (H) WELLS, May 25 (H) YARMOUTH, May 27 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH

Coach's comment: "Our goal this year is to produce more runs when the opportunities present themselves. We left too many runners on the bases last year. We have to put pressure on other teams' defense. We have to play strong defense and eliminate mental mistakes. Pitching should be strong. Hopefully the way we ended last year will carry over to the start of this season."

The Forecaster's forecast: Falmouth lost its opener 7-0 at Cape Elizabeth, but the score was as misleading as can be. After the Yachtsmen almost took the lead in the top of the sixth, they did themselves in with errors in the bottom half when the Capers erupted for six runs. For most of the game, however, Collmus went head-to-head with Cape Elizabeth senior all-star Trish Thibodeau and the Falmouth hitters had their moments as well, providing optimism for the rest of the season. If the Yachtsmen can limit their errors and get some clutch hits, they could make a quantum leap in the standings. Collmus had a perfect game a year ago against Sacopee and can hit as well. Freedman will see some innings also. McCarthy handles the catching and is a formidable hitter. Lotfey mans first base. Graffam moves from second base to shortstop this spring. Whitmore moves from the outfield to third base. Wansaker-Kirsh is the anchor of the outfield. Foley (currently injured), Flynn and sophomore Brittany Harrison will also be in the mix as will newcomers junior Lauren Boucher (outfield), sophomore Jessie L'Heureux (infield, outfield) and freshman Allison Carver (catcher, first base, outfield). Falmouth has no easy games in the first half of its schedule and will do its best to tread water. A win or two against a contender would do wonders for confidence. The Yachtsmen will compete throughout and should improve on last year's record. A trip to the postseason is a realistic proposition.

Fun fact: Since winning the program's lone state title in 1993, the Yachtsmen have enjoyed just one double-digit victory season (10-6 in 2001).

BOYS LACROSSE

Coach: Mike LeBel (third year)

2008 Record: 5-8 (Lost 7-6, in OT, to Greely in Western Class B semifinals)

Top returning players: Sam Dunwoody (Senior), Dan Hanley (Junior), Chris Janelle (Junior), Mike Kane (Junior), Nick Bachman (Sophomore), Jay Hurdman (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 (H) SCARBOROUGH, April 30 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 6 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 20 (H) NYA, May 22 @ Portland, May 27 (H) YARMOUTH, May 29 @ Greely, June 3 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH

Coach's comment: "We're still very young, but I think the future is promising. We're starting two freshmen. I'm all for bringing freshmen on to varsity. We should be able to compete with the better teams. We hope to go a step further in the tournament. We feel confident."

The Forecaster's forecast: The buzz around the league, especially among the accomplished teams, is that Falmouth is very close to being an elite program. The quality of the school's athletes is no secret and the youth program has been excellent. While the Yachtsmen might still be a year or two away from serious contention, there's little doubt they can make some noise this year. One season after a first-ever victory over North Yarmouth Academy, Falmouth will get several chances to knock off the blue bloods of southern Maine as it faces a very challenging schedule. Home games with defending Class A state champion Scarborough and perennial contender Kennebunk, followed by a trip to defending Western B champion Cape Elizabeth begins the year. Later in May, the Yachtsmen go NYA at home, at Portland, home against defending Class B champion Yarmouth, at rival Greely and home against Cheverus to close it out. That doesn't leave many "easy" games. Regardless, Falmouth should be OK if its players continue their development. Offensively, Bachman, Hanley, Janelle and Kane lead the way. A trio of freshmen will make an immediate impact. Jack Cooleen (the basketball star, who will also handle faceoffs), Mike Ryan and Mitchell Tapley will soon become household names. Soccer standouts Michael Bloom and Kyle Lucas will use their athleticism to make an impact. On defense, Dunwoody brings a steady presence in front of Hurdman, who started as a freshman and has been in the middle of plenty of action in goal in hockey as well. With even more talent on the way, the Yachtsmen won't lack for enthusiasm or promise. They're not there yet, but it won't be long until Falmouth lives up to the hype. This season, the Yachtsmen have a great shot at being Cape Elizabeth's biggest competition in Western B.

Fun fact: Last year, on its eighth trip to the postseason, Falmouth made the semifinals for the first time.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Coach: Robin Haley (seventh year)

2008 Record: 9-4 (Lost 9-7 to Greely in Western Class B semifinals)

Top returning players: Ellen Hassett (Senior), Haley Jordan (Senior), Sarah Girouard (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 29 (H) YARMOUTH, May 1 @ Waynflete, May 7 @ Cheverus, May 19 @ Scarborough, May 21 @ Kennebunk, May 26 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 29 (H) GREELY, June 3 @ NYA

Coach's comment: "I think we're athletic, but the schedule we have is extremely competitive. It's going to be hard, but the girls are excited about it. We have talent and we're balanced. It's a great compliment for us to be in the top tier."

The Forecaster's forecast: The new girls' lacrosse scheduling system is based on record, so Falmouth's placement with the powerhouses is indeed a compliment to how it has played the past couple seasons. It's a mixed blessing of course as now the Yachtsmen face many daunting challenges during the season, including an excruciating crucible to start the year, at home against perennial powerhouse Yarmouth and a trip to defending Class B champion Waynflete. A finishing stretch of Cape Elizabeth, Greely and reigning Eastern B champion NYA won't be easy either. Falmouth can build on its success of a year ago where only a huge game by Kate Otley of Greely kept the Yachtsmen from a first-ever regional final. Falmouth lost some key players to graduation, but returns Jordan, an all-star last year, at center. She'll handle draws and is a top scoring threat. New sophomore Laura Fay will also look to fill the net. Girouard and Hassett anchor the defense in front of new goalie, sophomore Jen Greene. The Yachtsmen always have an abundance of athletes and that will serve them well. Falmouth has to take advantage of its games against the non-powers on their schedule. A win against an established team would certainly help confidence. By season's end, the Yachtsmen will be at their best and regardless of their record, will be a very tough out come the postseason.

Fun fact: Falmouth has increased its win total in each of the past three years going from three victories in 2005 to five in 2006, eight in 2007 and nine last spring.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Danny Paul (eighth year)

2008 Results:
(Boys) 2nd @ Class B State Meet
(Girls) 7th @ Class B State Meet

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:
(Boys) Jamey Epstein (Senior), Kris Floridino (Senior), Scott Gardner (Senior), Dallin Thomas (Senior), Tommy Winger (Senior), Gabe Hoffman-Johnson (Junior), Kellen McDonald (Junior), Mike Serunian (Junior), Charlie Swerdlow (Junior), Will Wegener (Sophomore)
(Girls) Ali McClellan (Senior), Tina Pruyn (Senior), Abby Smith (Senior), Francesca D'Alfonso (Junior), Erin Morris (Junior), Adrianne Michalakis (Sophomore)

Top foes: Cape Elizabeth, Greely, York

Coach's comment: "Hopefully this boys' team will be motivated to make a real run at a state title after coming so close last year. We should cover the relays very well. The girls have a nice combination of youth and experience. Our group of freshmen is deep. I think we're in the mix for second with Cape and York. Greely is still the team to beat."

The Forecaster's forecast: Both Falmouth outdoor track teams are loaded this spring.

The boys were just 5.5 points shy of Waterville at last year's state meet and are coming off another solid indoor season (where they were also runner-up). This year's team is hoping to grab some hardware and not only returns several scorers from last year, but has others who figure to produce. Winger won the high jump and long jump last spring and did the same indoors. Look for him to close his stellar high school career in style. Winger and Hoffman-Johnson are back from Falmouth's first place 400 relay team from a year ago. Hoffman-Johnson runs sprints and jumps. The distance contingent is led by Epstein, Gardner, Serunian and junior Eric Hemphill. Swerdlow was second in the racewalk last season. Sophomore Matt Goldstein also takes part in that unique event. Wegener, sophomore Mike Gardner, and McDonald (who was second in the 400 last year) run middle-distance. Dunn joins Hoffman-Johnson as a top sprinter. The throws feature Floridino (second in the shot put last year, first indoors) and Thomas is a standout jumper and pole vaulter (he was seventh in the vault last year outdoors and second indoors this winter). A quartet of freshmen will also be factors. Tim Follo and Conor McGrory are future stars in the distance, Jimmy Polewaczyk is a sprinter and Reid Pryzant jumps and hurdles. The Yachtsmen have a lot of potential points and have a great shot at leapfrogging Waterville and holding off rival Greely for the top spot in June.

On the girls' side, Falmouth could be on the move as well. Six scorers return from last year. Pruyn was fourth in the racewalk last year and will look to move up this season. Smith came in fourth in the pole vault last spring, but moved up to second indoors. She'll look to soar to the top this time around. D'Alfonso, McClellan, Michalakis and Morris all scored in the relays last season. This year, D'Alfonso and Morris lead a strong distance group. They're joined by senior Catherine Nurse and sophomore Maggie Parrish. Middle-distance features junior Rachel Brown and sophomores Shaina Sirois and Amy Webster. McClellan and Michalakis are potential scorers in the sprints. Senior Adri Fox is another threat. The Yachtsmen also have several strong jumpers, a group that includes Fox, McClellan, senior Ali Coyne and freshman Rosemary Nurse, who also pole vaults and hurdles. The lead throwers are new sophomore Katie Sparks and freshman Jenna Serunian. Coach Paul's belief his team can make a run at the No. 2 spot is realistic. Falmouth appears due for a very solid season.

BOYS TENNIS

Coach: Bob McCully (38th year)

2008 Results: 15-1 (Lost 5-0 to Caribou in Class B Final)

Top returning players: Jack Coster (Senior), Ben Moody (Senior), Jack Wyman (Senior), Nick Polko (Junior), Chad Prichard (Junior), Tommy Bazarian (Sophomore), Harlan Cutshall (Sophomore), Taylor Dimick (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: May 1 (H) WAYNFLETE, May 4 @ Yarmouth, May 13 (H) GREELY, May 26 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH

Coach's comment: "We have a lot of depth, but I'm not sure how we'll fare at the top of our lineup against the superpowers. We have a lot of new faces to sort out. We're very deep in talent. We should be competitive, with Yarmouth being the team to beat and Cape Elizabeth being very deep and strong."

The Forecaster's forecast: After winning 47 straight matches and a pair of Class B championships, Falmouth's reign came to an end in emphatic fashion last June with its loss to Caribou in the state final. The Yachtsmen don't have the overwhelming lineup they've boasted the past three seasons, but they could still make a serious run at Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth. Falmouth did fall 3-2 at the Capers in the opener last Thursday, bit in an encouraging decision, Polko was victorious at first singles. He has some big shoes to fill replacing Sam Hyland in that spot. Prichard played No. 2 singles and Bazarian was in the third spot in the first match. They both have a great upside. The Yachtsmen's top doubles team, Ben Moody and Coster, earned a three-set win at Cape Elizabeth. They'll be big contributors. Cutshall and Dimick played No. 2 doubles in the opener. Senior Chris Moody, sophomore Connor Burfiend and freshman Will Robinson are also in the mix. Most expect Falmouth to cede its regional dominance to Yarmouth or even Cape Elizabeth, but the Yachtsmen won't go without a fight. As always, there are an abundance of solid players on the roster and Falmouth figures to win its share during the regular season and be at its best come playoff time. Don't write this team off just yet.

GIRLS TENNIS

Coach: Sandy Stone (seventh year)

2008 Results: 15-1 (Defeated Camden 4-1 to win Class B state championship)

Top returning players: Andie Doyle (Senior), Melissa Keroack (Senior), Hallsey Leighton (Senior), Amanda Gallagher (Junior), Emma Wilberg (Junior)

Pivotal matches: May 1 @ Waynflete, May 4 (H) YARMOUTH, May 11 @ NYA, May 13 @ Greely, May 26 @ Cape Elizabeth

Coach's comment: "Our prospects look excellent this season. We only graduated two seniors and gained two proven New England U-16 competitors who play and train year-round. We really have three No. 1-quality singles players who would be dominant is most programs. We have depth, good camaraderie and only three seniors. It's a terrific group of girls. We look forward to a strong season."

The Forecaster's forecast: You can't crown a team champion in April, but this Falmouth squad certainly has the look of a one. You can't blame other coaches if they think the Yachtsmen's talent is an embarrassment of riches. After Falmouth graduated two seniors, they promptly replaced them with two superb freshmen, Annie Criscione and Analise Kump, who are ranked in the top 70 in New England U-16 play. They'll take the top two singles spots and be joined by Leighton, who was merely a first-team all-star and Falmouth's 2008 Spring Female Athlete of the Year last season. The freshmen easily won in straight sets in the Yachtsmen's season-opening 4-1 win over Cape Elizabeth last week. The doubles teams are seasoned. Doyle and Keroack play No. 1. Wilberg and Gallagher take the No. 2 spot. It's hard to see which team in Class B can give Falmouth a serious threat. Perhaps the Yachtsmen's best match will come from Class C champion NYA or top contender Waynflete (the only team to beat the Yachtsmen last year). If Falmouth stays healthy and hungry, it has some great things in its future. This could be one of the most dominant teams in recent memory (at least since the 2005 and 2006 squads went undefeated and won it all).

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Senior hurler Ben Wilson will look to play a major role in Falmouth's playoff drive this spring. (File photo)

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Dan Hanley is one of several weapons looking to fill the net for Falmouth's boys' lacrosse team this season. (File photo)

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Jay Hurdman received trial by fire in goal as a freshman. Now, as a sophomore, he'll look to stymie the opposition and lead Falmouth deep into the playoffs. (File photo)

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Senior Kelsey Graffam brings her intensity and skill to the diamond where she hopes to lead Falmouth to the playoffs this spring. (File photo)