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Spring Preview: North Yarmouth Academy Panthers

Sports

Spring Preview: North Yarmouth Academy Panthers

NYA has two new coaches, is one sport smaller and has plenty of reason for optimism as the 2009 spring season commences. Baseball has one of the new head men. That squad has hinted that it could be a contender in early action. Boys' lacrosse also has a new coach and looks to build on last year's strong finish in its quest to dethrone fierce neighbor and rival Yarmouth. The girls' team made it to the state game a year ago and wants desperately to get back and finish the job this time around. Boys' track has won three state titles in a row and again boasts an abundance of stellar athletes. The girls' squad will also be tough. Girls' tennis is also defending a championship and could do it again. The boys' team will show improvement. There will be no varsity softball team this year.

BASEBALL

Coach; Alan King (first year)

2008 Record: 5-11 (Lost 2-1 to Livermore Falls in Western Class C prelim)

Top returning players: Peter Hyndman (Senior), Ian Nichols (Senior), Joe Warren (Senior), Kyle Williams (Senior), Dean Darien (Junior), Sam Hutchinson (Junior), Chris LeBlanc (Junior), Alan Brown (Sophomore), Jordan Haskell (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 1 (H) ST. DOM'S, May 4 (H) RICHMOND, May 6 @ Waynflete, May 15 @ St. Dom's, May 18 (H) FREEPORT, May 20 (H) WAYNFLETE, June 3 @ Gray-NG

Coach's comment: "We'll be playing some small ball and relying on defense and pitching. We have a good core of kids. We need to play mistake-free and take advantage of opportunities and we should be OK."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Panthers welcome a new coach in King, who served as JV coach for five seasons. He played at Morse and has also coached Babe Ruth and Senior Babe Ruth ball in Bath. NYA has started 0-2, but has been very competitive against a pair of Class B programs. The Panthers dropped their opener, 5-2 at Yarmouth, then suffered a gut-wrenching 4-3 setback at Gray-New Gloucester Saturday. In that one, Darien took a no-hitter into the sixth and NYA led 3-0 entering the seventh, only to watch the Patriots rally. Darien, Hutchinson, Nichols and freshman Jeff Chaney will be the top pitchers. NYA's staff should keep it in most games. The Panthers will need to rely on its defense and hope the offense can come through. Haskell had a big hit against Gray-New Gloucester. He's the catcher. Williams hits leadoff and plays shortstop. Darien, Hyndman and Nichols will also look to produce with the lumber. Brown, LeBlanc and Warren bring depth. Senior Andrew Gendron, who didn't play last year, will be a factor in the outfield. The Panthers will be competitive, but will have to find a way to win the close ones. NYA should be able to increase its win total and be more of a threat come playoff time. This is a program on the rise.

Fun fact: Since its run of four Class D state titles in five seasons ended in 2004, NYA's win total has decreased each season. The Panthers won 16 games in 2004, 11 in '05, 8 in '06, 7 in '07 and 5 last year.

BOYS LACROSSE

Coach: Chris Carpentier (first year)

2008 Record: 5-10 (Lost 12-7 to Yarmouth in Eastern Class B Final)

Top returning players: Evan Siepert (Senior), Cam Smith (Senior), Matt Ward (Senior), Brandon Barrett (Junior), Tom Gildersleeve (Junior), Taylor Norton (Junior), Gus Wellin (Junior), Finn Hadlock (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 (H) FREEPORT, May 2 @ Cheverus, May 5 @ Scarborough, May 9 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 13 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 20 @ Falmouth, May 26 (H) GREELY, May 29 (H) PORTLAND, June 1 @ Yarmouth

Coach's comment: "I'd like to make it to the Western Maine Final. That's my first goal. I'm trying to bring them together as a team as quickly as possible. It's easy to step into a program that has been successful for so long. It'll be fun."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Panthers overcame an 0-6 start a year ago to come within a game of getting the opportunity to defend their state championship. Ultimately, rival Yarmouth had too much in the second half of the regional final, but NYA ended the year feeling mighty good about itself. This year, the Panthers appear to be in better shape at the start of the year. For the first time since 2002, NYA welcomes a new coach after Jeff Thoreck departed to become the athletic director at Cape Elizabeth. Chris Carpentier steps into the void. He's proved to be a quick study, taking Freeport to the semifinals in 2006, his first year with that team. He played at Wiscasset and New England College and is eager to take over a storied program. Even after the graduation of All American Taylor Gorman and all-star Henry Gleason, plenty of talent remains. The Panthers will be led on offense by Gildersleeve, Hadlock (who also handles faceoffs), Smith and Wellin. The defense is anchored by Barrett and Siepert. Two players are vying to fill a hole in goal. Senior Matt Ward or Taylor Norton will get the opportunity. Yarmouth is still the favorite in the region and NYA faces a very tough schedule, but the Panthers are capable of doing great things. They might struggle early, but by year's end, expect them to be right in the hunt for a title.

Fun fact: NYA and Yarmouth have met nine straight years in the postseason with the Clippers holding a 6-3 edge. In five of those years, the winner went on to capture the state championship.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Coach: Julia Littlefield (second year)

2008 Record: 12-3 (Lost 12-8 to Waynflete in Class B Final)

Top returning players: Bugsy Clemetson (Senior), Rachel Darby (Senior), Nicole Fuller (Senior), Lucy Gerrity (Senior), Abigail Moss (Senior), Hayley Bright (Junior), Courtney Dumont (Junior), Frances Leslie (Sophomore), Lily Wellenbach (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 5 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 8 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 19 (H) GREELY, May 21 @ Cheverus, May 27 @ Yarmouth, May 29 @ Waynflete

Coach's comment: "I think we're pretty solid. We have a nice group of kids who are excited. A lot are coming off a field hockey championship. We have a lot of firepower. Rachel being healthy will really help. Our biggest goal is homefield advantage."

The Forecaster's forecast: Littlefield's first year as coach was certainly memorable as the Panthers ended Yarmouth's two-year reign as champion and gave Waynflete a mighty scare in the state final before falling short. With several standout players back, NYA has to be viewed as a team capable of making history and winning the program's first title. The biggest difference this year is the return of Darby, who missed the latter stages of 2008 with a knee injury. Her presence immediately makes the Panthers that much stronger on offense. No longer does Dumont (a reigning second-team all-star, who had a record seven goals in the state game) have to be the first option. The indomitable standout (who also takes draws) will tickle the twine with regularity, but Darby will do her share of goal scoring and Wellenbach, who had a breakout freshman campaign, figures to do the same. Clemetson (a second-team all-star in 2008), Fuller and Gerrity will also be heard from. On defense, Bright and Leslie lead the way in front of Moss, a first-team all-star last spring. The story of Class B girls' lacrosse is simple: there are three powerhouses vying for one prize. While Waynflete appears to have an easy road to the state game, NYA and Yarmouth will be on a collision course for the sixth year in a row. The rivalry's gone in twos recently, with the Panthers winning regional crowns in 2004 and 2005 and the Clippers doing it in 2006 and 2007. NYA hopes that trend continues and that it gets another crack at nemesis Waynflete with a crown at stake. This Panthers squad could be the best in program annals and appears destined for another special season.

Fun fact: NYA has played in the state final four times. On each occasion, it had to play Waynflete. The Panthers are still seeking their first championship.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Chris Mazzurco (13th year)

2008 Results:
(Boys) Class C State Champions
(Girls) 5th @ Class C State Meet

Top returning athletes:
(Boys) Sam Fear (Senior), Steven Lentine (Senior), Doug Goldstein (Junior), Henry Sterling (Junior), Mohamed Dahia (Sophomore), Michael Ianno (Sophomore), Nick Kolkin (Sophomore)
(Girls) Alison Carpenter (Senior), Caroline Howes (Senior), Danielle Walton (Senior), Hilary Gibson (Junior), Katie Lentine (Junior), Ali O'Reilly (Junior), Maeve Stier (Junior)

Top foes: Freeport, Lisbon, Waynflete

Coach's comment: "We look good for this time of the season. The boys got a huge influx of athletes who are new to the sport. However, only a few of last year's state scorers are returning. Hopefully they'll be able to combine for some solid performances in the bigger meets. We have a decent number of returners from a very successful girls' team last spring. The majority of our relays are back. We're on the smaller side this year, but several new faces combined with many veterans should combine for a strong showing."

The Forecaster's forecast: NYA's small outdoor program has excelled in Class C in recent years and should do so again.

The boys' squad has had no peer the last three seasons, but has a new look in 2009. Those scorers returning could be very prolific. Sterling (NYA's Winter Athlete of the Year after winning the mile and two-mile indoors) came in runner-up in the two-mile and third in the mile last spring. He's a distance standout who should continue to dominate. Fear was runner-up in the javelin and shot put and placed third last spring in the high jump. He was also second in the high jump and shot put indoors. Fear will contend in the jumps and throws. Ianno, Kolkin and Lentine scored in the relays a year ago. All will be factors in the sprints. Ianno also throws. Kolkin is a middle-distance runner as well and Lentine will run the hurdles and middle-distance. Goldstein competes in the racewalk. Dahia is a sprinter, jumper and middle-distance runner. New senior Victor Churchill looks to contend in the distance and throws and freshman Alex Coffin adds depth in the middle-distance and distance races. If the Panthers can find some additional big meet points beyond Fear and Sterling, they'll make a run at another championship. Regardless, they'll be competitive and exciting throughout.

On the girls' side, the loss of racewalker Kayte Demont will hurt, but others will contribute. Carpenter, Gilbson and Walton were part of a first-place 1,600 relay team a year ago. Carpenter and Gibson will run the sprints and jump. Walton will also run middle-distance. O'Reilly came in third in the shot put last year outdoors. She and Lentine are the lead throwers. Howes runs hurdles. Stier is a jumper and sprinter. New junior Hannah Bewsey (who ran indoors) adds depth in the sprints, hurdles and jumps. NYA should be one of the better teams in the Western Maine Conference and could very well be in the hunt for a high finish at the state meet.

BOYS TENNIS

Coach: Charlie Hudson (31st year)

2008 Results: 0-12 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Chris Meixell (Senior), Ben Morse (Junior), Chris Whiting (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 1 @ Greely, May 6 (H) WAYNFLETE, May 11 @ Falmouth, May 20 @ Waynflete, May 22 (H) YARMOUTH

Coach's comment: "We got a couple athletes who should make us a little more competitive. I think we have a shot to be in it against some teams in our conference. It's a good group of kids. They're enthusiastic."

The Forecaster's forecast: After losing just about everything from its 2007 championship team, NYA struggled mightily a year ago. As a result, the Panthers have nowhere to go but up and this team should be able to win some matches. NYA opened with a 5-0 loss to Class B York last week and doesn't return to action until Monday when it faces powerhouse Cape Elizabeth. Whiting will be in the No. 1 singles role. Meixell, a doubles player in 2008, moves up to second singles, while Morse, who also played doubles last spring, is going to play No. 3 singles. New senior Simon Hebert will also be in the mix at third singles or first doubles. Senior Garrett Bowne and juniors John Finnegan and Turner Kelsey fit into the doubles mix as well. It'll be awhile before the Panthers are back among the league's elite, but the rebuilding process will begin in earnest this year. NYA will improve as the season goes along and could be a dangerous foe by the end of the year.

GIRLS TENNIS

Coach: Lorena Coffin (third year)

2008 Results: 15-1 (Beat Madawaska 5-0 to win Class C state championship)

Top returning players: Eliza Gercke (Senior), Thu-Trang Ho (Junior), Emily Mitchell (Junior), Anna Jaeger (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 27 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 1 (H) GREELY, May 11 (H) FALMOUTH, May 20 (H) WAYNFLETE, May 22 @ Yarmouth

Coach's comment: "We have a lot of experienced players. Four of the top seven are returning. We have a lot to work with. We have great potential, but we haven't been tested yet. We have good athletes and competitors. We'll go out and do the best we can."

The Forecaster's forecast: NYA's best has been the better than anyone else's in recent years. The Panthers are coming off their second straight Class C title, their fourth in six seasons and their sixth in the past decade. As always, NYA will battle rival Waynflete for the top spot this spring. The Panthers feel good about their chances. Ho returns at first singles. She was a first-team all-star a year ago and rolled to easy win in NYA's 5-0 victory at York to start the season last week. Jaeger (a second-team all-star in 2008) is at second singles. She also won easily last week. The third spot will go to freshman Sarah Jordan, who opened the year with a hard-fought two-set victory. Gercke played third singles last spring, but moves to first doubles this year. She'll team with senior Kayla Marvil, who was studying out of state last school year. The second squad will likely feature Mitchell and senior Hillary Keach. Freshmen Stephanie Maxsimic and Morgan Scully add depth. There is every reason to believe the Panthers have what it takes to make another title run. If NYA stays healthy and hungry, it has a great shot at adding some more hardware.

Photo:
Junior Brandon Barrett plays smothering defense for the NYA boys' lacrosse team. (File photo)

Photo:
When junior Courtney Dumont has the ball on her stick and the goal in sight, the goalie rarely stands a chance. (File photo)

Photo:
NYA junior Henry Sterling has become one of the elite distance runners in the state. He'll look to lead the Panthers to another Class C outdoor championship. (File photo)