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Freeport Falcons Winter Sports Previews

Winter Sports Previews

Freeport Falcons Winter Sports Previews

Freeport has several teams to get excited about this winter. Boys' basketball has already eclipsed last year's win total and could be in line for a big move up the standings. The girls' squad could field its best team in ages and will likely be a feel-good story. Track has some good athletes waiting to turn heads, while both ski teams expect to excel again on both the Alpine and Nordic sides.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Matthew Cook (first year)

2010-11 Record: 0-18 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Spencer Bernier (Senior), Mitch Loeman (Senior), Josh Weirich (Senior), Chandler Birmingham (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 13 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, Dec. 22 (H) YORK, Jan. 4 (H) YARMOUTH, Jan. 6 (H) FALMOUTH, Jan. 12 @ Greely, Jan. 24 (H) POLAND, Jan. 27 @ Yarmouth, Feb. 7 @ Poland

COACH’S COMMENT: “I've been extremely impressed with the attitude, work ethic and ability to pick things up quickly and the willingness to learn. We're very athletic. We have decent overall size. If we continue to work hard and get better every day, we'll be able to compete in a very competitive league. I'm excited to be a part of it.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cook steps in as the new coach this winter and he's certainly optimistic about what lies ahead. Cook has nine years of varsity basketball coaching experience, seven at Wiscasset. He's from Camden, where he was a soccer and basketball player. He went on to play soccer at Springfield College. He and the Falcons quickly put memories of the program's first winless season in 37 years behind them Friday night with a 61-40 victory at North Yarmouth Academy. It was Freeport's first win since Feb. 4, 2010. The Falcons were paced by 18 points from Loeman, 13 from Bernier and 11 from senior Josh Soley. New junior Landon Easler will handle the point guard duties. Birmingham will likely score his share of points as the season progresses. Senior Evan Hench is another guard to watch. The front line is led by Bernier and the 6-foot-3 Weirich. Freshman Ramsey Dodge should make his presence felt as well. This squad has a lot of upside and other than games with the traditional powers, should be able to compete night in, night out. Friday's victory certainly won't be the last. If all goes well for Freeport, it will make a run at a playoff berth and if it gets to the postseason, that would make for a pretty amazing single season turnaround.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Jen Chon (second year, 6-12)

2010-11 Record: 6-12 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Morgan Brown (Senior), Alex Mitch (Senior), Hannah Chase (Junior), Jocelyn Davee (Junior), Leigh Wyman (Junior), Livvy Dimick (Sophomore), Ashley Richardson (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec, 17 @ Lake Region, Dec. 20 @ Wells, Dec. 22 @ York, Jan. 6 @ Falmouth, Jan. 12 (H) GREELY, Jan. 14 (H) LAKE REGION, Jan. 20 (H) WELLS, Feb. 3 @ Traip, Feb. 10 (H) OOB

COACH’S COMMENT: “I think even with our record at 6-12 last year that we accomplished a lot and contended with a lot of teams. We want to gain respect from the other teams in the conference and want to contend with every team we play. We need to come out strong in the first five games. It's important for us to not only have a perimeter game, but also an inside game, which we haven't had in awhile. We have a lot of changes in our team and we'll have to figure out what defense works best as we're aggressive and fast. Our goal is the playoffs.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Freeport has the potential to be a feel-good story this winter, but the Falcons suffered a major blow just before it started when junior sparkplug Aubrey Pennell was sidelined with a back injury that could keep her out for all or most of the regular season. She has a unique ability to will her teammates to great things, but it appears she'll have to do it from the bench. As a result, Wyman will play an even bigger role. A second-team WMC all-star last winter when she was first in the conference in steals (5.6 a game) and fifth in assists (3.3), Wyman has become a veteran leader. Freeport's biggest addition this winter is sophomore Nina Davenport, who played a key supporting role in McAuley's Class A championship a year ago and also participated on an AAU national championship team this past summer. Davenport will be one of the conference's best forwards. Brown (sixth in the league in blocks last season) is another top player down low. Chase, Davee, Dimick, Mitch and Richardson all have experience at the guard spot. Junior forward Naomi Otis, guards Hannah Chase and Macy Stowell, sophomore forward Vanessa Lee and freshman forward Mackenzie Ackley are new players to watch. Facing a four-game road trip, which includes visits to preseason favorite Lake Region and perennial power York, the Falcons needed a win in their opener Friday and got one, 62-31, over visiting NYA. Davenport had 11 points in her Freeport debut. Wyman also had 11 and Brown added 10. The Falcons have the potential to do special things, even without Pennell. If they can survive their early season crucible and gain some confidence, they'll be very dangerous toward the end of the year. If Pennell makes it back, the team will be that much deeper. Freeport hasn't reached the quarterfinals since 2002-03, but this could very well be the year the Falcons turn heads.

INDOOR TRACK

COACH: Brian Berkemeyer (fourth year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 15th @ Class B state meet

(GIRLS) No score @ Class B state meet

ATHLETES TO WATCH:

(BOYS) Zach Greene (Senior), Taylor Saucier (Senior), Harry Stivers (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Abby Roney (Senior), Ciera Wentworth (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We still have a very young and inexperienced team. This year we have 25 boys and 15 girls. For 22 kids, it's their first year. As always, our goal is on individual fitness and responsibility. Everyone is encouraged to try and qualify for at least one state event. We pride ourselves on the individual and team efforts developed through a 'track family' atmosphere.”

FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Freeport features plenty of promise entering the new season.

The boys return Saucier as their lone state meet scorer. He was fourth in both the 800 and the relays last winter. He'll be a factor in those events again. Greene has experience and will be a sprinter. He's joined by Stivers. Nick Sweet joins the team and will compete in the 800 and the mile. The Falcons will certainly make some individual memories as the season goes along and could produce some state meet scorers when all is said and done.

On the girls' side, Freeport didn't score at states last season, but Roney (200) and Wentworth (400) could break that barrier this time around. Several new kids look to find their specialty. The Falcons hope to improve between now and February and it's a good bet they do.

SKIING

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) Class C combined state champions

(GIRLS) 2nd @ Class C combined state meet

ALPINE SKIING

COACH: Eric Wallace (fifth year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) Class C state champions

TOP RETURNING SKIERS:

(BOYS) Owen Petherbridge (Senior), Brady Davis (Junior)

(GIRLS) Sarah Pier (Senior), Taylor Enrico (Junior), Elly Bengtsson (Sophomore)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We should continue to challenge for a state title, even though we lost some key skiers. The girls will continue with a solid group. The boys should look different, but we should be pretty solid.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: As always, Freeport has its share of Alpine ski standouts.

The boys lost Winter 2010-11 Male Athlete of the Year Ryan Collet and standouts Griffin Breer and Evan LaMarre, who have either gone on to college or decided not to come out this winter. The cupboard isn't bare, however. Petheridge tied for 20th in the giant slalom last year at states. Davis finished 20th in the slalom and 26th in the GS. Chris Collins, Spencer Drake and Alec Salisbury add depth and freshmen Caleb Abbott, Ryder Bennell, Jannik Greiff (a German exchange student), Evan Times and Charlie Zachau all look to step right in. The Falcons will be strong again.

On the girls' side, Bengtsson was a revelation a year ago, placing second in the slalom and third in the giant slalom at states, en route to being named Freeport's Winter Female Athlete of the Year. If Elly Pier had returned, they would have made for an amazing one-two punch, but Pier is skiing at the USSA level this year. Enrico (fourth slalom, seventh GS) and Sarah Pier (sixth GS, seventh slalom) also return as scorers. Olivia Fowler, Abigail Latuippe, Sadie Russell and Mia Thomas (seventh in the skimeister standings a year ago) add depth. Mix in freshmen Wynne Cushing, Lilly Smith and Ashley Taylor, and you can see where the Falcons like their chances to repeat. Don't bet against them.

NORDIC SKIING

COACHES: Joel Hinshaw and Doug Martin

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) 4th @ Class C state meet

TOP RETURNING SKIERS:

(BOYS) Chris Collins (Senior), Charlie Hayes (Senior), Alex Sturtevant (Senior), Riley Werner (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Abigail Mahoney (Senior), Emily Martin (Senior), Ellie Soule (Senior), Lia Wellen (Junior), Bethanie Knighton (Sophomore), Lilly LaMarre (Sophomore)

COACH MARTIN’S COMMENT: “The girls' team should be solid with most all of our skiers returning and should be one of the top teams in Class C. The boys' team will have a new look after graduating top skiers, but we're hoping to replace last year's class and have an impact. With many unproven skiers on the team ready to challenge the top skiers, this will be an interesting and fun year.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Freeport's had plenty of Nordic success in recent seasons. That trend should continue this winter.

The boys bemoan the loss to graduation of Spencer Egan, Max Jennings, Scott Ross and Bennett Wade, but will remain strong. Sturtevant was 16th in the classic at last year's state meet. He'll lead this year's crew. Collins and Hayes have experience and Werner is primed to move up the ladder. The Falcons will suffer their share of growing pains, but by February, expect them to be top notch yet again.

On the girls' side, several state scorers return. Martin (ninth in the freestyle and 10th in the classic), Wellen (17th in both races), LaMarre (20th classic, 21st freestyle, tie for fourth in the skimeister standings) and Mahoney (25th classic) all got the job done a year ago and look to finish even higher this winter. Knighton, Soule and freshman Lizzy Martin will also be in the hunt. Look for Freeport to hold its own in the very difficult Western Maine Conference and to garner one of the top spots at states.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @foresports

Photo: File photo

Senior Mitch Loeman is a leader for a Freeport boys' basketball squad which should be vastly improved.

Photo: File photo

Junior Leigh Wyman is a top returner and should be one of the conference's best players.

Photo: File photo

Sophomore Harry Stivers will compete in the sprints this winter.