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McAuley Lions Winter Sports Preview

Winter Sports Previews

McAuley Lions Winter Sports Preview

All eyes will be on the basketball team at McAuley this winter, but the school features more than that as a new season begins. After winning its first Gold Ball in seven years, the basketball team is absolutely loaded this season and with a new coach will settle for nothing short of a repeat crown. Indoor track again has some promising athletes to watch and with a new coach, swimming should be on the short list of Class B favorites once again.

BASKETBALL

COACH: Billy Goodman (first year)

2010-11 Record: 20-2 (Beat Hampden Academy, 39-23, to win Class A state title)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Alexa Coulombe (Senior), Sadie DiPierro (Senior), Molly Mack (Junior), Allie Clement (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 20 @ Marshwood, Dec. 23 (H) BONNY EAGLE, Jan. 3 @ Windham, Jan. 6 @ Deering, Jan. 24 (H) SANFORD, Jan. 27 @ Gorham, Feb. 4 (H) CHEVERUS

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have new girls and it's my first year so we're letting everyone get to know each other. I see improvement every day. The more we do, the better we get. They're basketball players who play year round and love the sport. We have three returning starters from a state championship team. We know we'll get everyone's best. We have good post players and our guards are good defenders. I hope we can step up every game. There's no denying we're the favorite.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: To his credit, Goodman isn't about to sidestep the fact that McAuley is viewed as the best team in the state as a new season dawns. He was an assistant for a pair of Deering championships and did a fantastic job for three seasons as the Greely girls' head varsity coach before replacing Amy Vachon, who returned to the University of Maine to become an assistant coach after her one triumphant season on Stevens Avenue. Goodman calls the situation he's stepping into, “Basketball Heaven,” and it's easy to see why. For starters, he's got the state's premier post player, the Boston College-bound Coulombe, a first-team league all-star and All-Defensive team member, who swats away opponents' shots with impunity (a mind-boggling 7.6 per game last winter), forces turnovers (seventh in the league with 3 per game) dominates the boards (fourth in the league in rebounds with 8.5), doesn't hesitate to set up her teammates (fourth in the league in assists with 4.0) and scores with regularity (11.0). If those attributes weren't enough, expect to see her playing on the wing and even at point guard this winter as she prepares for the next level. Coulombe alone is enough of a talent to lead a team to a championship, but she's going to have company in the paint from promising sophomore Olivia Smith, a transfer from Yarmouth and freshman Victoria Lux. Mack has done yeoman's work in a supporting role the past couple seasons. She's primed to have a breakout campaign as a tenacious rebounder and timely scorer. Then, there's the point guard, Clement (12 points, 3.2 assists per game in 2010-11), who, in a very short time has garnered a well-deserved reputation for having a Midas Touch. She arrived on the scene as a freshman with a clutch game-tying 3 in an overtime win at Deering and stood tall throughout McAuley's tournament run to a championship leading to honorable mention all-star and All-Rookie team selections. In her “offseason,” all Clement did was lead her AAU Firecrackers team to a national title. She keeps setting the bar higher and higher and with a year of experience under her belt, will be that much more confident this winter. She'll be spelled at times by sophomore Jackie Welch, who was on the JV team in 2010-11. Senior Mary Leasure, who had limited minutes a year ago, will also be heard from at the guard position as will the dangerous DiPierro, who makes the most of her looks at the basket. Certainly the loss to graduation of 2011 Winter Athlete of the Year Rebecca Knight (now at the University of Maine) and the departure of Nina Davenport to Freeport will hurt, but let's face it, the Lions have plenty of firepower. They rolled in the opener at Noble, 62-31, as Clement led the way with 17 points, DiPierro had 13 and both Coulombe and Smith added nine. In addition to its abundance of talent, McAuley is hungry for a repeat and welcomes getting the best game that every foe can offer. If the team stays healthy, it's a pretty good bet that March will arrive like a championship Lion once more.

INDOOR TRACK

COACH: Tim Donovan (10th year)

2010-11 Results: No score @ Class B state meet (tie-11th @ Southwesterns)

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES: Danielle Allen (Senior), Taxia Arabatzis (Senior), Katie Dubois (Senior), Lulu Hawkes (Senior), Cristina Leake (Senior), Liz Houston (Junior), Sam Libby (Sophomore)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're starting out with good numbers. We should be strong in both divisions. We're hoping to be very competitive with the help of our newcomers.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley failed to score at the state meet last year for the first time since 2001, but it's likely that was an aberration. The Lions have some good returning talent joined by several promising newcomers this winter. Leading the way is Arabatzis, who just missed scoring in the two-mile a year ago at states. She leads the distance contingent where she'll be joined by freshman Adele Werner. McAuley has several good middle distance runners, including Allen, Dubois, Leake, Libby and freshmen Greta DiPierro and Rachel Taylor. In the sprints, keep an eye on Leake, Libby and Taylor, along with new junior Alana Agren and freshman Megan Bailey. Bailey, Houston and sophomore Elsa Curran hope to score in the hurdles. On the field side, Hawkes is a threat to score in the shot put. Agren and Houston will compete in the pole vault. While the Lions aren't viewed as a top contender in the conference, they should be able to score their share of points in the regular season and be in position to make some noise at states.

SWIMMING

COACH: Kary Goodman (first year)

2010-11 Results: 4th @ Class B state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS: Taylor Church (Junior), Libby Gajewski (Junior), Audrey Thames (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We look to build on last year's efforts and continue to show true sportsmanship no matter what place we end up. This year's team has great depth and we hope to bring a majority of the team to states as qualifiers. We're young and made up of girls who come to practice every day with a positive attitude and a hunger to learn and grow as swimmers and as young women. Their tenacity will shine through as they take on the toughest of competitors.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley is consistently near the top of the Class B heap and this year should be no exception. One year after placing fourth not only at states, but also at Southwesterns, the Lions (who received their third sportsmanship award in four seasons) welcome a new coach in Goodman, who was an elite swimmer for McAuley from 2000-04. She was a part of the 2001 and 2002 Class B champions and went on to compete at the University of New Hampshire. She previously coached in Orlando, Fla., and was an assistant on last year's Lions team. She'll rely heavily on the three returning juniors. Last winter, Gajewski was second in the 200 freestyle and third in the butterfly. She'll be one of the state's best again. Church (100 and 200 free) and Thames (IM, breaststroke) will also contribute. Freshman Katie Call (butterfly) is a new swimmer to watch. Class B has several good girls' teams, including perennial powers Greely and Mt. Desert Island, along with new threat Waynflete. McAuley should be able to hold its own and will be in the running for yet another memorable February, both competitively and in regards to sportsmanship.

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

Photo: File photo

Senior Alexa Coulombe is the state's premier post defender. She's heading to Boston College next year, but first hopes to bow out with a second Gold Ball.

Photo: File photo

Allie Clement burst on to the scene as a freshman. The sophomore point guard will continue to turn heads this winter.

Photo: File photo

Senior Taxia Arabatzis is one of the league's top distance runners.

Photo: File photo

Junior Liz Houston hopes to soare over the bar and the competition this season.