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South Portland Red Riots Winter Sports Preview

Winter Sports Previews

South Portland Red Riots Winter Sports Preview

South Portland's winter sports teams all feature good athletes and plenty of promise. The boys' basketball squad has been a regular contender and this winter, should be one of the best in Western A. The girls hope to keep their long streak of playoff appearances intact. Boys' hockey will once again play hard from start to finish. Both the track and swim programs are in good shape, with excellent athletes covering the events.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Phil Conley (fifth year, 56-22)

2010-11 Record: 12-7 (Lost, 69-45, to Portland in Western Class A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Ben Burkey (Senior), Matt DiBiase (Senior), Aaron Flowers (Senior), Logan Gaddar (Senior), Jordan Muller (Senior), Shawn Shannon (Senior), Calvin Carr (Junior), Tanner Hyland (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 20 (H) TA, Jan. 6 (H) DEERING, Jan. 13 (H) PORTLAND, Jan. 16 @ Marshwood, Jan. 24 (H) BONNY EAGLE, Jan. 27 @ Cheverus, Jan. 31 @ Deering, Feb. 7 @ Portland, Feb. 10 (H) CHEVERUS

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have the potential to be a very good team if we come together as a group. That's the key. We've stressed all preseason and summer that we're one. Looking at our roster, we have very good players who love the game. We play in the top league in the state. We'll have to bring our 'A' game every time.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland played in its share of thrilling games a year ago and posted a solid record before being sent packing by Portland in the quarterfinals. Seniors Steve Hodge, Mike Kennedy, Matt Russell and Vukasin Vignjevic graduated, but plenty of talent returns, bolstered by some key additions. The Red Riots won at Windham in their opener, 44-32, as Hyland had 14 points, Gaddar and new junior Jack Tolan nine apiece and Burkey and Muller six each. Hyland will make this team go from the point guard position. A reigning third-team league all-star, Hyland (9.3 points, 4.6 assists, 2.1 steals per game last season) is capable of producing a lot of points. Carr, Flowers, Muller (second in the league in foul shooting, 83 percent), Shannon and new junior Ryan Pelletier are other guards to watch. Gaddar (13th in the league in rebounding last winter with a 6.2 average) is a beast on both ends of the floor as a forward. He had 14 boards in the first game and plays lockdown defense. He's joined in the frontcourt by Burkey, DiBiase and new juniors Tolan, Jake Gerry and Conner MacVane. Tolan grabbed 11 rebounds in the first game. The transfer from Cheverus stands 6-foot-6 and will play a big role. The Red Riots have been able to compete with the league's elite during Conley's reign and they have reason to believe they'll be right there again. This squad boasts several players who are eager to make their mark. If it can improve on last year's 10th place defensive ranking, South Portland will have a buzz around it by January and should be a formidable team by tournament time.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Mike Giordano (16th year, 188-106)

2010-11 Record: 11-8 (Lost, 52-27, to McAuley in Western Class A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Libby Grant (Senior), Jill Legere (Senior), Logan Neal (Senior), Danica Gleason (Junior), Brianne Maloney (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 20 @ TA, Dec. 28 @ Deering, Jan. 3 @ Scarborough, Jan. 10 (H) SANFORD, Jan. 16 (H) MARSHWOOD, Jan. 20 @ Gorham, Jan. 24 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 28 @ Cheverus, Jan. 31 @ McAuley, Feb. 7 (H) DEERING, Jan. 10 (H) MCAULEY

COACH’S COMMENT: “We lost a lot of scoring. We have to see who steps up. We'll play good defense. Defensive intensity is our strength. We'll look inside and out on offense. Jill does a nice job around the basket. We hope to peak at the end and beat someone we're not supposed to. At best, we'll be middle of the pack. Our goal will be to make the tournament.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland has qualified for the playoffs in 11 straight seasons and that consistency has allowed Giordano to close in on 200 victories with the program. This season, the task will be tall as the Red Riots graduated three key players, Danielle DiBiase, Stephanie McDonough and 2011 Winter Female Athlete of the Year and league leader in rebounds Abby Hasson. There are some talented players returning, however. Gleason is the point guard. She was 17th in the SMAA with 10.1 points per game last winter. She also averaged 2.8 assists and made 23 3-pointers. She'll look to score and feed teammates like Neal on the wing and Legere down low. Maloney saw good minutes as a freshman and is primed to take on a bigger role inside and out. Grant, a captain, will provide steady leadership. Freshman Holly Black is on the varsity and will look to make her mark. South Portland dropped its opener, 55-47, to visiting Windham, but got good scoring balance as Neal had 12 points, Maloney 11, Legere 10 and Gleason eight. The Red Riots realistically need to take advantage of the first half of their schedule as the final eight games include two with defending state champion McAuley and one each versus top contenders Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Deering, Gorham and Marshwood. South Portland will certainly show improvement from start to finish. Whether or not that's enough for another playoff berth remains to be seen.

BOYS' HOCKEY

COACH: Joe Robinson (fifth year, 46-29-4)

2010-11 Record: 6-11-2 (Lost, 6-0, to Biddeford in Western Class A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Dominic Desjardins (Senior), Brendan Horton (Senior), Nick Whitten (Junior), Ryan Gilboy (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 20 @ Portland, Jan. 5 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 14 (H) FALMOUTH, Jan. 26 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, Jan. 28 @ Cheverus, Feb. 1 @ Yarmouth, Feb. 11 (H) PORTLAND, Feb. 20 (H) CHEVERUS, Feb. 22 (H) BIDDEFORD

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're low in numbers, but we have talented players. We'll just take it game by game and hopefully in February, we'll be in the tournament.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Red Riots have been very successful under Robinson, but last year, playing a brutal schedule, they came back to Earth a bit (the season was salvaged somewhat by winning the sportsmanship award). This year began inauspiciously with a 6-0 loss to talented Scarborough, but things stand to quickly improve. Desjardins has been battle tested in goal and has come up big time and again. He's a great anchor for this team. Horton and Whitten figure to do their share of scoring. Whitten, along with Gilboy, are the lead defensemen. South Portland has an opportunity to win some games and gain some momentum before the new year when the slate gets challenging. The Red Riots will compete in most games and should be in the hunt for a playoff berth until the end.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS' COACH: Dave Kahill (fourth year)

GIRLS' COACH: Karen Reardon (first year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 9th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) Tie-17th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:

(BOYS) Konzo Alognon (Senior), Sacre Bahati (Senior), Teddy Lefay (Senior), Dan Medici (Senior), Thomas Salamone (Senior), Darryl Wilkinson (Senior), Eddie Apricopoai (Junior), Joe Feely (Junior), Austin Gotts (Junior), Max Knutsen (Junior), Ryan Tuttle (Junior), Joe Zelasko (Junior), Jon Bagley (Sophomore), Joseph Gleason (Sophomore), Ben Michaud (Sophomore), Anthony Tran (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Sarah Ouellette (Senior), Erin Bogdanovich (Junior), Cheyenne Coombs (Junior), Sophie Desjardins (Junior), Angela Tirabassi (Junior), Bridget Campbell (Sophomore), Clara Ellis (Sophomore), Maya Letourneau (Sophomore), Ariana Mohammad (Sophomore)

COACH KAHILL’S COMMENT: “Once again, we're a motivated, focused and talented team. This year's seniors have provided strong leadership. A challenge for the team will be to develop standout senior division sprinters and junior division athletes. We'll be very competitive throughout the regular season and championship meets.”

COACH REARDON'S COMMENT: “The team should continue on an upward swing that started last year. We're blessed with some talented newcomers, some returnees who will help a lot and the group that was here last year has only gotten a year older and better. I look forward to having a number of girls qualify for states and seeing the team score higher at both Southwesterns and states. It should be an exciting season.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both South Portland indoor track teams boast impressive athletes as a new season dawns, one that sees the Southern Maine Activities Association now competing at the University of Southern Maine for the first time after decades at the Portland Expo.

The boys return state meet scorers Medici (who was part of a championship 800 relay team) and Tuttle (seventh in the high jump). Graduation took its toll, but the Red Riots have plenty more in reserve. The sprints feature Alognon, Bahati, Feely, Gleason, Lefay, Medici, Michaud, Tran and new seniors Nick Genesio and Michael Salvatore, sophomores Chris Foley and Duncan Preston and freshman Matt Stearns. Hurdlers to watch include Feely, Foley, Stearns, Tran, Tuttle and new senior Zach Compton. Distance races feature Apricopoai, Bagley, Gotts, Knutsen, Salamone, Tuttle and Wilkinson. On the field side, Genesio, Gleason, Michaud, Preston, Salvatore, Stearns and Tuttle are jumpers. Zelasko and junior Cody Munson are the top throwers. Bahati will compete in the pole vault. There's obviously a ton of talent on this squad. South Portland will be a formidable team in both the regular and postseasons.

On the girls' side, Reardon, who's spent the past eight years as an assistant, ascends to head coach. She has 31 years of coaching experience and competed at Thornton Academy and Springfield College. She's still an active thrower. Reardon inherits a promising squad. Letourneau and Tirabassi return from a sixth-place 3,200 relay team. The Red Riots scored at states last year for the first time since 2008. They'll be even more of a force this year as Fall Female Athlete of the Year, junior Nyajock Pan, is running in the winter for the first time. She's a threat to win several distance events and joins Campbell, Ellis, Letourneau, Mohammad, Ouellette and Tirabassi to make up a strong core. Senior Sarah Baird and freshman Kyndra McKenzie will also be heard from. Bogdanovich is a middle-distance threat, along with sophomore Casey Kelley. Coombs and Desjardins lead the sprinters and are joined by new senior Jessy Francois and freshman Brittney Upton. In the hurdles, Mohammad, senior Maraka Soule, junior Kelsey Morton (who also pole vaults), Upton and freshman Laurine German will look to score. On the field side, Bogdanovich and freshman Michelle Medici throw the shot put. Jumpers include Campbell, Coombs, Desjardins, Ellis, German, Ouellette, Upton and freshman Lauren Magnuson. This could be South Portland's best team in years, one that be a factor both in the SMAA and at states.

SWIMMING

COACH: Rob Card (seventh year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 9th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 19th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS:

(BOYS) Keith Carmichael (Senior), Sean Everest-Ortiz (Senior), Chad MacWhinnie (Senior), Colby Brown (Junior), Christien Breau (Sophomore), Colin Harle (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Nicole Fogg (Senior), Kateri Jeffery (Senior), Lauren Halvorson (Junior), Abby Onos (Junior), Emma Trembly (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “Both teams will look to be in the top 10 at the state meet.”

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: South Portland doesn't have a home pool for the time being, but will be competitive wherever it swims and dives.

The boys' squad is paced by MacWhinnie, who was part of a fourth-place 200 relay team, placed seventh in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the backstroke at last year's state meet. Breau and Brown (who both scored in the relays a year ago) compete in the individual medley. Harle is a sprint freestyler. Everest-Ortiz (another relay scorer from last season) swims the distance freestyle. Carmichael is the lead diver. He was eighth a year ago. Freshman Nick Alvarez (who swims the butterfly) hopes to dive right in and make an impact. The Red Riots should only get better between now and February when they look to be one of the top teams at states.

On the girls' side, Fogg, Halvorson and Onos all scored in the 200 and 400 relays at last year's state meet. Fogg and Onos swim the freestyle, Halvorson (distance free). Jeffery (backstroke) and Trembly (fly) are other swimmers to watch. They're joined by newcomer Sarah Micucci, a breaststroker, to make up a squad that should give opponents fits.

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

Photo: File photo

Senior Logan Gaddar will be a beast on the boards for the Red Riots.

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Senior Jordan Muller is another top threat for the talented Red Riots.

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Junior Danica Gleason will play point guard and hopes to lead the South Portland girls' basketball team back to the playoffs.

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Senior captain Libby Grant will be in the middle of the action this winter.

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Senior goalie Dominic Desjardins has made several huge plays in the goal over the years.

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Junior Nick Whitten is a top scoring threat for the Red Riots.

Photo: File photo

Senior Chad MacWhinnie projects to be one of the top swimmers in the area this winter.