Deering Rams Fall Sports Preview

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Sierra Aponte-Clarke had a terrific freshman year, helping Deering’s girls’ cross country team to its best state meet finish in over a decade. Aponte-Clarke and the Rams are hoping for more success this fall.

File photos.

More photos below.

FOOTBALL

Coach: Rob Susi (first year)

2017 record: 1-8 (Lost, 61-20, to Bonny Eagle in Class A South quarterfinal) 

Top returning players: Wenston Dinizio (Senior), Jason Pichette (Junior), Mike Randall (Junior), Travis Soule (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 21 CHEVERUS, Oct. 5 SOUTH PORTLAND, Oct. 12 @ Sanford, Oct. 19 MASSABESIC

Coach’s comment: “Things are going great. I’ve been impressed so far. Our numbers are down, but the kids are working hard. We’re getting better each day. We want to compete, play hard and have fun. Not much is expected of us. We hope to surprise some people. If the injury bug stays away, I think we’ll be OK.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Deering program is starting over this fall as Susi replaces Jason Jackson as coach. The Rams will have new turf to play on and they have an positive outlook heading into a season where external expectations are low, but internally, the feeling is one of optimism.

Soule, whom Susi calls “dynamic,” will be an offensive spark. He can play quarterback, running back or wide receiver. Sophomore James Opio will also see time under center. Randall is another running back/receiving hybrid who will handle the ball on a regular basis. Dinizio can stretch the field as a receiver. Senior receiver Patrick Buxton and junior receiver Tyler McAlister will also be important cogs in the offensive machine. On the line, Pichette has experience. He’s joined by juniors Bailey Eide and Omed Habibzai, who also serves as the place-kicker.

Deering’s defense will have to go up against some of the most explosive players in the state. Pichette anchors the line. Eide and Randall are top linebackers. The secondary features Dinizio and Soule.

The Rams open the season with arguably the top two teams in the state, Thornton Academy and Scarborough. After that, the slate gets more manageable and Deering should be able to compete in most contests. This group is most focused on improvement and growing the program, but a few wins could also produce the bonus of a playoff spot, which is a distinct possibility.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Joel Costigan (eighth year, 67-30-11 overall record)

2017 record: 10-5-1 (Lost, 2-0, to Falmouth in Class A South quarterfinal

Top returning players: Mohamed Abdurahman (Senior), Abdirizak Ibrahim (Senior), Joshua Kabwe (Senior), Max Morrione (Junior)

Pivotal games: Aug. 31 @ Scarborough, Sept. 4 GORHAM, Sept. 25 FALMOUTH, Sept. 27 @ Cheverus, Oct. 4 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: ”We have some of our core returners, but some of our most exciting talent comes from last year’s junior varsity squad. We also are excited about a couple new players to the program who have had great preseasons. We hope to play a more technical and disciplined game this year and to win the SMAA. We also believe we will once again be one of the stronger teams entering the playoffs and could be a contender for the state game. The stars have to align, but I am optimistic and excited about this group.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering has made the playoffs seven years running, but has advanced past the quarterfinals just once in that span. This fall, the Rams believe they’re primed to take the next step, even if Class A South is loaded with strong teams.

Abdurahman is a top returner in the midfield. He’s joined by junior Monte Almashkoor and sophomores Carlo DeMucci and Henrique Muaka to make up a unit that will give the opposition fits. Almashkoor could also be a top scorer. Sophomore Muntasir Ahmed has also demonstrated a nice finishing touch in the preseason. Look for this squad to have balanced scoring as several players can put the ball in the net. Ibrahim and Kabwe are veteran defenders in front of Morrione, who returns in goal.

Deering doesn’t have a lot of household names as the new season dawns, but you’ll be hearing plenty from this group in the weeks to come, as they come together as a team and rack up victories. Look for the Rams to again win more than they lose and this time, if all goes well, don’t be surprised if Deering sticks around the postseason party a little longer.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Kevin Olson (13th year, 80-81-19 overall record)

2017 record: 2-9-3 (no postseason) 

Top returning players: Nicole Johnson (Senior), Elinor Tierney-Fife (Senior), Gianna Charest (Junior), Kiaya Gatchell (Junior), Sahar Habibzai (Junior), Avi Kim (Junior), Mia Sargent (Junior), Riley Forrest (Sophomore), Jonna Rosenthal (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 8 BONNY EAGLE, Sept. 12 @ Windham, Sept. 15 @ Gorham, Sept. 20 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 28 CHEVERUS, Oct. 12 PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “The team has been working very hard this preseason. The chemistry is great and we’re working toward improving each and every day. To be a successful team and reach our end goal, we must compete hard in each and every game.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering fell short of the postseason last fall for the second year in a row, but this year’s squad appears primed to turn some close losses into victories and return to the postseason.

Sargent was a second-team league all-star a year ago. She’ll pace the offense this season from her forward position. Habibzai is another scorer to watch. The Rams have talent and depth in the midfield with Gatchell, an honorable mention all-star in 2017, Rosenthal, Tierney-Fife and freshman Zuzia Varney. Defensively, Deering is paced by Forrest, Johnson, Kim and freshman Francesca Freeman. The Rams are solid in goal, as Charest, an honorable mention selection last autumn, returns. Sophomore Grayson Soldati could see some time between the pipes as well.

Deering hopes to gain some early confidence this fall and a few victories in the opening phase of the schedule would go a long way toward getting the Rams back in the playoffs. This squad might just make a big leap up the standings before all is said and done.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Amethyst Hersom (second year)

2017 record: 2-11-1 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Alli Donovan (Senior), Molly Dutton (Senior), Mackenzie O’Donnell (Senior), Elizabeth Drelich (Junior), Aleah Murph (Junior), Rebekah Dunn (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Aug. 31 @ Biddeford, Sept. 8 @ Falmouth, Sept. 10 @ TA, Sept. 17 @ Westbrook, Sept. 20 @ Scarborough, Sept. 24 PORTLAND, Oct. 5 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “Last year, we stripped the game down and went back to basics. We participated in interactive chalk talks and built our ‘field hockey IQ.’ This year, we will be taking all of those pieces and constructing them into a team that is offensively aggressive, has great control, great ball movement on the field and a backfield that will be tough to break through.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering had some growing pains to endure in 2017, but that could pay some dividends this fall as the Rams have the potential to catapult back into contention.

Dutton, a second-team league all-star last season, is back to anchor the defense. Murph will also see time on that side of the field and senior Dela Bernard is new to the squad and will provide depth in front of senior goalie Maddalena Lapomarda. Donovan, an honorable mention all-star a year ago, O’Donnell and Dunn, Deering’s Rookie of the Year in 2017, are top scoring threats. Drelich is another veteran who will see time at midfield.

The Rams believe they have what it takes to compete against everyone, win some games and make a run at a playoff spot for the first time since 2015. Don’t bet against them.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Nika Francois (first year)

2017 record 14-2 (Lost, 3-0, to South Portland in Class A semifinal)

Top returning players: Catherine Balzano (Senior), Maddy Broda (Senior), Ava Spach (Senior)

Pivotal matches: Aug. 31 @ Scarborough, Sept. 4 PORTLAND, Sept. 13 SOUTH PORTLAND, Oct. 9 @ Biddeford, Oct. 12 FALMOUTH

Coach’s comment: “We have a great group of girls who bring the best attitude and effort. My goals this fall are to foster the development of a positive mental attitude on and off the court, improve our skills as a team and individually and last but not least, make it to the state final. It’s going to be a great season. I can’t wait.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering stole headlines a year ago, stunning eventual champion Scarborough in the opener, losing just once in the regular season and earning the top seed for the Class A playoffs before being upset by South Portland in the semifinals. Larry Nichols, The Forecaster’s Coach of the Year last fall, is now coaching in Falmouth. Nichols has been replaced by Francois, who played at South Portland and for the Maine Juniors program and previously coached at the club level. She’s enthusiastic and has reason to be as the Rams project to contend again.

Broda was a first-team league all-star and Deering’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year last year. She’s a setter extraordinaire and will be the engine behind this edition’s success. Balzano and Spach are veteran hitters. Senior Victoria Garrand could be in for a breakout season as a hitter, either in the middle or outside, and senior Emily Demers provides hitting depth.

The Rams’ days of sneaking up on the opposition are over and they’ll be tested often this fall. While Deering probably won’t be able to match last year’s record, this is a squad that will show steady improvement and will be primed to make some serious noise when the postseason commences.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coaches:
(Boys) Frank Myatt (seventh year)
(Girls) Gerry Myatt (16th year)

2017 results:
(Boys) 5th @ Class A state meet
(Girls) 4th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:
(Boys) Jerry Mixangelo (Senior), Alec Troxell (Senior), Ben Brown (Junior), Chris Harmon (Junior), William Jordan (Junior)
(Girls) Olivia Pfaff (Senior), Grace Tumavicus (Senior), Sierra Aponte-Clarke (Sophomore), Hadley Poirier (Sophomore)

Coach Frank Myatt’s comment: “Our numbers are solid this year, but you can’t replace SMAA Runner of the Year Yahya Nure. He was special. In my opinion, Alec could be the best runner in the state. We could be as good as anybody, but it will come down to how big our pack is and how it finishes. It will be interesting to see who steps forward to lead.”

Coach Gerry Myatt’s comment: “We’ll be building, but we should be respectable. We lost three, so we’re not the same team that we were, but we return a lot of points. As always, we want to qualify for states. It will depend how well we come together.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering’s cross country teams have their sights set on another trip to the state meet this fall.

The boys’ squad has posted a top five finish at states three years running and while Nure (third at last year’s Class A meet) will be very difficult to replace, Troxell (sixth in 2017) is ready to step into the lead role. Mixangelo (26th) looks to move up and Harmon and Jordan have big meet experience. Brown, along with junior Joey Lancia and junior Isaac Tabb, will also look to score. The Rams will be one of the top teams in a very strong Class A South and if this group develops as hoped, another top five state meet finish could be the end result.

On the girls’ side, one year after making it to states for the first time since 2009 and posting its best finish since 2004, Deering is seeking an encore. The Rams lost Nicole Whipkey, Lucy Tumavicus and Julia Lancia from last year’s squad, but Aponte-Clarke, who placed 13th at the state meet as a freshman, is back to lead the way. Poirier (31st) and Grace Tumavicus (42nd) scored at states last season. Pfaff also has experience. Junior Delaney Wimert, a transfer from Falmouth, and freshman Megan Cunningham are new runners to watch. It’s been 13 years since Deering has made it to states in successive seasons, but this group has the pieces in place to make that happen and again save its best for last.

GOLF

Coach: Billy Goodman (17th year, two state championships)

2017 results: 2-8 (DNQ for Class A state match)

Top returners: Luke Hill (Senior), Mike Jones (Senior), Bennett Berg (Sophomore), Nick McGonagle (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “I’m enjoying my four kids, the ‘Fighting Four.’ Our goal is just to get better and win a match. We have four kids who will try to get us to qualify, which is a long shot. We’ve got some experience. They’re great kids. Very coachable.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: What Deering lacks in quantity, it has in quality and it’s quite possible this very small team will turn some heads in the weeks to come.

Hill is the captain. Jones is another four-year veteran who has improved each season. Berg and McGonagle both saw time as freshmen and look to play bigger roles.

There’s no sugar-coating the fact that Deering will be behind the eight ball all season, but look for these players to show steady growth as individuals and if they save their best for qualifying day, they might just crash the state match party. Wouldn’t that make for a memorable story?

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

Senior Wenston Dinizio will be a two-way threat for a Deering football team looking to rebound this fall under new coach Rob Susi.

Junior Travis Soule will make the Deering offense go this fall.

Junior Max Morrione has shown he can make big saves for a Deering boys’ soccer team which is hoping for a deep playoff run this season.

Mohamed Abdurahman is an anchor in the midfield for Deering.

Abdirizak Ibrahim is a top returning defender for the Rams.

Junior Gianna Charest makes some highlight reel saves for a Deering girls’ soccer team hoping to make the playoffs this season.

Junior Kiaya Gatchell was a league all-star in 2017.

Junior Mia Sargent is a top returner on offense.

Senior Maddy Broda is one of the top players in the league. She hopes to lead Deering’s volleyball team, the feel-good story of the 2017 season, into the playoffs again this fall.

Senior Catherine Balzano, a hitter, is another key returner for the Rams.

Senior Alec Troxell was sixth at last year’s Class A boys’ cross country state meet and he hopes to move up even higher this fall.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.