Deering Rams Winter Sports Preview

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There will be plenty of excitement to go around at Deering this winter. The boys’ basketball team has its best chance for a deep tournament run since winning it all five years ago. The girls weren’t able to repeat as state champs last winter, but hope to get back to the top this time around. Boys’ hockey looks to build on last year’s surprise run to the playoffs. There is no girls’ squad this winter. On the track, both the boys’ and girls’ teams have their share of contenders. Both swimming teams should be very good, there are a few skiers to watch and as always, wrestling will produce some memories.

BOYS BASKETBALL

COACH: Dan LeGage (ninth year)

2009-10 Record: 11-8 (Lost, 63-36, to South Portland in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Rico Augustino (Senior), Nick Colucci (Senior), Jackson Frey (Senior), John Hughes (Senior), Jamie Ross (Senior), Jon Amabile (Junior), Nick DiBiase (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 17 @ Scarborough, Jan. 7 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, Jan. 13 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 22 @ Cheverus, Jan. 25 (H) WESTBROOK, Jan. 28 (H) PORTLAND, Feb. 1 @ Windham, Feb. 3 @ South Portland, Feb. 5 (H) MARSHWOOD, Feb. 8 (H) CHEVERUS, Feb. 11 @ Portland

COACH’S COMMENT: “We’re getting ready. We’re an older team this year with expectations to perform at a high level. We want to go deeper in the playoffs and make it to the Civic Center. That’s the goal. We have some size, guys who can shoot. We’ll play hard. We need to be consistent with our effort and performance. We’ll go as far as our upperclassmen take us.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering has been ousted in the semifinals each of the past four seasons, but there’s reason to believe the Rams will be in for a longer playoff run this winter. For starters, Deering is deep and balanced and should be one of the top fundamental squads around. Junior Patrick Green, who missed 2009-10 with an ACL injury, is back and will run the point. Amabile (a first-team league all-star a year ago after ranking fifth in scoring, 15.8 ppg, sixth in 3-pointers made, 32, and third in steals, 2.9 per game), Augustino (seventh in assists a year ago), Hughes and Frey all look to score from the perimeter. Colucci (an honorable mention all-star last winter after averaging 10.4 ppg and ranking eighth in 3-pointers made, 31), DiBiase and Ross (Deering’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year for his football dominance) will be heard from on the boards, defensively and will do their share of scoring as well. Ross was fourth in the league in rebounds last season. A couple newcomers make this group even stronger. Sophomore Labson Abwoch could be a star in the making. At 6-foot-6, he’ll be difficult for most teams to match up with. Sophomore Thiwat Thiwat (6-4) brings athleticism to the paint. The Rams are viewed as being a top echelon team, along with the past two state champions, Cheverus and Thornton Academy. Deering got off to a disappointing start Friday, failing to hold a 10-point halftime lead and falling to visiting Bonny Eagle, 44-41, despite nine points from Frey and eight from Amabile. If Deering can step it up defensively (it was seventh in the league a year ago), stay healthy and focused on the team objective, it will win its share of games and be able to go toe-to-toe with the Stags and Golden Trojans. On paper, this is the best Rams team since the school’s lone state champion in 2005-06. While Deering has a long way to go to achieve that type of glory, it has the pieces in place to do something special. Expect the Rams to make it to the Civic Center this year. Possibly for more than one game.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

COACH: Mike Murphy (third year)

2009-10 Record: 18-3 (Lost, 37-34, to Scarborough in Western A Final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Kayla Burchill (Senior), Aarika Viola (Senior), Maura Densmore (Junior), Ella Ramonas (Junior), Chelsea Saucier (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 14 (H) SANFORD, Dec. 17 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Dec. 21 @ Gorham, Jan. 7 @ Thornton Academy, Jan. 22 @ Cheverus, Feb. 3 (H) MCAULEY, Feb. 11 @ McAuley

COACH’S COMMENT: “I’m happy with our team and our nucleus. We still have expectations for ourselves. I don’t know if others do. We still have a chip on our shoulders. I think we’ll surprise people. We like each other, believe in each other and trust each other. I like our senior leadership. We’re talented. If we can develop our sophomores, we’ll be back.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering is still stinging over last year’s playoff ouster, a game which it led virtually the whole way before its two-year reign ended in agony. While standout Clare Ramonas (Deering’s Winter Female Athlete of the Year a year ago) graduated and Britni Mikulanecz transferred to Cheverus, the Rams remain very potent and are enjoying not wearing the bullseye for the first time in years. Of course, as long as Burchill’s in purple and white, Deering has to be taken seriously. The University of Vermont-bound standout averaged 16.6 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block per game during a first-team SMAA all-star campaign a year ago. She also hit 79 percent of her foul shots (she was the West Region champion) and drained a league high 36 3-pointers. She figures to be even more prolific as a senior and wants nothing more than to finish her stellar high school career with one more Gold Ball. She’ll dominate all over the court. The Rams will be more than the Burchill Show, however. The unheralded Viola, a member of last winter’s SMAA All-Rookie team and “the glue to our success,” according to Murphy, and Ella Ramonas (2.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game as an All-Rookie team selection in 2009-10) also saw key minutes last winter. Several other players are eager to step in and either make a mark or play a bigger role. Saucier will be the point guard. Densmore, junior Emily Cole and sophomore Keneisha Diramio also play guard. Junior Katryna Gilson, a transfer from Portland, who was on the All-Rookie team last year, will be heard from at forward and 6-foot-5 sophomore Marissa MacMillan is ready to reign supreme down low. The elite girls’ basketball teams are in the city this year and Deering has to be considered every bit in Cheverus and McAuley’s league. The Rams sure looked championship worthy in a 56-34 win at Bonny Eagle in the opener (Burchill exploded for 30 points). She’ll take this team far. If the rest of the squad develops as hoped, the Rams, who have won 60 games over the past three seasons, will keep the good times rolling and possibly right what they perceive as last year’s wrong.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

COACH: Jack Lowry (second year)

2009-10 Record: 10-6-3 (Lost, 7-0, to Thornton Academy in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Connor Petropoulos (Senior), Taylor Py (Senior), A.J. Asbury (Junior), Kevin Crowley (Junior), Jackson Stevens (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 18 @ Kennebunk, Jan. 29 @ Cheverus, Feb. 10 (H) GORHAM, Feb. 21 (H) CHEVERUS

COACH’S COMMENT: “I’m cautiously optimistic. We have more players this year, which has allowed us to add a third line and extend the bench. Our strength will be our defense. They can stand up against anybody. We’ll generate some offense. It’s a close-knit team. We’ll feed off what we did last year. The playoffs are the goal. If we continue to grow and progress, we can do it and be a pain for round or two.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering shocked the local hockey world last winter, improving from two wins to 10 and making it to the Western A quarterfinals. This year, the Rams have enough returning talent, combined with promising newcomers, to post another winning mark and make it back to the postseason. Petropoulos is the top returner. He was a Tier III all-star last winter after scoring 31 goals and adding 23 assists. He’ll key the offense along with Asbury. Py will be an offensive-minded defenseman (he had 14 assists last season). Crowley helps anchor that unit as well. Freshman Griffin Py is another defender to watch. At 6-foot-4, it won’t be long before he’s dominating all over the ice. Stevens returns in goal. He won seven games and had an .886 save percentage a year ago. Deering has other intriguing newcomers, including a pair of players from the recently disbanded girls’ squad, seniors Adie Broadwater and Rebecca Silver. Lowry is optimistic that senior Denny Patenuade will step right in and be a major contributor on offense. The Rams won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this winter (as witnessed in a 4-2 loss to Portland in the opener Saturday night despite goals from Petropoulos and Patenaude), but they won’t have to. Behind a potentially prolific offense, staunch defense and steady goalkeeper, they have the makings of one of the better teams in the region. One that will be a lot of fun to watch.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS COACH: Dick Kress (19th year)

GIRLS COACH: Kevin Campbell (ninth year)

2009-10 Results:

(BOYS) Tie-11th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 10th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:

(BOYS) Carleton Allen (Senior), Sam Balzano (Senior), John Hardy (Senior), Renaldo Lowry (Junior), Tony Sen (Junior)

(GIRLS) Amanda Masse (Senior), Kristin Pollard (Senior), Georgia Hutchins (Junior), Delaney Loring (Junior), Nicole Mason (Junior), Veronica Mitchell (Junior), Tricia Stewart (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Gorham, Scarborough, South Portland boys; Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Scarborough, Thornton Academy girls

COACH KRESS’ COMMENT: “Our strength is our depth to cover events. Our weakness is unproven shot put, high jump and dominant distance runners. As usual, our success will depend on unknown freshmen junior division runners. The goal is to be competitive in the regular season, Southwesterns and have some qualifiers for the state meet.”

COACH CAMPBELL’S COMMENT: “The 2010 track season looks to be a competitive one. Tricia is returning as our lone state meet scorer, but we hope to add some relays to the score sheet. One of our goals is to be the top team in the city. Another is to be competitive in the league and show weekly improvement. The coaching staff and the girls all agree that if they work hard and try their best, good things will happen.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering boasts some very promising runners, jumpers and throwers this winter.

The boys’ team returns three scorers from last year’s state meet. Allen was third in the 55 hurdles. He’ll be one of the league’s top hurdlers again this season. Lowry (fourth in the 55 and fifth in the 200) teams with Balzano (fifth in the 55) to make up a very dangerous sprint contingent. Hardy runs middle distance and Sen moves from low to high hurdles this year. Kress is hoping some other athletes emerge in the weeks to come. Regardless, the Rams will be very tough in the league and could move into the top 10 at states.

On the girls’ side, Stewart hopes to build on last year’s superb freshman campaign which saw her place runner-up in the long jump and fifth in the 55. She’ll run senior division sprints this winter. Masse (Deering’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year from soccer) is a senior division sprinter and is joined by Hutchins, Loring and Mason. Mitchell is a hurdler and middle distance runner. Keep an eye on sophomores Whitney Adell and Samantha Regios in the junior division sprints. A group of promising new athletes will turn heads. Edie Pallozzi (distance), Alexis Elowitch (sprints, shot put), Casey Girsch (hurdles) and Rashad Zagon (hurdles, high jump) bring depth and hint at several years of excellence. The Rams’ goals are realistic this winter. They’ll be very strong in the Expo and could easily post their best state meet finish since tying for fifth five years ago.

SWIMMING

COACH: Angie Chessey (second year w/girls’ team, first year w/boys’ team)

2009-10 Results:

(BOYS) 6th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 6th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS:

(BOYS) Scott Downs (Senior), Eric Thomas (Senior), Dejan Varagic (Junior), Dylan Farber (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Laura DeWitt (Senior), Stephanie Libby (Senior), Genevieve Worthley (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Scarborough, Westbrook

COACH’S COMMENT: “The boys graduated a big class of talented seniors. They will take some time to build from that loss, but the team thus far shows great potential. They are working hard to build back their core strength and improve their technique in the pool. The girls mirror the boys’ team in that they lost a talented group of seniors, but have gained a great group of first year swimmers. Everyone shows potential to add something extra to the team dynamic.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Deering swim teams appear to have top 10 in the state potential again in 2010-11.

The boys feature two returning scorers, Farber (12th in diving) and Thomas (who was part of a ninth-place medley relay squad). In addition to diving, Farber swims the 50 free, as does Thomas. Downs and Varagic swim freestyle and breaststroke. Two freshmen will make an impact. Eric Delmonte is a breaststroker and Alex Tucci swims the butterfly. Despite losing most of their 2010 points to graduation, the Rams plan to reload and remain a top contender.

On the girls’ side, Worthley is coming off a breakout freshman campaign which saw her capture the Class A breaststroke and finish runner-up in the 200 individual medley. She projects to be one of the top swimmers in region. DeWitt was part of a 400 relay team which scored a year ago. She’ll swim the fly and backstroke. Libby competes in the sprint freestyle events. They’re joined by senior Jessica Blake (butterfly), sidelined with a shoulder injury last year, and freshman Emma Pontius (fly, backstroke and IM). Deering has enough firepower to compete with all of their foes and should have solid showings at the postseason meets.

NORDIC SKIING

COACH: Aaron Duphily (first year)

2009-10 Results:

(BOYS) No score @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) No score @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SKIERS:

(BOYS) Logan Roche (Senior), Kuba Chandler (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Maddie Ostwald (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “The guys have an older team with a few upperclassmen looking to leave their mark. There are a few promising returners and newcomers with the girls.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Longtime Portland Ski Club leader Craig Whiton has stepped down in favor of Duphily, was worked as an assistant with Leavitt the past two years. He skied for Edward Little in high school and at Cornell University. He inherits a small group of Deering skiers. The boys feature Roche and Chandler. Ostwald is a top girl to watch. The program hopes to grow going forward and those participating this winter will look to improve as the season progresses.

WRESTLING

COACH: Al Kirk (33rd year)

2009-10 Results: 10th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS: Jake Farrell (Senior), Zack Bushey (Junior), Chad Buzzell (Junior), Connor Darling (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “It’s a development year. Most of the guys are learning the way. If the kids come along we should be pretty representative at regionals. Connor and Jake have a shot at states. You never know. Maybe we’ll pull some surprises.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering has enjoyed a long run of boasting state championship favorites. While this year’s squad isn’t as daunting, there are some potential stars. Farrell leads the way as the lone senior and team captain at 171-pounds. He and Darling (189) look to make noise at regionals and states. Bushey (152) and Buzzell (160) are also in the mix. Others are waiting their opportunity to make a name for themselves. The Rams have enough depth to cover events and be competitive in the regular season. While they won’t be one of the top teams at states, don’t be surprised if a couple individuals keep the winning tradition alive.

Senior Jamie Ross, coming off a spectacular football season, hopes to be part of a deep playoff run on the hardwood.

Junior Ella Ramonas will be a force to be reckoned with as Deering looks to make another deep playoff run.

Senior Jackson Frey will play a pivotal role for the 2010-11 Rams.

Junior Connor Darling will make a run at the 189-pound Class A championship.

Sidebar Elements


Senior Kayla Burchill enters the new season as arguably the finest player in the state.

More photos below.

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