Maine Girls’ Academy Lions Winter Sports Preview

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Maine Girls’ Academy’s basketball team looks to contend again with a nearly brand new roster. Sophomore Catherine Reid is one of the few proven commodities.

File photo.

(Ed. Note: MGA isn’t fielding an indoor track team this winter)

BASKETBALL

Coach: Billy Goodman (sixth year, 100-6 overall record, three state championships)

2015-16 record: 16-3 (Lost, 39-36, in overtime, to South Portland in Class AA South semifinals)

Top returning players: Maddy Beaulieu (Senior), Catherine Reid (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 9 @ South Portland, Dec. 15 BONNY EAGLE, Dec. 20 @ TA, Dec. 22 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 5 CHEVERUS, Jan. 12 SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 16 @ Gorham, Jan. 20 @ Portland, Jan. 27 DEERING, Jan. 31 @ Scarborough, Feb. 7 PORTLAND, Feb. 9 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “We’re young, but the girls are very coachable. They’re fun to be around. We have no all-stars, or players who saw meaningful minutes last year, so we’re starting over. Everyone will have to step up. Now is their chance. We’ll be athletic. We hope to make the playoffs and to get Emily (Weisser) back out there. We’ll bring a lot of energy.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: It’s a season of change for the Lions. First, the school is now known as Maine Girls’ Academy, but the name McAuley will always resonate and hold a special place in basketball lore. This winter, for the first time in recent memory, the Lions aren’t viewed as a favorite, as graduation took standouts Sarah Clement and Jess Willerson (a semifinalist for Miss Maine Basketball, who was the league’s second leading scorer a year ago). Reigning Winter Athlete of the Year Eva Mazur, the defensive specialist, transferred to South Portland, and junior Emily Weisser is sidelined with a knee injury, all of which leaves a lot of uncertainty. Fear not, MGA will find a way to be competitive under Goodman, who has won 100 of 106 games in his time with the program.

Reid showed glimpses of promise as a freshman and the ball will be in her capable hands much of the time this winter. Freshman Serena Mower will also serve as point guard. Beaulieu, MGA’s Fall Athlete of the Year, will play guard and forward and will be tenacious defensively. The Lions have some size in the likes of sophomores Jill Joyce and Zoe Mazur and freshman Hope Olsen. All three girls will be called upon to step in and make an impact. Junior Madison Legassey will play a bigger role this season as a guard.

MGA has a daunting schedule which doesn’t really allow for a team to come of age slowly. The Lions will hope their athleticism and defense can translate into some easy baskets because offense could be a struggle. This is a squad that will be vastly improved between December and February. MGA last missed the tournament in 1999. It’s likely the Lions will again find a way to get to the Expo and be a team that no one wants to face with their season on the line.

SWIMMING

Coach: Sean Flaherty (third year)

2015-16 results: 14th @ Class B state meet

Top returners: Lillie Donovan (Senior), Ana Neff-Jendrasko (Senior), Emma Spies (Senior), Gaby Begos (Junior), Grace Downey (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “Although we’re swimming under a new name, we return every member who qualified for last year’s state championship. Led by Ana, one of the state’s top swimmers in numerous events, our tight-knit and cohesive team has grown in members for three straight year. More importantly, MGA will qualify more swimmers to compete at the state meet this season then any season in at least five years. We’re loaded with butterfly and IM swimmers and younger talented breaststrokers help round out a team with growing potential. With strong senior leadership and several younger athletes who continue to develop into major contributors, we should improve upon last years’ finish at the conference championship and may break into the top 10 teams at states.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The opposition would be wise not to overlook this small in numbers, but potentially powerful-in-stature squad.

Neff-Jendrasko is among the finest swimmers in the state. Last year, she was runner-up in the 200 individual medley and placed third in the 100 butterfly. Neff-Jendrasko also competes in the backstroke and breaststroke and would love to bow out with another state title (she’s already won a pair of IM crowns and another in the 100 backstroke). Spies will compete in the sprint freestyle and the fly. Donovan hopes to score in the IM, backstroke, freestyle and fly. Begos is only getting better and could be a threat to score at the big meets in the distance freestyle and fly. Downey had a strong freshman campaign and adds depth in the IM, freestyle and fly. That group is joined by freshmen Zahria McLean (diving) and Charlotte Spies (freestyle, breaststroke, IM).

MGA should be competitive in the regular season, but it’s at the championship meets in February that the Lions will really roar. Look for Neff-Jendrasko to produce a superb final season and get plenty of help in what could be a memorable campaign all around.

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

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