Cornell-bound senior Jess Willerson and her McAuley teammates weren’t able to win a fifth straight state title a year ago, but are aiming to get back to the top this winter.
More photos below.
COACH: Billy Goodman (fifth year, 84-3 overall record, three state championships)
2014-15 record: 19-2 (Lost, 41-31, to Thornton Academy in Western A Final)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Sarah Clement (Senior), Brooke Howard (Senior), Chelsea Rairdon (Senior), Jess Willerson (Senior), Eva Mazur (Sophomore), Emily Weisser (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 18 TA, Jan. 2 @ Cheverus, Jan. 8 WINDHAM, Jan. 12 @ South Portland, Jan. 14 GORHAM, Jan. 16 PORTLAND, Jan. 22 @ Deering, Feb. 2 @ Portland, Feb. 4 CHEVERUS
COACH’S COMMENT: “We lost a lot. It’s a new team, but we had a good summer. I really enjoyed it. The girls have gotten better. I think we’ll compete every game. Brooke, Chelsea and Emily have gotten better. That gives us confidence. It’s a hard-working team and I like that. This year, the league is the most balanced I’ve seen, but I think we’ll be OK.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley proved mortal last winter. Barely. Despite huge graduation losses and the departure of a critical player to transfer, the Lions overcame an Opening Night loss at Thornton Academy and won 19 straight games before finally seeing their four-year championship reign end with a regional final setback at the hands of the Golden Trojans. McAuley’s ability to overcome earned Goodman Coach of the Year honors. Once again, graduation and transfers have taken a big toll on the program, but once more, McAuley is primed to meet the challenge and if all goes well, the Lions might just be the last team standing once more.
While Olivia Dalphonse and Ayla Tartre have graduated and Margaret Hatch (Portland) and Ally Tillotson (Cheverus) are no longer with the program, the cupboard isn’t bare. The Lions return two Division I-bound standouts in Clement (University of New Hampshire) and Willerson (Cornell). Clement, a shooting guard who missed all of her sophomore season with a knee injury, re-injured it in last year’s tournament, so once again, she’s not 100 percent physically (she’s also contending with concussion symptoms as the season commences), but when she’s on, there’s no more deadly 3-point shooter around. Hopefully, she’ll round into good health and if so, she’ll be one of the best players in the state. Willerson, a center, has developed an all-around game. Not only is she close to unstoppable down low, she can also hit from the outside. Willerson was an SMAA second-team all-star last season after averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds per contest. She projects to have even better numbers this time around. The other top returner is Mazur, who had a dazzling freshman campaign, earning mention on the SMAA All-Rookie team. Last year, Mazur’s game was more about defense (she placed first in the league in steals, 4.0 per game) and ball distribution (she was ninth in assists, 3.0 per game). This time around, look for her to score more, especially if defenses are focused on Clement and Willerson. Mazur will be the point guard. Weisser had her moments as a freshman and isn’t afraid to take tough shots. Look for the forward to see even more action this season. Howard and Rairdon are other returning contributors who will be called upon to perform at a high level. Howard can play guard and forward, as can Rairdon, McAuley’s Fall Athlete of the Year. A pair of freshmen, center Jill Joyce and guard Catherine Reid, provide depth. They’ll work their way into the rotation as the season progresses.
As always, McAuley’s success will start on the defensive end. A year ago, the Lions were second in the league in points allowed and this unit should be stingy again. Offensively, there are enough weapons to keep the Lions competitive against everyone. There are some new faces in new places and new players to get up to speed, but as always, the upside is high for a team that hopes to peak in February. The basketball scene has a very different look this winter and McAuley will be in Class AA South, along with potential powers Gorham, South Portland and Thornton Academy. It’s likely the Lions’ win-loss record won’t be as glowing as in years past, but this program long ago stopped hanging its hat on what happens in December and January. After falling short last winter, McAuley won’t be content unless it gets back to the big stage and cuts the nets down once more. Never bet against a hungry group of Lions.
COACH: Tim Donovan (13th year)
2014-15 results: Tie-26th @ Class B state meet
TOP RETURNERS: Akech Allolding (Senior), Jordyn Carr (Senior), Elizabeth Poulin (Senior), Batoul Berro (Junior), Sanni Hackett (Sophomore)
COACH’S COMMENT: “We hope to get a couple kids from other sports to help out our small numbers. We hope to be as competitive as possible with a small team. It would be nice to take some kids to states and score.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley is battling low numbers this winter, but the Lions do have some athletes.
Allolding scored in the shot put last year (she was seventh at the Class B state meet) and is a thrower to watch, along with Carr and senior Sophia Krieckhaus. The sprint contingent features Berro, Poulin and freshmen Andrea Dumont and Annelise Toohie. Hackett could score in the distance races. She’s joined by freshman Elizabeth MacAlaney. Dumont will compete in the jumps.
The Lions simply don’t have the numbers to match up with the bigger programs, but individually, this could be a year to remember for several athletes who might just turn heads all the way to February.
COACH: Sean Flaherty (second year)
2014-15 results: 14th @ Class B state meet
TOP RETURNERS: Ana Neff-Jendrasko (Junior), Emma Spies (Junior), Gaby Begos (Sophomore)
COACH’S COMMENT: “With a group of new, young swimmers and top returning talent, we look to add several new qualifiers to the state meet. Additionally, we hope to have at least one relay, if not two, qualify for the state finals, which would help us move up from our finish from last season. Our goals as a team remain to compete every chance, seize opportunities, better ourselves in and out of the water and continue to be known for our sportsmanship and compassion for others, traditions McAuley takes special pride in.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley has what it takes to move up the standings this winter.
The Lions boast one of the state’s special swimmers in Neff-Jendrasko, the school’s reigning Winter Athlete of the Year, who is the two-time Class B champion in the individual medley and is also defending the backstroke title. She’ll look to continue to etch her name in program lore. Also returning are Begos (200 freestyle and butterfly) and Spies (fly, IM). Junior Lily Donovan, who qualified for states as a freshman then took last year off, is back with the team and will look to score in the fly and free.
McAuley will be very competitive during the regular season and will ride Neff-Jendrasko to big things in February. Don’t be surprised if the Lions return to the top 10 at the Class B state meet, where they resided every year between 2006-13.
Sarah Clement has suffered season-ending injuries each of the past two years. As a senior, she hopes to lead the Lions back to the pinnacle.
Eva Mazur was a revelation as a freshman and could have even more big things in store this winter.
Senior Chelsea Rairdon will be a key player at both ends of the floor this season.
Expect big things from sophomore Emily Weisser this winter.