COACH: Billy Goodman (fourth year, 65-1 overall record, three state championships)
2013-14 record: 21-1 (Beat Oxford Hills, 67-41, to win fourth straight Class A state championship)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Olivia Dalphonse (Senior), Mary Furlong (Senior), Ayla Tartre (Senior), Sarah Clement (Junior), Margaret Hatch (Junior), Ally Tillotson (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 5 @ TA, Dec. 12 GORHAM, Dec. 16 @ Deering, Dec. 23 @ Cheverus, Dec. 30 @ Windham, Jan. 6 THORNTON ACADEMY, Jan. 9 @ South Portland, Jan. 13 SCARBOROUGH, Feb. 3 DEERING, Feb. 5 CHEVERUS
COACH’S COMMENT: “Things are going better than I thought. A tough preseason has helped. We’re playing a lot of girls and they’re stepping up. The defense has been there, but the offense has struggled. Our top four scorers from last year graduated or left. I think we’ll be in the middle-of-the-pack. We’ll put on the pressure defensively for 32 minutes. Hopefully we’ll give teams a battle. Come February, if we have it all together, hopefully we’ll be playing at a high level.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: For much of the offseason, it looked as if the McAuley juggernaut was due to take a step back. Guess again. The Lions are very much in the hunt for a record fifth consecutive state championship. True, the program graduated three college-caliber players (Allie Clement, Olivia Smith and Jackie Welch) and a fourth, senior standout and reigning first-team league all-star Victoria Lux, transferred to Thornton Academy, but this program simply reloads and the late addition of former Cheverus star Jess Willerson, a junior, places McAuley right back at the top of the list of contenders. As important as Willerson’s addition is the return of Sarah Clement, who missed her whole sophomore season with a knee injury. Clement, who had an impressive freshman campaign and has verbally committed to the University of New Hampshire, can do everything from run the offense, to drain outside shots to play lockdown defense. She’s been chomping at the bit to return to action and will make up for lost time at the expense of the opposition. Dalphonse will run the point and more importantly continue as one of the state’s elite defensive players. Tartre is coming off a stellar junior campaign and will play an important role again, as a guard and forward. Furlong is another girl who did what was asked of her in 2013-14. Look for her to see key minutes at guard and forward. Tillotson got placed in some challenging situations as a freshman and rose to the occasion. She’s another top defender who can hit clutch shots. Hatch is now in her second season with the program. Look for her to see minutes in the frontcourt and backcourt. Willerson will certainly help the offense and she’ll also be quite imposing at the defensive end and on the glass. The other key newcomer is freshman Eva Mazur, a potential future star at guard. There’s ample depth on this roster. Seniors Mikayla Moran, Amanda Spink and Taylor Whaley, juniors Brooke Howard, Kaeli Leddy and Chelsea Rairdon and freshman Emily Weisser will all factor into the rotation at times and will look to make the most of their minutes. McAuley had the top offense in the league last season and the second-ranked defense. The offense probably won’t produce at that level again, but there’s not reason to think the defense can’t continue it’s stifling tradition. Nothing will come easily for the Lions. As always, they wear an industrial sized bulls-eye. This group really will need some time to come together, that’s not coach-speak, it’s a reality. If you’re going to get McAuley, you better plan on doing it this year when it’s vulnerable. Even with the obstacles, you get the feeling that Goodman and his talented staff will put the pieces together and the team you see Opening Night in Saco will be very different from the one which takes the floor in February. A fifth straight title isn’t a sure thing, but it isn’t a longshot either. Until they’re vanquished, the Lions are the team to beat.
COACH: Tim Donovan (12th year)
2013-14 results: tie-27th @ Class B state meet
TOP RETURNERS: Megan Bailey (Senior), Rachel Taylor (Senior), Adele Werner (Senior), Akech Allolding (Junior), Elizabeth Poulin (Junior)
TOP FOES: Deering, Scarborough, Thornton Academy, Westbrook
COACH’S COMMENT: “We almost lost track to budget cuts, but we’re back with around 20 athletes. We should have some good talent and will be able to cover more events. I’m very excited for the season. We may be very competitive. The kids are working very hard.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley doesn’t have the numbers of its league rivals, but while quantity is lacking, quality is not. Proven commodities include Allolding in the shot put, Bailey in the hurdles, Poulin in the sprints, Taylor in the jumps and Werner in the distance. They’re joined by senior Kayley Martinez (distance), juniors Jordyn Carr (shot put) and Liz Emerson (jumps, sprints and distance), sophomores Lily Bergh (distance), Barolo Berro (hurdles and middle distance) and Skyler Vaughn (jumps) and freshmen Molly Barr (jumps and hurdles), Sonni Hackett (distance), Moira Marston (jumps) and Maggie Murray (middle distance). This group will hold its own in the league and could produce several scorers at the big meets.
COACH: Sean Flaherty (first year)
2013-14 results: 10th @ Class B state meet
TOP RETURNER: Ana Neff-Jendrasko (Sophomore)
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a core group of returners who will make an immediate impact during dual meets and I expect to double the number of state qualifiers from last year. There’s no doubt we’re embarking on a rebuilding opportunity. There is a proud tradition here, one I was more than familiar with as an athlete and coach and one I’m excited to be a part of restoring. We’ll finish stronger than in recent years, both at Southwesterns and states, but it will likely take a couple more years until I can build the type of program that will be a perennial contender once again.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: McAuley welcomes a new coach in Flaherty, who was an elite swimmer at Scarborough High School and later at George Washington University. Flaherty previously had a very successful coaching stint at Scarborough. He inherits a program that holds promise and will only get better. Neff-Jendrasko is the reigning Class B state champion in the individual medley and was runner-up in the backstroke. She’ll likely be one of the state’s premier swimmers again. Several others look to help the cause. The Lions had eight straight top five finishes between 2006-13 and hope to return to that level. It won’t be long before McAuley is knocking at the door of a Class B championship.
Junior Jess Willerson, one of the state’s premier post players, joins the Lions this winter and makes them that much more formidable.
Ally Tillotson saw ample playing time as a freshman. She’ll look to shut down the opposition and score some points this winter.
Senior Ayla Tartre blossomed into a star last winter and will look to lead the Lions to another title.
Junior Margaret Hatch can get it done on the offensive and defensive ends.
Senior Mary Furlong will play a key role for the Lions in the weeks to come.
Senior Olivia Dalphonse is one of the state’s elite defenders. This winter, she’ll look to score more as well.
Junior Sarah Clement missed last season with a knee injury, but showed her skill as a freshman. She’s poised for a big year.
Adele Werner is back for a strong senior season as a top distance threat.
Last season ended with a fourth consecutive Class A Gold Ball. This winter, McAuley is seeking to become the first team to make it five in a row. It won’t be easy, but don’t write the Lions off.
More photos below.