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South Portland Red Riots Winter Sports Preview

Sports

South Portland Red Riots Winter Sports Preview

South Portland's winter sports teams appear formidable as a new season is underway. The boys' basketball squad could be among the very best in Western Class A. The girls' team looks to keep its long postseason streak going. Boys' hockey has small numbers, but will battle night in, night out. Both track teams are in good shape behind good numbers and talent. The swimming program also features promise.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Phil Conley (sixth year, 68-31)

2011-12 Record: 12-9 (Lost, 54-39, to Bonny Eagle in Western Class A semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Ben Burkey (Senior), Calvin Carr (Senior), Tanner Hyland (Senior), Conner MacVane (Senior), Jack Tolan (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 18 @ Thornton Academy, Jan. 2 @ Scarborough, Jan. 4 (H) DEERING, Jan. 11 @ Portland, Jan. 21 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 25 (H) CHEVERUS, Jan. 29 @ Deering. Feb. 5 (H) PORTLAND, Feb. 8 @ Cheverus

COACH’S COMMENT: "We have a veteran team. Seven seniors and three juniors. Four sophomores round it out. We have a veteran point guard who can score. It's the biggest team I've had. I think we can be as good anyone with our senior experience. I think we'll build on the finish we had last year. We're confident, but not overconfident. We emphasize controlling the glass at both ends. We'll battle every game.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland saved its best for last a year ago, winning a preliminary round playoff game, shocking a Portland team many had pegged. as a likely regional champion in the quarterfinals, then giving favored Bonny Eagle a battle in the semifinals before bowing out. While the Red Riots graduated five players, including honorable mention all-star Logan Gaddar, they have a lot returning and should be right near the top of the heap. Hyland will make the offense go. He was 12th in the league in scoring (11.8 points per game), fourth in assists (3.6), third in made 3-pointers (37) and 11th in steals (2.1) during a second-team all-star campaign last winter. South Portland will be formidable inside behind the 6-foot-7 Tolan (7.5 points, 6 rebounds last season), 6-5 Burkey (7.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), 6-0 MacVane (who really came on at the end of last year), 6-0 senior Calvin Carr and 6-2 sophomore Jaren Muller. Seniors Trevor Borelli and Ryan Pelletier, who swung between varsity and JV last season, will play bigger roles this winter. Borelli, a guard, is a defensive specialist, while Pelletier hopes to do some scoring from his guard position. Also seeking more playing time are junior guard Patrick Conley and junior forward Andrew Hodge. New faces to get accustomed to include junior guard David Gravel, 6-4 sophomore center Ismael Baez and sophomore Matt Beecher. South Portland is always one of the hardest working teams in the conference. This year, the Red Riots will be tough to defend as they can score inside and out. South Portland could wind up one of the last teams standing. The pieces are in place for a memorable run. Don't be surprised if the Red Riots wake up the echoes.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Mike Giordano (17th year, 195-118)

2011-12 Record: 7-12 (Lost, 50-30, to Thornton Academy in Western Class A preliminary round)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Danica Gleason (Senior), Brianne Maloney (Junior), Holly Black (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 21 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, Dec. 31 (H) DEERING, Jan. 2 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 8 @ Sanford, Jan. 25 (H) CHEVERUS, Jan. 29 (H) MCAULEY, Feb. 4 @ Deering, Feb. 8 @ McAuley

COACH’S COMMENT: “I'm excited. We're going back to an up-tempo game. We'll force things defensively. We're quick and athletic, something we haven't been in awhile. We have to figure out how to score in the quarter court. I like what we can do up and down the floor. Our goal is to be in the tournament and I believe we can have success in the tournament.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland extended its postseason streak to 12 years last winter, but instead of settling for making the dance, this year's Red Riots feel like they can win a game or two. South Portland plans to take it to the opposition, on offense and defense. When it comes to scoring, Gleason (a 5-foot-7 guard and tremendous athlete) and Maloney (a 5-9 forward/center) will lead the way. Black, who turned heads as a freshman, will be a factor as well and will also be a force on the defensive end. Two new freshmen provide hope for the future. Maddie Hasson, with a last name familiar to the program, will run the point. Meaghan Doyle adds depth in the frontcourt. The Red Riots will let loose and have fun and should be able to compete with all but perhaps Cheverus and McAuley. Giordano is closing in on his 200th victory and he should reach that mark soon. By February, South Portland will be confident and ready to take part in the postseason. This could be a team capable of springing an upset on the big stage.

BOYS' HOCKEY

COACH: Joe Robinson (sixth year, 50-43-4)

2011-12 Record: 4-14 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Alec Neal (Senior), Andrew Whipple (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 20 @ Cheverus, Jan. 21 @ Portland, Jan. 26 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, Feb. 6 @ Kennebunk, Feb. 9 (H) GORHAM, Feb. 15 @ Scarborough, Feb. 18 (H) PORTLAND, Feb. 21 (H) KENNEBUNK

COACH’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are low this year and we've lost numerous players to other programs, but I hope we can compete on a positive, productive level.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland's run of postseason appearances ended at four last season. This year's team hopes to return to form, but low numbers will pose a challenge. Whipple was second on the team in scoring last year. He'll lead the forward line. Neal paces the defense in front of senior goalie Kelsey Morton. Other Red Riots will look to make an impact and if that happens, South Portland will win its share of games. Will it be enough for a playoff trip? Time will tell, but never rule out a Robinson-coached squad.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS' COACH: Dave Kahill (sixth year)

GIRLS' COACH: Karen Reardon (second year)

2011-12 Results:

(BOYS) 16th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 10th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Eddie Apricopoai (Senior), Joe Feely (Senior), Austin Gotts (Senior), Max Knutsen (Senior), Ryan Tuttle (Senior), Joe Zelasko (Senior), Jon Bagley (Junior), Luch Bol (Junior), Jacob Guay (Junior), Ben Michaud (Junior), Anthony Tran (Junior), Michael Cuesta (Sophomore), Matthew Stearns (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Erin Bogdanovich (Senior), Cheyenne Coombs (Senior), Sophia Desjardins (Senior), Nyajock Pan (Senior), Angela Tirabassi (Senior), Bridget Campbell (Junior), Clara Ellis (Junior), Casey Kelley (Junior), Ariana Mohammad (Junior), Victoria Beaulieu (Sophomore), Laurine German (Sophomore), Lauren Magnuson (Sophomore), Kyndra McKenzie (Sophomore), Michelle Medici (Sophomore), Brittney Upton (Sophomore)

COACH KAHILL’S COMMENT: “We're a hardworking and talented team. The seniors provide outstanding leadership, which is essential, as one-third of the members of the team are competing in high school indoor track for the first time. The senior division will be a strength of the team with a core group of returners and some talented newcomers. We have a group of upperclass newcomers who add excitement, depth and talent to the team.”

COACH REARDON'S COMMENT: “We hope to do better than we did last year, which means moving up in both the Southwesterns and the state meets. We've had a good turnout, over 40 girls, and I see a lot of talent. Now, it's a matter of working hard and applying that talent in a competitive setting. We should have a number of girls contending for scoring positions at Southwesterns and hopefully states as well. This is the deepest team I've had in the 10 years I've been at South Portland. We're really looking forward to the season.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both South Portland indoor track teams project to be among the finest in the SMAA.

The boys' return state meet scorer Michaud, who was part of a third-place 800 relay team. He'll be a top sprinter along with Tran, new senior Dillon Burns and freshman Michael Foster. Middle distance figures to be a strength as well as Apricopoai, Bol, Feely, Stearns, co-captain Tuttle, senior Caleb Elsemore and sophomore Hayden Owen all show potential. The longer races feature co-captain Knutsen, Bagley, Guay, Salamone and freshmen Gavin Damian-Loring (15th at this fall's state cross country meet) and Jacob Maloney. In the hurdles, keep an eye on Cuesta, Feely and Tuttle. The Red Riots should also be strong in field events. Top throwers include Elsemore, Foster, Owen, Preston and Zelasko. Freshmen Dan Guiliani and Matt Hammond also look to score in the shot put. Top jumpers include Bol, Burns, Cuesta, Elsemore, Feely, Foster, Hammond, Michaud, Owen, Preston, Stearns, Tran, Tuttle and junior Elijah Wallace. Bol, Cuesta, Owen and Stearns will vie for points in the pole vault. South Portland features tremendous depth, balance and athleticism. The Red Riots should be among the top teams in the conference and could lock up a top 10 finish at states.

On the girls' side, Pan (South Portland's Fall Female Athlete of the Year) is the lone returning scorer from last year's state meet. The standout finished third in both the 800 and mile and is a three-season running standout. This winter, Pan will be joined in the distance by McKenzie, Mohammed, new sophomores Janey Blackwell-Orr and Sydney Onos and early Christmas gift, junior Shannon Conley, a superb runner at Cheverus, who has transferred to South Portland. In the middle distance, Kelley and Tirabassi look to make noise. The Red Riots have no shortage of fine sprinters. That list includes Beaulieu, Bogdanovich (South Portland's Spring Female Athlete of the Year, who is a member of a school record-holding 800 relay team), Desjardins (who missed much of last season with injury), Ellis, German, Magnuson, Upton, seniors Akossiwa Alognon and Danae Shurn, junior Shayla Mejias, sophomore Emma Russell and freshmen Ingrid Boyce, Maegan Dunbar, Hannah Fitzpatrick, Edita Isakovic and Meagan Johnson. Senior Ericka Lightner, after a year away, should be a top hurdler. Dunbar, German, Isakovic, Russell, Tirabassi and Upton will also take part in that event. The Red Riots have plenty of field event promise as well. Throwers of note include Medici (fourth at Southwesterns last winter), Tirabassi and senior Samantha DiBiase. The pool of jumpers is deep and features Alognon, Boyce, Campbell, Coombs, Desjardins, Dunbar, Ellis, German, Isakovic, Johnson, Lightner, Magnuson, Russell, Shurn and Upton. Alognon is a pole vaulter. Reardon, who was named SMAA Coach of the Year last winter, has plenty of talent to work with. South Portland will cover the events nicely during the season and could be in for a high finish come February.

SWIMMING

COACH: Rob Card (eighth year)

2011-12 Results:

(BOYS) 10th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) tie-19th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Colby Brown (Senior), Tony Roberts (Senior), Christian Breau (Junior), Colin Harle (Junior), Nick Alvarez (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Lauren Halvorson (Senior), Abby Onos (Senior), Emma Trembly (Senior), Sarah Micucci (Sophomore)

COACHS COMMENT: “We hope to have both teams score at the state meet.

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: The Red Riots were hit hard by graduation, but expect to be in contention this winter.

The boys graduated top diver Keith Carmichael, as well as 2011-12 Winter Male Athlete of the Year Chad MacWhinnie, but should be strong in the sprints behind Brown, Harle, Roberts and freshman Chris Hau. Alvarez swims the butterfly, as does Breau, who will also compete in the individual medley. Look for the Red Riots to be in position to score some points at the big February meets.

On the girls' side, three members of a scoring 200 free relay team, Halvorson, Onos and Trembly, return. Halvorson will be a distance freestyler this year, while Onos will swim both the freestyle races and the IM and Trembly will take part in the sprints. Micucci is another sprinter to watch. Freshman Ally Hobbs joins the team and hopes to make some noise in the backstroke. South Portland should improve steadily as the season progresses and figures to have some individuals turn some heads at Southwesterns and states.