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South Portland Red Riots Spring Athletes of the Year

Sports

South Portland Red Riots Spring Athletes of the Year

MALE

DUNCAN PRESTON, Junior-Lacrosse

  • SMAA all-star, first-team, midfield

  • Team leading scorer

South Portland produced the best season in its history this spring. Leading the way with clutch goals, leadership and determination was Preston, who set a couple program records along the way.

Preston grew up in South Portland, taking his lumps and learning toughness as the youngest of three brothers. He has played quarterback on the football team and throws and jumps indoors during the winter track season, but lacrosse is where he made a major name for himself this spring. Preston started playing in middle school and joined the varsity as a freshman. He emerged as a pivotal player on a special team this past season.

Preston had two goals in a season-opening win over Marshwood, four goals and three assists to help beat Gorham, then scored twice, set up four other goals and won 11 faceoffs to key a come-from-behind victory at defending and eventual Eastern A champion Cheverus. Preston scored three times in a one-goal loss to state champion Scarborough, had two goals in a loss to Class B power Yarmouth, four against Thornton Academy, four versus Massabesic, two goals against Kennebunk in a thrilling overtime win and three goals with four assists in a regular season-ending triumph over Biddeford.

In the playoffs, Preston scored twice in a quarterfinal round victory against Gorham, then had a team-high three goals and six ground balls against Kennebunk in the semis, but the Red Riots let a second half lead slip away and suffered a painful loss.

"I was happy with the season," Preston said. "We were underdogs going in. I think we surprised everyone but ourselves. We got a lot better as the season went along."

The Red Riots were playing for a cause greater then themselves this spring. Ted Hellier, the father of sophomore goalie T-Moe, as well as a longtime youth coach in the city, was present for every game even though he was in the final stage of a battle with cancer (he passed away days after the end of the season).

"Ted was like a second father," said Preston. "He made us want to succeed and to make him happy and proud."

If safe to say Preston made him very proud as for the season, he had 35 goals and 19 assists. He set a new team record with 114 ground balls, including a program-record 15 in one game (versus Windham). He also took a lot of faceoffs and was one of the best in the conference in that challenging role.

"I take sports seriously," said Preston. "I want the other kids to be as serious as I am. I'm focused. I don't talk much."

Preston is playing for a Maine travel lacrosse team which will compete in Lake Placid, N.Y., later this summer. He's also attended a lacrosse showcase at Syracuse University and hopes to play football or lacrosse in college. First, he wants to lead South Portland to its first lacrosse championship, have a successful football season as well and also medal in track.

Don't bet against this determined and focused young man. Duncan Preston, South Portland's Spring Male Athlete of the Year, has shown that hard work produces great rewards. Rewards he's not done collecting.

Coach Tom Fiorini's comment: “Duncan was a difference maker, a game changer. When we needed a goal, he went out and got it. He's also the kid who, when we were up and he wasn't scoring, would say, 'That's OK. I don't need to score today.' He was harder on himself than anyone. He will lead this team to a title next year. He'll put the team on his back and carry them all the way. We have a lot of good players. Duncan's the one kid we can't live without.”

Previous winners:

2012: Brendan Horton (baseball)

2011: Adrian Reid (track)

2010: Adam Burpee (lacrosse)

2009: Ben Linscott (lacrosse)

2008: Will Furbush (baseball)

2007: Eugene Arsenault (lacrosse)

2006: Thomas McCoubrey (track)

2005: Justin Collett (baseball)

2004: Scott Guillerault (baseball)

2003: Anthony Dambrie (track)

2002: Greg Norton (baseball)

FEMALE

DANICA GLEASON, Senior-Softball

  • Miss Maine Softball
  • Gatorade Player of the Year

  • SMAA Player of the Year

  • SMAA Offensive Player of the Year

  • SMAA Defensive Player of the Year

  • SMAA all-star, first-team, shortstop

  • Senior all-star

  • Maine vs. New Hampshire Senior All-Star

  • Captain

When Gleason went down with a knee injury during basketball season, she hoped to simply be able to play softball this spring. Not only did she play, she played better than anyone, anywhere, and as a result, bowed out with an abundance of well-deserved accolades.

Gleason, who grew up in South Portland and started playing softball at a young age, began playing ASA in the fifth grade and has been a fixture on the Red Riots varsity since her freshman year when she stepped in at shortstop and helped the program to its first state title. After an all-star campaign as a sophomore, she hit .568 with six triples, 24 RBI, 22 runs scored and 12 steals as a junior and was named an all-star again.

Those performances set the bar pretty high, but Gleason continued to raise it this spring even though that didn't seem likely back in March when practice began. Gleason, who was named Winter Athlete of the Year even though she missed several games due to her injury, wasn't close to 100 percent when the softball season commenced, but she quickly rounded into form.

Gleason, who spent most of her time at shortstop, also played every other position on the field this season. She had three hits and was the surprise starting pitcher in a loss to Scarborough, singled and doubled in a win over Thornton Academy, tripled in a victory over Noble and had three hits, including a home run, while driving in four versus Massabesic.

"At the beginning of the season, I wasn't sure how much I could play and I still favored my back leg, but I broke out in the third or fourth game and felt more comfortable," Gleason said.

That's an understatement.

Gleason continued to make life miserable for the opposition during South Portland's 11-game win streak to end the regular season. She had a home run in a 28-run uprising against Deering, hit another in an 18-0 blanking of McAuley, drove in the winning run against Marshwood with a sacrifice fly, had four hits, including a home run, scored four times and drove in four runs versus Cheverus, had three hits and three RBI against Windham, doubled twice, tripled, singled and had two RBI, including the one that put her team ahead for good versus Westbrook, tripled in two and scored a run against Biddeford, had two hits against Portland and four hits with two RBI in a win over Gorham in the regular season finale.

Gleason had four hits, including a double, and three RBI in a quarterfinal round playoff win over Biddeford. The Red Riots were then upset by Sanford in the semifinals.

For the year, Gleason hit a jawdropping .670, had an on base percentage of .820, had 40 hits (six of which were doubles, six more that were home runs and four that were triples), 35 RBI, struck out only seven times and went 10-for-10 on stolen base attempts. She also fielded .950.

Not surprisingly, she was showered with awards at the conclusion of the season, including Miss Maine Softball and Maine's Gatorade Player of the Year honor.

Gleason also plays ASA softball for the Southern Maine Smashers and the Southern Maine Flame, will next make her presence felt at St. Joe's, where she plans to play both basketball and softball, while studying physical education.

She plans to make an immediate mark there, just as she did in high school. Danica Gleason, South Portland's Spring Female Athlete of the Year, has shown she can do it all and do it without peer. The next level is hers to conquer.

Coach Ralph Aceto’s comment: "I knew when Danica was a freshman that she'd be a great player. She works hard. She can do it all. She has all the tools. She became a great leader. Not vocal, but by example. She did it her way. The best thing is she's really a well grounded kid. She's a lot of fun. She takes it light. It's been an absolute pleasure to have been a part of her softball career.”

Previous winners:

2012: Erin Bogdanovich (softball)

2011: Alexis Bogdanovich (softball)

2010: Katlin Norton (softball)

2009: Danielle DiBiase (softball)

2008: Julie DiMatteo (softball)

2007: Christina Aceto (softball)

2006: Kristin Kill (softball)

2005: Krystal Shannon (softball)

2004: Lindsay Coit (lacrosse)

2003: Nichole Cousins (softball)

2002: Morgan O'Donnell (softball)

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