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Deering Rams Winter Sports Preview

Sports

Deering Rams Winter Sports Preview

(Note: for more on Deering's boys' and girls' hockey players, who play with the Portland/Deering co-op team, see the Portland Bulldogs preview)

Deering's optimistic about its winter sports teams. Both basketball squads project to once again be top contenders, although both face challenges. Both track teams have an abundance of talent. Swimming welcomes a new coach and should contend. Wrestling, as always, features some top athletes to watch.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Todd Wing (first year)

2012-13 record: 15-4 (Lost, 49-40, in OT, to Thornton Academy in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Ahmed Ismail Ahmed (Senior), Ahmed Ali (Senior), Patrick Lobor (Senior), Liam Densmore (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 6 @ Bonny Eagle, Dec. 10 TA, Dec. 20 @ Cheverus, Dec. 23 WESTBROOK, Jan. 17 PORTLAND, Feb. 4 CHEVERUS, Feb. 6 @ Portland

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're implementing some new things. Knowing the guys is a huge help. The effort's been there. We're trying to improve on what we do. I think it will be a very even league this year with a couple standout teams at the top. We have the potential to match up with anybody on a given night. We have a lot of guys with talent. This question is how well we'll fit together. I'm confident we can play with anyone.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: It's been an offseason of change and heartache for the Deering program. After Dan LeGage stepped down following a terrific 11-season reign which produced the school's first two boys' basketball titles, he was replaced by Wing, a Deering assistant for five years who played at Telstar High School and St. Joseph's College. While Wing's familiarity with the players makes for a relatively smooth transition, there will still be a bit of a learning curve, especially considering the program lost some special players to graduation. Then, just shy of the start of the season, basketball was shuffled to the background when former Deering star and longtime assistant and freshman coach Brendan Conway died suddenly at the far-too-young age of 34. Many members of this varsity squad played for Conway and were understandably devastated. The team will look to regroup as best they can and win for their fallen coach.

"(Brendan's passing) is a constant reminder to always do your best on and off the court. Nothing in life is guaranteed," Wing said.

On the floor, this year's group shows an abundance of promise. Even though Bonny Eagle and Portland are viewed as the favorites, Deering can legitimately feel it has what it takes to contend and be there in February. This group features some experience, plus a couple nice additions who will help the cause. Densmore, an SMAA All-Rookie team selection last winter after making 28 3-pointers, will be one of the top shooters in the league. He has great range and isn't afraid to launch a shot even under the most stressful circumstances. Sophomore Benedict Williams is a newcomer who could be a force in the backcourt. Junior Garang Ajok, who played at Deering his freshman year before spending last season at Portland High, is back to bolster the backcourt. The biggest addition is the return of senior Chhorda Chhorn, who played a pivotal role on the 2012 Class A championship team before missing all of last season after a serious knee injury. He's healthy now and will run the point. Deering has some imposing bodies down low as well. Ali stands 6-foot-7, Lobor is 6-4 and Ahmed 6-3. Junior Jacob Coon (also 6-3) should also be a force to contend with. While the Rams will miss departed standouts Labson Abwoch and Thiwat Thiwat, this foursome can help fill the void. The Rams have posted a winning record in nine straight seasons. They should make it 10. If last year's top-ranked defense remains strong and the offense comes together as hoped, Deering will be a postseason factor. This program is certainly due for some good things to come its way.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Mike Murphy (sixth year, 90-13 overall record, one state championship)

2012-13 record: 17-3 (Lost, 33-31, to Cheverus in Western A semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: LeeAnn Downs (Senior), Courtney Brett (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 10 @ TA, Dec. 17 @ McAuley, Dec. 20 CHEVERUS, Dec. 30 @ SP, Jan. 14 GORHAM, Jan. 17 @ Portland, Jan. 31 @ Cheverus, Feb. 3 MCAULEY, Feb. 7 PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “There are a lot of new faces this year. Seven newcomers. It's probably my youngest team in 10 years. We're starting from scratch. We're taking it from the ground up. I like what I've seen so far. I don't know who will score. That's a common thread around the state. It will be a test of patience on everyone's part. I have tough kids. Realistically, we want to get better each day, play hard and see where it takes us. Our goal is always to make the tournament.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering hasn't missed the tournament since 1999-2000, has posted 11 straight winning records and while the loss of players like Keneisha DiRamio, Sami Mack, Marissa MacMillan, Chelsea Saucier and Alexis Stephenson will be difficult to overcome, you can't write off the Rams. Brett and Downs are the proven returning commodities. Both will be at guard and will look to help fill the scoring void. The offense will be run this year by freshman Tasia Titherington. Senior Molly Kilbride and junior Mary Tadsse will also be in the backcourt. The frontcourt is all new, as seniors Christianna Seavey and Kiana Ward are joined by freshman Amanda Brett. Deering will play hard, it always does, and will rely on its defensive intensity to keep it in games (it was second in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association last year). Against high-powered offenses, the Rams might struggle to keep up, but this team should hold its own against most foes. If the new players quickly come of age, there's no reason to think that Deering won't be very good once more. This might not be a championship-level team, but by February, no one will welcome seeing the Rams on the other side of the court.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS' COACH: Gerry Myatt (second year)

GIRLS' COACH: Kevin Campbell (16th year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 12th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 7th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:

(BOYS) Abdul Kadir Abdi (Senior), Ricardo Delgado (Senior), Giles Holmes (Senior), Yahya Hussein (Junior), Paulo DeMarco (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Alexis Elowitch (Senior), Casey Girsch (Senior), Edie Pallozzi (Senior), Rashad Zagon (Senior), Chantrea El (Junior), Katie Farrell (Junior), Lizzy Fowler (Junior), Lili Kien (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Scarborough, SP, TA

COACH MYATT'S COMMENT: “We could always use more numbers, but we'll be OK. We'll score our points here and there. We have to stay healthy and do our best at the big meets to have a good season.”

COACHCAMPBELLSCOMMENT: “We have great numbers this season and should cover all the events. We should have a successful regular season. We have many girls who are new to track. It's always exciting to see who breaks out of the pack to be one of the top athletes in the league.

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering should be very strong on the track this winter.

The boys' graduated all 17 state meet points in the form of standout thrower (and Deering Winter and Spring Male Athlete of the Year) Jared Bell and jumper Billy Farrell, but there are some top-notch athletes returning and three newcomers who will help the cause. Delgado didn't score at states, but he did win the senior division 55 hurdles and high jump at Southwesterns. He'll contend in the hurdles, jumps and sprints this winter. Hussein also won an SMAA title a year ago, in the junior 800. He's a top distance threat. Also returning are Abdi (jumps), Holmes (sprints and jumps) and DeMarco (hurdles and sprints). Senior David Fowler adds sprinting depth. Junior Hany Ramadan will sprint and run middle distance and junior Ide Sheikh-Yusuf joins Hussein in the distance races. While the Rams will clearly miss Bell's points and leadership, they will remain very competitive in the conference and should feature some individuals who will turn heads in February.

On the girls' side, two reigning state champions return. Pallozzi set a new state record in winning the 800, while Elowitch is defending her crown in the shot put. They're joined by Spring Female Athlete of the Year Zagon, one of the state's premier hurdlers (she was fifth last year indoors), to make up a strong core. El (who won the senior 55 hurdles last year at Southwesterns), Farrell and Girsch are top returning hurdlers. Farrell will also run the 400. Fowler will join Pallozzi in the 800. Kien is a top jumper. Three freshmen will also help the cause. Nicola Ciccomancini sprints, Meghana Clere throws the shot put and Caitlin Lally runs the hurdles and middle distance. The Rams will be in the thick of things in the regular season and should be in line for a fifth straight top 10 finish at states.

SWIMMING

COACH: Sarah Rubin (first year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 3rd @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 3rd @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Lucas Adair (Senior), Eric Delmonte (Senior), Alex Tucci (Senior), Adam Roland (Senior)

(GIRLS) Kylie Patchell (Senior), Emma Pontius (Senior), Mary Cala (Junior), Sofie DeOlivieria (Sophomore), Kate Pontius (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cape Elizabeth, Cheverus, Greely

COACH'S COMMENT: “We have a good crop of returners who should balance out some of our losses from last year. We also have an incredible group of newer swimmers who will prove extremely valuable throughout the regular season and at Southwesterns. We're looking to maintain or improve on our finishes from last year.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering welcomes a new coach this winter in Rubin, who swam at Sanford High and at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. She previously served as an assistant at Gorham High and inherits a strong program, which was excellent at the big meets a year ago.

The boys' team's top returners are Delmonte (runner-up in the 200 individual medley and third in the breaststroke last year), and Adair, who placed third in the butterfly and sixth in the backstroke last winter. Tucci also has experience and joins Delmonte as captain. Roland looks to be a factor as well. Freshman Roman Anderson will help provide depth, will take part in the relays and could make his name known as an individual as well. The Rams should once again be among the very best teams from start to finish.

On the girls' side, the loss of two-time reigning Winter Female Athlete of the Year Genevieve Worthley will be felt. Worthley is the defending Class A champion in the IM and breaststroke. She was also part of a champion 400 free relay squad, which also included Emma Pontius, Kate Pontius and Sophie DeOlivieria, all of whom return. Kate Pontius will be a threat in the sprint freestyle races. Cala and Patchell also have experience. Freshman Wyeth Spike will make an immediate splash and could be one of the top finishers at the big meets. Deering might have a tough time matching last year's success minus Worthley, but this group will continue to be a top contender. The Rams will make a run at a top five finish at Southwesterns and states again.

NORDIC SKIING

COACH: Aaron Duphily (fourth year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 6th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) No score @ Class A state meet

COACH'S COMMENT: “This is the first time we have a full Deering girls' team. I'm excited about that. Deering has seven skiers overall.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: While the Deering contingent is still a small part of the Portland Nordic Ski Club, the Rams, with some talented youth, will make their presence felt.

The boys will be led by freshman Caleb Niles. The girls' team has three promising freshmen: Leinani Farnsworth, Violet Sulka-Hews and Ewa Varney (who had a terrific soccer season). The Rams will make history by scoring at the state meet this winter for the first time and should be even stronger in the years to come.

WRESTLING

COACH: Al Kirk (36th year)

2012-13 results: 21st @ Class A state meet (9th @ regionals)

TOP RETURNERS: Matt Krusiec (Junior), Jonah Rogers (Junior), Mike Darling (Sophomore)

COACH’S COMMENT: “It will be very exciting to see how we develop. We have good junior leadership and a number of freshmen.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Rams welcome back former four-time state champion Chris Smith as an assistant coach this season. While numbers are small, Deering will hold its own. The top returner is Krusiec, the captain. Darling and Rogers will also look to get to states and make some noise. Look for Deering to be one of the more competitive squads in the area, one that will turn some heads at regionals and states.

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

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Ahmed Ismail Ahmed will be a key player for the Rams this season.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Ahmed Ali is another key returner for the Rams.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Lee Ann Downs will be a team leader and likely a top scorer this winter.

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Courtney Brett saw some key minutes as a sophomore and will be called upon to be a top producer this winter.

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Sophomore Yahya Hussein will be one of the fastest runners in the conference this winter.

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Senior Edie Pallozzi will score her share of points this winter.