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Freeport Falcons Winter Sports Preview

Sports

Freeport Falcons Winter Sports Preview

Freeport has enjoyed its share of winter sports success in recent years and the 2013-14 campaign should be no different. Boys' basketball should continue its climb up the standings. The girls' team is coming off its best season in years and hopes to remain a top contender. Indoor track has no shortage of strong athletes. Skiing has been the school's crown jewel of late and that should continue on both the Alpine and Nordic sides.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Matthew Cook (third year, 7-29 overall record)

2012-13 record: 3-15 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Chandler Birmingham (Senior), Matt Schultheis (Senior), Jack Davenport (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 6 @ Poland, Jan. 4 YARMOUTH, Jan. 7 POLAND, Jan. 11 TRAIP, Jan. 14 @ OOB, Jan. 25 @ Gray-NG, Feb. 7 @ Yarmouth

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're slowly getting there. It's a very young, inexperienced team, but the kids are very competitive. They're working hard. We have to improve at a fast rate. We're not very big, so we'll have to hustle and get rebounds. Boxing out will be key. I don't set win-loss goals, but our number one goal is to improve and be a lot better at the end than when we start. We'll have to go out and compete every night.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Falcons are now six years removed from their last winning season and playoff berth, but there are reasons to believe that the tide is turning and that Freeport could make life difficult for a lot of its foes in the weeks to come. For starters, Birmingham is one of the best players in the league. He averaged 14.2 points per game last winter, good for 10th in the Western Maine Conference, and hit 30 3-pointers. He'll be the point guard and the focal point of the offense this season. In the front court, Davenport (who stands 6-foot-2) and Schultheis (6-3) will have to do battle with a lot of bigger foes, but should hold their own. Junior Brendan Qualls, who stands 6-3, was limited last season, but could be a scoring force this winter. Three junior guards, Noah Butler, Nathaniel Cyr and Peter LaMagna, along with sophomore guard Brady LaFrance, add depth. Some early success would go a long way for this group. Look for the Falcons to be pesky and to play hard for 32 minutes every time they take the floor. The playoffs might be a longshot, but this group will keep the program headed in the right direction.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Jim Seavey (second year, 13-7 overall record)

2012-13 record: 13-7 (Lost, 65-29, to Lake Region in Western Class B quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Nina Davenport (Senior), Livvy Dimick Senior), Venessa Lee (Senior), Ashley Richardson (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 11 @ Greely, Dec. 16 @ Cape Elizabeth, Dec. 19 YORK, Dec. 30 @ Wells, Jan. 9 @ Lake Region, Jan. 14 GREELY, Jan. 24 @ Yarmouth, Jan. 25 GRAY-NG, Jan. 29 LAKE REGION, Jan. 31 FALMOUTH, Feb. 7 YARMOUTH

COACH’S COMMENT: “We lost three starters and two other kids who played. I have a lot of kids without varsity experience. I have to have kids score from the perimeter to open things up for Nina. My biggest fear is that she'll get double- or triple-teamed. This league is unbelievable this year. I'd like to get back to the tournament and see what we can do. We're capable. We have a lot of work to do, but we're improving. I'm excited.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Last winter, in his first season, Seavey guided the Falcons to their best record in a dozen years and their first trip to the quarterfinals in any class in a decade. The graduation losses of point guard/sparkplug Aubrey Pennell, sharpshooter Leigh Wyman and gritty team leader Jocelyn Davee, along with Hanna Chase, Amanda Miles and Naomi Otis will pose a challenge, but the return of Davenport, the school's reigning Winter Female Athlete of the Year, will keep Freeport in every game. Davenport was a Western Maine Conference first-team all-star a year ago, averaging 19.4 points (second in the league), 8.2 rebounds (eighth) and 3.9 steals (eighth) per game. She can get the job done inside and out and will always be the focal point of the opposition. Lee is capable of doing some damage down low. Dimick (Freeport's Fall Female Athlete of the Year) and Richardson will look to replace Wyman's production from the outside. Richardson will run the offense this winter, with help from sophomore Kayla Belanger, who showed some very positive signs late last season. Junior Mackenzie Ackley and sophomore Jessica Wall will also help the Falcons in the post. Junior Lauren Cormier is a top defender at the guard position. Sophomore Bailey Karnes will see time at guard, while freshman Regan Lynch will play guard and forward. In a year where every game poses a challenge, Freeport won't be allowed much of a learning curve. The Falcons will rely heavily on Davenport in the early going and hope the others quickly adapt to their roles and help the cause. Freeport should be able to hold its own against everyone. If the Falcons can find some steady point production outside of Davenport, they'll enjoy another very good season. One that could feature a return trip to the Expo.

INDOOR TRACK

COACH: Brian Berkemeyer (sixth year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) tie-13th @ Class B state meet

(GIRLS) 7th @ Class B state meet

ATHLETES TO WATCH:

(BOYS) Harry Stivers (Senior)

(GIRLS) Lexi Dietrich (Senior), Kelsey Grant (Senior), Hayley Steckler (Senior)

TOP FOES: Falmouth, Greely, Yarmouth

COACH’S COMMENT: “Our team is up to 58 members. We'll have depth in all running events. We may also have a few good jumpers and throwers. We look forward to competing. We could have a few state champs and/or go to New Englands with some individuals or relays.”

FORECASTER'S FORECAST: The Freeport indoor track program is poised for a strong season.

The boys are paced by Stivers, who was second in the 400 and seventh in the 800 at last year's state meet. He's the lone returning scorer, but there are plenty of talented athletes on the roster. Seniors A.J. Daniel (sprints), Mark Donahue (distance), Braden Marstaller (sprints, hurdles), Luke Spaulding (sprints, jumps), Darnel Strothers (shot put), Eric Wentworth (sprints) and Austin Williams (distance) will all be heard from, while juniors Matt Francis and Tyler Frey are distance threats as well. The Falcons will battle the powerhouse teams in the conference and should hold their own. They will make some noise in the postseason as well.

On the girls' side, Dietrich is the top returner. She came in third in the 200 last winter and will be a top sprinter. She also joined Grant and Steckler on a third-place 800 relay team and this year, will threaten in the triple jump as well. Steckler is coming off a seventh-place showing in the 400 last year and will be a top middle distance runner. Grant will threaten in the sprints and hurdles. Senior Gabby Tilton competes in the distance races and is another runner to watch. Freeport has some solid frontline talent, which should really turn some heads in February.

SKIING

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) Class C state champions

ALPINE

COACH: Jay Thomas (second year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) 3rd @ Class C state meet

TOP FOES: Falmouth, Greely, Yarmouth

TOP RETURNING SKIERS:

(BOYS) Spencer Drake (Senior), Caleb Abbott (Junior), Ryder Bennell (Junior), Blake Enrico (Junior), Charlie Zachau (Junior), Isaac Salisbury (Sophomore), Mathieu Starke (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Julia Schneider (Senior), Lily Smith (Senior), Wynne Cushing (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're new to Class B, so it's wait and see. We're looking forward to seeing conference schools that we race all season in the championships. The boys only graduated one senior, so we expect continued growth. The girls' roster is small again, but we have a couple of girls who have skied with the program for several years and they should provide us with some strong individual scores.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Freeport's Alpine program will be in the hunt for a Class B title on both the boys' and girls' sides.

The boys' team returns three scorers. Bennell, Freeport's reigning Winter Male Athlete of the Year, won the giant slalom last year and placed fifth in the slalom. Enrico was second in the GS and third in the slalom, while Abbott placed sixth in the GS and seventh in the slalom. Drake, Salisbury, Starke and Zachau will make names for themselves as the Falcons produce another solid regular season and vie to make a run at the Class B title. A high finish there is quite likely.

On the girls' side, Cushing is the top returner. She came in sixth in the GS and ninth in the slalom. Schneider and Smith will look to produce some solid scores as well. Freeport will hit its stride as the season progresses and should be very formidable at the conference and state meets.

NORDIC

COACHES: Heather Zimmerman (second year) & Joel Hinshaw (12th year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) 2nd @ Class C state meet

TOP RETURNING SKIERS:

(BOYS) Eli McCurdy (Senior)

(GIRLS) Elizabeth Martin (Junior)

TOP FOES: Falmouth, Greely, Merriconeag, Yarmouth

COACH ZIMMERMAN'S COMMENT: “We'll be competing in Class B for the first time this year and we're preparing to be a major contender. We're returning many of our scorers and we have a strong contingent of freshmen to add to the squad.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Freeport teams came oh-so-close to Class C titles last winter and this season, in Class B, the Falcons will be very competitive again.

The boys return McCurdy, sixth in the classic a year ago. Several freshmen will look to fill the other spots and by February, Freeport should be able to contend with the best teams in the state.

On the girls' side, Martin is coming off a transcendent state meet, which saw her finish first for scoring purposes in the skate and place second in the classic. This group will be able to hold its own against some powerhouse regular season foes and will make a run at a high finish at the Class B state meet.

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

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Ashley Richardson will be in the middle of the action for the Falcons.

Photo:

Harrison Stivers is the top returner for the Freeport boys' indoor track team.