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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 should be in for a strong year. Boys' basketball is coming off its best season in two decades. While the Red Riots are rebuilding this winter, they should remain in contention. The girls' squad welcomes a new coach who is a familiar face. South Portland believes it could be a darkhorse in Western A. Boys' hockey will make the most of its low numbers. Both track teams have strong athletes. Both swim teams should be competitive as well.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Phil Conley (seventh year, 86-35 overall record)

2012-13 record: 18-4 (Lost, 45-41, to Hampden Academy in Class A Final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYER: Jaren Muller (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 17 @ TA, Dec. 20 PORTLAND, Dec. 23 BONNY EAGLE, Dec. 30 DEERING, Jan. 7 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 17 @ Cheverus, Jan. 30 @ Deering, Feb. 4 @ Portland, Feb. 7 CHEVERUS

COACH’S COMMENT: “We only have one guy back with any experience, but we have good, young talent. We played a very tough preseason schedule against Yarmouth, Falmouth and Hampden Academy, which can only help us. We think we're heading in the right direction. Our sophomore bigs are young, but we look for them to improve and do some scoring. We'll have to get up and down the floor. If we can somehow beat Noble (in the opener), it would give these kids some confidence. We hope to come together as a unit. Our goal is to make the playoffs this year.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland awakened the echoes last winter, posting a superb regular season, then, despite the fact that many didn't believe they could make a run, the Red Riots enjoyed stirring playoff victories over Portland and Bonny Eagle to reach the state final for the first time in 20 years. A slow start ultimately doomed them in Augusta, but it was a magical campaign and Conley earned Coach of the Year honors. The flip side to that storybook season was that virtually even contributor, including reigning Winter Male Athlete of the Year Tanner Hyland graduated, meaning that this year's squad is basically starting from scratch, with one exception and it's a pretty impressive exception. Muller came of age during last year's tournament and proved to be one of the special big men in the area, earning SMAA Rookie of the Year honors. He showed a nice shooting touch and was impossible to contain inside. He wound up 14th in the league in scoring (12.1 points per game) and also grabbed 5.2 boards per contest. Muller will be asked to carry this team, but he can't do it alone and that's where several newcomers come into play. Junior Kam Harper will run the point and will be looked upon to score some points, as will shooting guard, senior Patrick Conley. Down low, a couple sophomores, Jack Fiorini and Jordan Jackson, join Muller to make up a formidable front line. If that tandem can quickly develop, South Portland might just find itself in contention quicker than many expect. With so many new faces, there are bound to be growing pains, but Conley has showed he can mold competitive squads year after year. This will be his biggest test and it's advisable that Red Riots' foes take advantage of their struggles early. By the latter part of the season, South Portland will be a challenge for anybody. If this group can find a way to win enough games to reach the Expo, anything's possible. While a return to the biggest stage is likely in the future, this year's team can write a positive chapter of its own.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Lynne Hasson (first year)

2012-13 record: 12-7 (Lost, 45-32, to Scarborough in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Mackenzie Bowring (Senior), Brianne Maloney (Senior), Holly Black (Junior), Maddie Hasson (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 17 TA, Dec. 20 PORTLAND, Dec. 30 DEERING, Jan. 7 @ Scarborough, Jan. 10 @ McAuley, Jan. 17 @ Cheverus, Jan. 28 @ Gorham, Jan. 30 @ Portland, Feb. 4 CHEVERUS

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're off to a good start. We have all our starters other than Danica (Gleason) back. We'll be up tempo. We'll play fullcourt and try to score off turnovers. All the girls can shoot. We'll have a balanced attack. We'll rebound and play defense. One of our main goals is to go deeper in the tournament than we have the past few years. I think we have the potential to get past the first game.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland was enjoying a very good season last winter when Gleason, a first-team all-star and the school's Winter and Spring Female Athlete of the Year, suffered a knee injury and the Red Riots were never the same. They did make it to the tournament for the 13th year in a row, however. Following the season, longtime coach Mike Giordano stepped down after 17 years at the helm and was replaced by Hasson, a one-time Red Riots standout and longtime assistant. She takes over a team that many feel will be in the running for one of the top spots in the tournament come February. A couple of seniors could be on the brink of having breakout seasons. Hasson feels that Bowring is due for greatness at the guard position, while Maloney, a four-year varsity player and a third-team SMAA selection last winter, can be a force inside and out. Speaking of imposing post players, Black is a shotblocker extraordinaire. She'll make life miserable for any opponent. Maddie Hasson, who made the All-Rookie team as a freshman after placing sixth in the league with 3.3 assists per game, will look to step up even further this winter and she could be one of the team's leading scorers from her guard position. Promising freshman Lydia Henderson will be the point guard. Juniors Paige Carter (forward) and Lillian Larochelle (guard), along with sophomore guard Casey Loring, will also see ample playing time. South Portland will miss sophomore Meaghan Doyle, who had a strong freshman campaign, averaging 6.5 rebounds per game. She'll sit out this season with an ACL injury. This team does have what it takes to compete with everyone in the league and to beat most of its foes. This group is still relatively young as well, which suggests it will only get better as the season progresses. Another winning season and a trip to the Expo is highly likely. Getting to the Civic Center for the first time since 2008 is a very realistic goal as well.

BOYS' HOCKEY

COACH: Joe Robinson (seventh year, 52-59-4 overall record)

2012-13 record: 2-16 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Dylan Farrell-Reny (Senior), Christian Guignard (Senior), Kyle Halverson (Junior), Andrew Whipple (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 14 @ Westbrook, Jan. 16 WESTBROOK, Feb. 13 PORTLAND/DEERING

COACH’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are low, but they're a good group. I think we could make the playoffs because of our favorable schedule, as long as we can stay healthy.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: After missing the playoffs in successive seasons (winning just six total games in that span), South Portland is primed to rebound this winter. The top returner is Whipple, an honorable mention all-star last year. He and Halverson project to be the top scoring threats. On defense, Farrell-Reny and Guignard have experience. They're joined by freshmen James Ellis and Ian Young. Freshman Sky Friedland-Farley will see time in goal. The Red Riots will take the ice knowing they can compete every time out and should have no trouble exceeding last year's win total. If it can get enough Heal Points, South Portland could find itself back in the postseason, which would be a very positive step for this group.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS' COACH: Dave Kahill (seventh year)

GIRLS' COACH: Karen Reardon (third year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 11th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 10th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:

(BOYS) Jon Bagley (Senior), Luch Bol (Senior), Jacob Guay (Senior), Marcus Mainit (Senior), Ben Michaud (Senior), Duncan Preston (Senior), Jack Salamone (Senior), Mike Senesombath (Senior), Anthony Tran (Senior), MichaelCuesta (Junior), Noah Blake (Sophomore), Gavin Damian-Loring (Sophomore), Mike Foster (Sophomore), Dan Guiliani (Sophomore), Jacob Maloney (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Bridget Campbell (Senior), Katie Dooling (Senior), Casey Kelley (Senior), Maya Letourneau (Senior), Ariana Mohammad (Senior), Janey Blackwell-Orr (Junior), Lauren Magnuson (Junior), Michelle Medici (Junior), Sydney Onos (Junior), Emma Russell (Junior), Jamison Stanford-Cribby (Junior), Brittney Upton (Junior), Edita Isakovic (Sophomore), Meagan Johnson (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Deering, Gorham, Scarborough, TA

COACH KAHILL’S COMMENT: “We have a motivated, well-rounded and talented team. The upperclassmen provide great leadership for the team to work hard, support each other and improve and as a result, many athletes have developed incredible versatility. Last year's team was very strong in the field events and this year's team has the potential to be even stronger. We have the potential to be one of the top three teams in the conference.

COACH REARDON'S COMMENT: “We have some big holes to fill, but we have some athletes ready to step up. This year, we'll look to do as well as we possibly can. We'll have a strong junior division. I see a lot of promise in our freshmen. Overall, I expect it will be a very good year. Our focus is to do well at Southwesterns and get as many students qualified for the state meet so we can to score points there and improve on what we did previously.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland's track program boasts an abundance of strong athletes this winter and both squads should be among the best in the conference.

The boys return a pair of state meet scorers from a year ago, Spring and Fall Male Athlete of the Year Preston, who was runner-up in the shot put, third in the long jump and fifth in the triple jump, and Michaud, fifth in the long jump. Bagley, who was sixth in the senior 800 at Southwesterns last winter, Bol, a sprinter and pole vaulter, Guay, a distance threat, Mainit, a sprinter, Salamone (distance), Senesombath (sprints, hurdles, jumps) and Tran (sprints) all have experience and will lead the team. Cuesta runs the 400, jumps and pole vaults. He was seventh in the triple jump last spring. Several sophomores will look to play bigger roles. Blake sprints and jumps, Damian-Loring could be a top distance threat, Foster sprints and throws the shot put, Guiliani is another thrower and Maloney jumps and runs distance races and could turn heads. Junior Henry Curran hurdles, sprints and jumps, junior Bryan Currie (jumps, hurdles, distance), sophomore Dylan Rottkov (shot put, jumps, hurdles) and freshmen Isaiah Anderson (middle distance), Jake Angell (sprints and distance), Steven Smith (distance) and Sadiki Stewart (jumps, hurdles) are new to the team and will help the cause. The Red Riots cover all the events, have some terrific frontline talent and are hungry to make an impression. A strong conference season and a top 10 (perhaps even a top five) state meet finish are quite likely.

On the girls' side, the story is just as promising, even though graduation hit hard. Magnuson is a top returner. She set a new school record in the 55 last year at Southwesterns and will be a top sprinter and jumper. Isakovic and Johnson are other sprinters to watch, as are new junior Maddie Martin and freshmen Emma Cleaves, Sophia Cummings, Toia Francis, Callie O'Brien and Shae O'Brien. Russell, Cleaves and Callie O'Brien are the lead hurdlers. In the middle distance, keep an eye on Blackwell-Orr, Campbell, Dooling, Kelly, Letourneau, Onos, Upton, new sophomore Baleigh Burns and freshmen Amber McKenzie and Taylor Nappi. Mohammad will be a factor in the longer races, along with new senior Shannon Conley, South Portland's Fall Female Athlete of the Year, who could wind up at the top of the podium, and freshman Serena McKenzie. On the field side, jumpers of note include Campbell, Isakovic, Johnson, Magnuson, Russell and freshmen Cummings. Callie O'Brien and Shae O'Brien. Medici and Stanford-Cribby are veteran throwers. They're joined by Cleaves, Cummings, Martin, Amber McKenzie and Shae O'Brien. This is a deep, talented squad which covers all the events. The Red Riots will be very good in the league and could post their best state meet finish since placing fourth a decade ago. Big things are in store for this program.

SWIMMING

COACH: Ryan Green (first year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 17th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 20th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS:

(BOYS) Colin Harle (Senior), Nick Alvarez (Junior)

(GIRLS) Sarah Micucci (Junior)

TOP FOES: Cape Elizabeth, Cheverus, Greely

COACH’S COMMENT: “We'll experience a building year, as newcomers will outnumber returnees by a 2-to-1 ratio.”

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: South Portland is young this year, but has some promising talent.

The boys return Harle (10th in the 50 free a year ago at states) and Alvarez, who swims the 200 free and the butterfly. Christien Breau also helps the cause. Those three will keep the Red Riots competitive and in line to make a run at last year's state finish.

On the girls' side, Micucci (who swims the 50 free and the individual medley) is one of just four returners. Several freshmen join the squad and will look to help South Portland tread water against a challenging schedule. This team should improve steadily in the weeks to come.

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux

Junior post standout Jaren Muller is the lone returning Red Riot who saw large amounts of playing time last season. He'll be one of the league's best players this winter.

Photo: Michael Strout

Sophomore Maddie Hasson will help spearhead the South Portland offense this winter.

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Senior Mackenzie Bowring is a key returner for the Red Riots.

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Senior Brianne Maloney is back for her fourth varsity season.

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Senior Luch Bol will be one of the top pole vaulters in the SMAA this winter.

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Junior Emma Russell will be a top threat in the jumps this season.