South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview
South Portland's spring sports teams will all make their presence felt in the weeks to come. Baseball made the playoffs last spring and should be in line for an encore. Softball is always among the very best squads in the state and this edition will look to once again be the team that denies Scarborough a repeat championship. Boys' lacrosse could have its best squad in program history and is dreaming of a championship. The girls' team hopes to get back to the playoffs again. Both track teams have enjoyed recent success and are seeking more, while both tennis teams are thinking playoffs and looking forward to once again playing on campus.
Coach: Mike Owens (fourth year, 23-29 overall record)
2013 record: 6-11 (Lost, 8-0, to Portland in Western A prelim)
Top returning players: Matt Beecher (Senior), Chris Foley (Senior), Robert Graff (Senior), Zac Marles (Senior), Cosmo Romano (Senior), Jon Vickers (Senior), Henry Curran (Junior)
Pivotal games: May 3 MARSHWOOD, May 10 @ Scarborough, May 13 CHEVERUS, May 20 PORTLAND, May 27 @ Westbrook
Coach's comment: “We have a lot back this year. A lot of speed and experience. This is the most depth I've had. Everywhere from pitching to the outfield. I'm excited about our numbers. I think it's going to be pretty wide open this year. A good, balanced league. If Graff can come back healthy, I don't see why we can't be right there. For two years, our weakness has been an inability to score runs. If we can put something together and score, with our pitching and experience, we should be able to compete.”
The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland has an opportunity to be a top contender in a league that doesn't feature a clear favorite. Graff is recovered from tendinitis in his pitching arm and projects to be the ace. He only made five appearances in 2013, yet went 1-0 with a 3.00 earned run average. Marles, a southpaw, who went 2-4 with a 3.02 ERA and was named to the All-Rookie team last season, Curran (3.94 ERA) and Vickers (4.77 ERA) also have experience. Add to that mix junior lefty Brad Sowerby. and the Red Riots should be able to frustrate the opposition. Senior Dylan Farrell-Reny and sophomore Nick Troiano will see time behind the plate. This team's success will ultimately be determined by whether or not it can consistently produce offense. The top returning hitters are Foley (.268 average, seven RBI in 2013), an outfielder, and Graff (.250 last season), who plays third base when he's not pitching. Beecher (utility) and Romano (shortstop) also have experience. Junior outfielder Hayden Owen and freshman shortstop/outfielder Sam Troaino also figure into the mix. This team will compete day in and day out. If South Portland can find a way to score consistently, it will win more than it loses and could be one of the teams to watch come playoff time. The Red Riots have been in the postseason 15 years running. A 16th straight trip is quite likely.
Coach; Ralph Aceto (sixth year, 84-12 overall record, one state championship)
2013 record: 15-3 (Lost, 5-1, to Sanford in Western Class A semifinals)
Top returning players: Olivia Indorf (Senior), Michaela Willwerth (Senior), Laurine German (Junior), Kiley Kennedy (Junior), Abby Young (Junior), Miranda Gleason (Sophomore)
Pivotal games: April 25 @ Scarborough, April 28 TA, April 30 @ Noble, May 2 SANFORD, June 2 BONNY EAGLE, June 4 SCARBOROUGH
Coach's comment: “We lost the middle of our diamond, including Erin (Bogdanovich) and Danica (Gleason), but I think we'll be OK. If Olivia can throw strikes, with the talent we have left over, we can compete. We'll have to manufacture runs this year. If hitting becomes contagious, we'll be fine. I think we'll be there.”
The Forecaster's forecast: Graduation took a pretty big toll on the Red Riots as they lost their ace, Erin Bogdanovich, and superstar shortstop, Danica Gleason, who was Maine's Gatorade Player of the Year, the SMAA Player of the Year and South Portland's Spring Female Athlete of the Year. The cupboard is far from bare, however. The Red Riots again project to be the team best equipped to deny Scarborough come June. This year's team will rely on Indorf (a second-team league all-star in 2013) to pitch them to victory. Freshman Stephanie Aceto, the coach's niece, is another option on the hill. Kennedy will be behind the plate. On offense, look for German, the shortstop and a first-team league all-star last season, to get things going. She hit .460 and stole 10 bases in 2013. Indorf, who will be in the outfield when she's not pitching, packs a potent bat as well (hitting .630). Willwerth, the third baseman, is another hitter to watch and freshman first baseman/designated player Kaitlin Bouchard might hit in the cleanup spot. Miranda Gleason (outfield) and Young (second base) also have experience. Aceto has established South Portland as a perennial power and if these Red Riots can win 16 times, he'll reach 100 victories in his short career. South Portland will score runs and should be solid defensively as well. Ultimately, this group will be judged by how it does in June and has been the case so many times before, especially in even-numbered years, the answer should be positive.
Coach: Tom Fiorini (seventh year, 45-34 overall record)
2013 record: 11-3 (Lost, 11-9, to Kennebunk in Western A semifinals)
Top returning players: Josh Allen (Senior), Andrew Hodge (Senior), Thomas Leddy (Senior), Duncan Preston (Senior), Jordan Susi (Senior), T-Moe Hellier (Junior), Chris Mitchell (Junior), Andrew Whipple (Junior), Jack Fiorini (Sophomore), Nick Mezzanotte (Sophomore)
Pivotal games: April 28 CHEVERUS, May 9 KENNEBUNK, May 13 TA, May 16 @ Yarmouth, June 5 @ Scarborough
Coach's comment: “Last year was a tough situation and ended with a tough loss. Unfinished business is this year's theme. These kids work hard. It's a great group. It's potentially the best team I've had. Essentially, it's the same kids with one more year of experience. On paper, it looks good, but I explained to the kids that games aren't played on paper. We have to go out and take care of business. I think we're ready.”
The Forecaster's forecast: Ever since the Red Riots disconsolately walked off the field in the wake of last year's playoff loss to Kennebunk, they've had their sights set on this season and what they think they can accomplish. This, in theory at least, is the best team in program history and South Portland believes it can end Scarborough's four-year reign as state champion. That confidence is understandable when you see how much firepower returns. For starters, reigning Spring Male Athlete of the Year and first-team league all-star Preston, a captain and three-sport standout, will lead the way from his midfield position. He's being touted as a potential All-American and can literally do it all. He'd like nothing more than to bow out as a champion. He won't be the only Red Riot tickling the twine. The offense also features Fiorini, Hodge, Leddy (a captain and second-team all-star last year), Mitchell, Susi and Whipple. New senior Ben Bilderback, a transfer from Maryland, makes that unit even deeper. South Portland should enjoy plenty of possession as senior Joey DiBiase has come over from baseball to handle faceoff duties, something his namesake did so superbly just a couple years ago. Scoring goals is only part of the game and the Red Riots will be able to hold the opposition in check. Hellier, an honorable mention all-star in 2013, is viewed as one of the state's premier goalies and he's determined to lead his team to the pinnacle. The defense features Allen (a captain) and Mezzanotte, who made great strides as a freshman. South Portland will be tested by several top teams in the weeks to come, but that should only make it stronger for the playoffs. This group knows that it's now or never. The talent is in place, the hunger is obvious and the mission is clear. The nights of June 5 and 18 will determine the Red Riots' destiny. If they can solve the Red Storm once and for all, a first championship could be the end result.
Coach: Bill Fenton (sixth year, 36-29 overall record)
2013 record: 7-6 (Lost, 15-4, to Massabesic in Western A quarterfinals)
Top returning players: Brianne Maloney (Senior), Shae O'Brien (Senior), Courtney Trufant (Senior), Marty Bushey (Junior), Colleen Fleming (Junior), Aimee LaPlante (Junior), Abby Letourneau (Junior), Lily SanGiovanni (Junior), Ali Tolan (Junior), Ingrid Boyce (Sophomore), Mary Cronin (Sophomore)
Pivotal games: May 2 SCARBOROUGH, May 8 GORHAM, May 15 @ Portland, May 21 DEERING, May 29 MASSABESIC
Coach's comment: “We've got low numbers this year, only 12 varsity and 11 JV, but I do have a lot of talent. We only graduated three from last year. We have a lot of height and speed. We're going to be competitive. I like what I have to work with.”
The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland reached the playoffs for the fifth year in a row last spring and should be in the hunt for a postseason spot again. For starters, the Red Riots boast one of the state's best goalies in SanGiovanni, who was an all-conference honorable mention in 2013. The defense is anchored by Boyce, Bushey and All-Rookie team selection Tolan. New senior Thao Kieu will help the cause. Sophomore Maddie Hasson, the basketball standout, Letourneau and Trufant will take draws. Once South Portland has possession, it will look to Cronin, Fleming, LaPlante, Maloney, O'Brien and Trufant to score. While the roster is small, the quality outweighs the quantity and this team will be very athletic and tough to stop. The Red Riots will compete with everyone, should be able to win more than they lose and will be heard from come playoff time, where they might just stick around awhile.
(Boys) Dave Kahill (sixth year)
(Girls) Karen Reardon (third year)
(Boys) 18th @ Class A State Meet
(Girls) 17th @ Class A State Meet
Top returning athletes:
(Boys) Jon Bagley (Senior), Jacob Guay (Senior), Ben Michaud (Senior), Jack Salamone (Senior), Michael Cuesta (Junior), James Falconer (Junior), Kam Harper (Junior), Darien McMahan (Junior), Noah Blake (Sophomore), Danny Guiliani (Sophomore), Jacob Maloney (Sophomore)
(Girls) Bridget Campbell (Senior), Shannon Conley (Senior), Katie Dooling (Senior), Casey Kelley (Senior), Maya Letourneau (Senior), Ari Mohammad (Senior), Holly Black (Junior), Janey Blackwell-Orr (Junior), Lauren Magnuson (Junior), Maddie Martin (Junior), Sydney Smith (Junior), Edita Isakovic (Sophomore), Meagan Johnson (Sophomore), Casey Loring (Sophomore)
Top foes: Deering, Scarborough, TA boys; Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Scarborough, TA, Westbrook girls
Coach Kahill's comment: “We're coming off an outstanding indoor season and the outdoor team is a hardworking, talented and motivated group with outstanding upperclass leadership, underclass ambition and all-around talent and camaraderie. We have the potential to be very competitive and successful in the conference and state meets. The jumps have the potential to be a strength. We have a versatile and strong group of distance runners. The throwers are motivated to improve. Developing a balanced, all-around team will be the key to this year's success”
Coach Reardon's comment: “We tied for sixth at states indoors and would like to improve upon that outdoors. Our outlook should be pretty bright with the turnout we have, almost 50 girls. I see a lot of talent and am looking forward to the opportunity to figure out how all the parts fit. This is the deepest team we've had since I've been at South Portland and the girls are working hard. We have a number of different athletes in each event so it will be interesting to see how many girls we can get into the state meet and what we can do. It's been a long time since we've been a player in the state meet scoring. We're hoping to be much closer to the top this spring.”
The Forecaster's forecast: Both South Portland outdoor track teams will be near the top of the heap all season.
The boys return state meet scorers Cuesta (seventh in the triple jump a year ago) and Bagley, Maloney and Salamone, who all scored in the 3,200 relay. This year's team figures to be very strong in the jumps, behind Cuesta (the indoor champion in the long jump), Michaud (second in the long jump and third in the triple jump indoors), Blake, Harper, Maloney, senior Anthony Tran (who returns to track after playing lacrosse as a junior), senior Calvin Cronin, sophomore Gary Maeitta and freshmen Ruay Bol (the reigning eighth grade high jump champion), Austin Deboe |and Sadiki Stewart. Cuesta, Guiliani (seventh in the shot put indoors), McMahan, Michaud and Deboe will be top throwers. Cuesta also competes in the pole vault. On the track side, sprinters to watch include Blake, Bol (the reigning eighth grade champion in the 200), Cuesta, Deboe, Michaud, Tran, Maietta and Stewart. Looking to score in the hurdles will be Bol, Cronin, Cuesta, Harper, Maietta and junior Cameron Connor. Falconer and Guay compete in the racewalk. Top distance threats include Bagley, Falconer, Guay, Maloney, Salamone (seventh in the mile indoors) and freshman Xander Keiter (who was runner-up in both the 800 and mile last year as an eighth grader). There's no shortage of talent on this team and the Red Riots will cover the events well in conference and in championship meets.
On the girls' side, while Nyajock Pan will be missed, South Portland does return Conley, Kelley and Loring from a record-setting, state champion 3,200 relay squad. Conley (who will run at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. next year) looks to build on last year's fifth-place finish in the 800, while Loring hopes to move up from her seventh-place showing in the two-mile. Blackwell-Orr, Dooling (a racewalker), Kelley, Letourneau and Mohammad are other distance runners to watch and sophomore Caitlin Tucker and freshman Serena McKenzie provide depth. In the hurdles, look for Black, Isakovic, Johnson and Smith to be in the mix, along with freshmen Lydia Henderson, Callie O'Brien and Abby Richardson. In the sprints, senior Clara Ellis returns from injury and could be a force. She's joined by Black, Henderson, Isakovic, Johnson, Magnuson, O'Brien, Richardson and freshmen Abby Donahue, Toia Francis, Cree Hoyt and Erica Magnuson. The Red Riots are equally deep and talented on the field side. Black, Campbell, Dooling, Ellis, Isakovic, Johnson, Magnuson, Mohammad and Smith are all seasoned jumpers. They're joined by freshmen Francis, Henderson and O'Brien. In the throws, look for big things from Martin and junior Michelle Medici, who impressed indoors. Freshmen Donahue, Hoyt, Hughes and Erica Magnuson also look to score. Clearly, there are no shortage of potential contributors. The Red Riots will keep the opposition on their toes throughout. A first top 10 state meet finish since 2004 is distinctly possible.
Coach: Tom Hyland (seventh year, 26-50 overall record)
2013 results: 3-10 (Lost, 4-1, to Biddeford in Western A prelim)
Top returners: Chris Feely (Senior), Tyler Gagne (Senior), Taylor Miller (Junior), Ian Mitchell (Sophomore)
Pivotal matches: May 7 DEERING, May 12 CHEVERUS, May 14 @ Scarborough, May 21 @ Portland
Coach's comment: “Graduation took its toll on us. We'll replace four out of last year's top seven, including our 1 and 2 singles players. Many returners played a lot in the offseason, placing us in good shape to be competitive this season. Ian and Tyler look strong and ready to take their places as team leaders. We'll be conditioned, focused and ready to compete.”
The Forecaster's forecast: After three years away, South Portland got back to the playoffs last spring and hopes to build on that success this season, even though there are many holes to fill. This year's top singles player projects to be Mitchell, with Gagne in the number two spot. Senior Rowen Varga will likely fill the other position. Feely and Miller will play doubles and Eli Canfield and Thomas Hodgkins are also vying for spots. The Red Riots will be able to compete with everyone this year and should be able to improve upon last year's record. If so, a return to the playoffs is likely and this time around, South Portland could be a darkhorse.
Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (15th year, 87-99 overall record)
2013 results: 4-9 (Lost, 5-0, to Sanford in Western A prelim)
Top returning players: Michelle Foster (Senior), Jamie McDonald (Senior), Danielle Proctor (Senior), Christine Ekholm (Junior), Dima Karaktiukova (Junior)
Pivotal matches: May 2 SANFORD, May 7 @ Deering, May 12 @ Cheverus, May 14 SCARBOROUGH, May 19 MCAULEY, May 21 PORTLAND
Coach's comment: “After a year of traveling every day and having no real home base, we are back at South Portland High School on seven beautiful new courts. The excitement and pride are palpable. Numbers are up and the team has been working very hard in the preseason. This is a team of positive attitudes and great athleticism. We have a mix of experience and determination along with the eagerness of newcomers. As always, we as a team aim to have the highest standard of sportsmanship and hope to be leaders in personal and team ethics.”
The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland's ability to win four matches and make the playoffs last season is even more impressive when you consider it had no homecourt. Due to school construction, which now, thankfully, is complete, the Red Riots were nomads, but they made the best of it. This spring, South Portland has a home base and a team capable of being in the mix for a playoff spot again. This year's team will feature Foster, McDonald and Proctor in the singles sports. Ekholm and Karakitukova projected to be the top doubles team. Seniors Sarah Donahue, Elizabeth Small and Rebecca Soule are also in the mix for doubles spots. The Red Riots look forward to a competitive season which will likely result in a return to the postseason (the team has qualified every season this century). South Portland might even get to host a playoff match. What a turn of events that would be.