Sun, Apr 20, 2014 ●
BathHarpswellTopshamBrunswickCumberlandNorth YarmouthFalmouthFreeportPortlandCape ElizabethScarboroughSouth PortlandChebeague IslandYarmouth

Spring Preview: Deering Rams

Sports

Spring Preview: Deering Rams

Springtime always seems to bring plenty of triumph to Deering. The powerhouse baseball team is coming off yet another Class A crown. The Rams will seek to three-peat behind a new coach. Softball has a seismic change after longtime coach Tige Curran retired. That squad shows promise. Boys' lacrosse is seeking to qualify for the playoffs after a year away. The girls' team faces a brutal schedule, but has some solid athletes. Speaking of which, both track teams figure to produce their share of memories. Boys' tennis welcomes back an old friend at the top, while the girls should be in position to make a run at some hardware.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Coutts (first year)

2008 Record: 22-0 (Beat Brewer 8-7, in eight innings, to win Class A state championship)

Top returning players: Taylor Candage (Senior), Regan Flaherty (Senior), Luke Hammond (Senior), Jack Heary (Senior), Marc Ouimet (Senior), Matt Powers (Senior), Jack Young (Senior)

Pivotal games: May 5 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, May 7 (H) WESTBROOK, May 9 @ Scarborough, May 14 @ Cheverus, May 21 @ Portland, May 30 (H) BONNY EAGLE

Coach's comment: "We're under the microscope. I won't put up with mistakes. It's more important that kids learn how to play the game and be good people off the field. There's a lot of talent there. A lot of kids with varsity experience. Our biggest challenge will be ourselves. After winning two in a row, we need to find the fire to go out and win another championship."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Deering program will be watched intently this spring. Not only do the Rams figure to once again be formidable on the field, but they've been in the headlines off the field, which will lead to scrutiny. Dynasty builder Mike D'Andrea stepped down in the wake of last summer's highly-publicized post-championship party, even though he insisted he was not there and did not know of it. Standout pitcher Candage was arrested earlier this year for driving under the influence, but has served a school suspension and is with the team. New coach Mike Coutts inherits all of this and appears to be an ideal man for the job. Coutts played at Edward Little and the University of Maine, coached at UMO for 11 years, in the Cape Cod and Alaska College Leagues and owns Frozen Ropes with his brother-in-law, former major leaguer Mike Bordick. On the field, the Rams appear as daunting as ever and have to be viewed as a legitmate contender to win it all again. On the hill, Deering features Candage (a first-team all-star who was 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA last spring), Flaherty (who missed most of 2008 with injury), Hammond, Powers and Young (2-0 with an 0.84 ERA in limited action last season). The biggest hole to fill is behind the plate. Matt Watson is spending his senior year playing in Florida so Candage (.415 and 12 RBI last year) and Ouimet (a first-team all-star in 2008 after hitting .417 with 16 RBI) will fill in. Candage (bound for the University of New Haven), Flaherty (who will follow his brother Ryan to Vanderbilt), Hammond (Long Island), Ouimet and Powers (USM) will all see the time in the infield, along with Heary (another reigning first-team all-star after hitting .426), who is currently battling a shoulder injury. Sophomore Nick Colucci will fill in at that position. The sparkplug of the offense will be sophomore centerfielder Sam Balzano. Powers, Flaherty, Candage and Ouimet will all do their share of damage as well. Like D'Andrea, Coutts coaches aggressively and will encourage his players to steal, take the extra base and hit and run. With all this talent, it's hard to imagine Deering not being successful. Only Westbrook is likely to stand in the way. In the end, if the Rams are hungry to do it again, you have to believe they will.

Fun fact: Over the past decade, Deering has won seven Class A state championships and has averaged over 19 wins per season.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Maggie Soule (first year)

2008 Record: 13-6 (Lost 3-1 to Biddeford in Western Class A semifinals)

Top returning players: Heather Dadiego (Senior), Heather Muzzy (Senior), Ellie Winslow (Senior), Netta Brown (Junior), Fiona Densmore (Junior), Annalisa Ferrante (Junior), Kate Pickering (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Gorham, May 4 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 6 @ Biddeford, May 8 (H) PORTLAND, May 11 @ South Portland, May 14 (H) CHEVERUS

Coach's Comment: "We have a lot of seniors. They've been helpful. It'll be fun. It should be a good learning experience for the girls. We're balanced. We have good all-around players. I'd love to make the playoffs."

The Forecaster's forecast: A new era for Deering softball begins as Soule replaces Tige Curran, who coached the Rams for 31 seasons. Soule is from Massachusetts and played catcher at the University of Maine. She spent last season as an assistant at Cheverus. She takes over a team that could be a dark horse this spring. After the graduation of four-year starting pitcher Lesley Warn, Deering was fortunate when senior Melissa Bell transferred from Scarborough. She'll do the lion's share of pitching, with Muzzy (the senior class valedictorian) seeing some innings as well. While Ferrante is battling a bad back, Brown will also see some time behind the plate. Offensively, Soule expects Winslow (a reigning honorable mention all-star at second base), Bell, Pickering (first base) and new sophomore utility player Jen Lynch to wield big sticks. Brown, Dadiego, Densmore and new players senior Rian Powers and sophomore Tina Merrill will also look to contribute. This team should be poised with its senior leadership and be in the hunt for another winning season. By year's end, the Rams could be very dangerous and the type of team no high seed will want to face in the playoffs.

Fun fact: Deering is on an eight-year streak of winning seasons and playoff appearances. In six of those years, the Rams won at least one postseason contest.

BOYS LACROSSE

Coach: Bob Rothbart (fourth year)

2008 Record: 4-8 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Matt Becker (Senior), Justin Clouatre (Senior), Chris Quattrucci (Senior), Riley Asbury (Junior), Joe Webster (Junior), Carleton Allen (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 (H) CHEVERUS, May 2 @ Scarborough, May 6 @ Kennebunk, May 9 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 12 @ South Portland, May 22 (H) NYA, May 26 @ Portland, May 30 (H) YARMOUTH

Coach's comment: "It's a young team this year. We're probably a year away from being a real good team. I do have good athletes. Our defense is young, but very good. I have to turn our athletes into lacrosse players. If we get a couple bounces to go our way, we'll be able to compete against the top teams."

The Forecaster's forecast: After falling short of the playoffs last spring, the Rams hope to return to prominence this season. While a difficult schedule, youth and inexperience will make things challenging, there are reasons for optimism. Allen showed glimpses of promise his freshman year and could emerge as a star in the midfield this season. Clouatre is another potential scoring threat on attack. Junior Arjan Nekoie (the wrestling standout) will look to score as well. Asbury also returns at that spot. Defensively, Becker and Webster have experience. They're joined by sophomore Jake Farrell and freshman Karl Rickett, who will replace Willie Joy in the faceoff circle. Nick Sterling transferred to Portland, leaving a hole in goal. Quattrucci, an attackman last year, will step into the void. Deering has a brutal opening stretch then has a formidable three-game run late in the year, but should be OK otherwise. If the Rams can find a way to earn a win or two against a top tier team, they'll be in good shape to return to the postseason. If the newer players come of age quickly and those playing new positions can adjust, Deering could be a team to reckon with come June.

Fun fact: In Deering's 10-year varsity history, it has gone 4-8 on three occasions (2000, 2003 and last year). Those are the only three years the Rams failed to make the playoffs.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Coach: Andrew Gordon (fifth year)

2008 Record: 6-7 (Lost to 18-13 to Gorham in Western Class A prelim)

Top returning players: Shelby Chambers (Senior), Danielle Cusack (Senior), Andrea Donovan (Senior), Louisa Gemmer (Senior), Lauren Maloney (Senior), Natalie Mitchell (Senior), Carly Bobinsky (Junior), Taylor Dean (Junior), Lindsay Dearborn (Junior), Ursula Donovan (Junior), Monique Guimond (Junior), Julie Pallozzi (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 5 @ Greely, May 9 @ Cheverus, May 12 (H) NYA, May 15 (H) YARMOUTH, May 19 (H) WAYNFLETE, June 1 @ Scarborough, June 3 @ Kennebunk

Coach's comment: "We have some talent and athleticism and won't be bad defensively, but we'll struggle to score. We have a couple athletic freshmen. Our schedule seems unfair to my team and others in the SMAA. We only play five teams from our league in the regular season and seven from out of it."

The Forecaster's forecast: Suffice it to say, Gordon is not a fan of the new scheduling system which is based strictly on records from the past couple years. As a result, Deering is lumped in with powerhouses Kennebunk, NYA, Scarborough, Waynflete and Yarmouth and figures to have a tough time in several of its contests. With that said, the Rams will compete and could surprise. The offense will be led by Chambers, Dean, Dearborn and Maloney. Bobinsky and Cusack will also look to make some noise. The defense is paced by returning league all-star Mitchell. She will also take some draws with Gemmer, who missed time last year with a torn ACL, doing the lion's share. Both Donovans and Guimond will also be defensive factors. A trio of newcomers should step right in and help out. Sophomore Zahra Abu and freshmen Veronica Mitchell and Ella Ramonas should see plenty of playing time. While Deering does have numerous daunting challenges on its slate, there are some winnable games as well. If the Rams can take care of business in those contests, they could find a way back to the postseason again.

Fun fact: Deering kept its playoff streak alive last season, qualifying for the postseason for the ninth successive year.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys' coach: Dick Kress (27th year)

Girls' coach: Kevin Olson (second year)

2008 Results:
(Boys) 17th @ Class A State Meet
(Girls) T-16th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:
(Boys) David Hart (Senior), Seth Neuts (Senior), Mike Tifiano (Senior)
(Girls) Anna Apon (Senior), Maria Apon (Senior), Angela Balzano (Senior), Brooke Durgin (Senior), Katrina Ferguson (Senior), Andrea Rogers (Senior), Jane Farrell (Junior), Maggie McKeon (Junior), Claire Ramonas (Junior), Sarah Savage (Junior), Dali Tauwala (Junior), Britni Mikulanecz (Sophomore), Kristin Pollard (Sophomore), Aleeza Stearns (Sophomore)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Scarborough

Coach Kress' comment: "We don't have a lot of kids out. We have no jumpers, discus, shot put or middle distance. I hope to improve as we go through the season. We'll have individual goals to meet. We hope to finish in the top half of the conference meet."

Coach Olson's comment: "We have some great leadership on our team and we hope to be a strong competitor at every meet. The kids' work ethic at practices has been great and our goal is for each athlete to improve in their individual events as the season progresses. We're very excited."

The Forecaster's forecast: Deering should make its share of noise this spring.

The boys' team only has a few proven athletes, but could turn heads. Leading the way are Hart (fifth in the javelin last year) and Tifiano (fifth in the 110 hurdles in 2008). Neuts is the top distance runner, he was sixth in the mile indoors. Freshman sprinter Renaldo Lowry (seventh in the 200 in the winter) is an up-and-comer. The Rams will hold their own in conference competition and will hope to find a way to score some points at states.

On the girls' side, two scorers return. Ramonas (second in the shot put last spring) and Mikulanecz (fifth in the 300 hurdles as a freshman) are coming off a basketball championship and will look to keep the good times rolling outdoors. Mikulanecz is joined by the Apons, Durgin (who was part of a sixth-place 800 relay team last year), Farrell (a member of the seventh-place 3,200 relay squad last spring), Ferguson, Savage, and new seniors Jordan Cuddy and Jess Ruhlin in the sprints. McKeon, Pollard, Tauwala and freshman Katie Dolan compete in the distance events. Stearns joins Ramonas in the throws. Balzano (seventh in the high jump indoors) and Mikulanecz will look to score in the high jump, while Rogers is a triple jump threat. The Rams will not lack for athletes this season. An improvement on last year's finish is likely.

BOYS TENNIS

Coach: Brendan Conway (fifth year)

2008 Results: 12-2 (Lost 3-2 to Scarborough in Western Class A semifinals)

Top returning players: E.J. Googins (Senior), Jay Weaving (Senior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 (H) PORTLAND, April 29 (H) WINDHAM, May 20 @ Cheverus

Coach's comment: "Five of our top seven graduated. We're starting over. It's a little bit of a rebuilding year. There's a lot of competition for spots. We have good young talent, but we don't have a No. 1 like we did with Neall."

The Forecaster's forecast: While Deering lost a lot to graduation, it does regain Conway, who took last year off from coaching while serving as the school's interim athletic director. The biggest loss was Neall Oliver, a four-year standout at first singles. While the ladder hadn't been determined at press time, Conway does expect Weaving (a second team all-star last year) and Winter Male Athlete of the Year Googins to lead the way. Three newcomers will make an immediate impact as well. Sophomore Jesse Barkin, who played on the JV team last spring, and freshmen Jesse Butler and Noah Finburg, will look to follow in Oliver's footsteps. While the Rams have holes, they should remain competitive. While Deering probably won't approach last year's win total, this team should make a run at a winning record (the Rams haven't been below .500 since 1993) and could be very dangerous come playoff time.

GIRLS TENNIS

Coach: Gus Goodwin (seventh year)

2008 Results: 13-2 (Lost 3-2 to Kennebunk in Western Class A regional final)

Top returning players: Amy Currie (Senior), Megan Hedrich (Senior), Andrea Cuddy (Junior), Jean McCabe (Junior), Rachel Miller (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 @ Portland, May 6 (H) MCAULEY, May 20 (H) CHEVERUS, May 22 @ Gorham, May 26 (H) KENNEBUNK

Coach's comment: "This is a great group to work with. We had a big turnout this year. We keep knocking at the door. I expect to go far with this group. I think it will be another great year in Western Maine."

The Forecaster's forecast: Including last season, Deering has reached the regional final in seven of the past eight years. Despite three trips to the state match, the Rams are still seeking their first championship in that stretch. This year's team figures to make another run at the top. While exact ladder positions hadn't been determined at press time, Goodwin expects captains Currie and Hedrich, along with Miller, who was first doubles last year, to man the three singles spots. Cuddy and McCabe will likely play first doubles. Freshman Georgia Hutchins appears primed to crack the top seven and has a great upside. There doesn't appear to be a heavy favorite this year in Western A, meaning Deering will be right in the hunt. If the newer players can make a quick adjustment, the Rams won't miss a beat. Look for this team to play deep into the postseason again and perhaps finally finish the job.

Photo:
Sophomore Sam Balzano will make the Deering offense go this season. (File photo)

Photo:
Taylor Candage is Deering's ace pitcher. Last season's Spring Male Athlete of the Year anchors a formidable staff. (File photo)

Photo:
Junior Ursula Donovan is an up-and-coming star for the Rams. (File photo)