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Spring Preview: McAuley Lions

Sports

Spring Preview: McAuley Lions

McAuley's spring sports teams are hoping for improvement. Softball has some talent and could move up the standings. Lacrosse looks to take advantage of an easier scheduling tier. Track always produces solid athletes. Tennis should return to its accustomed perch as a top contender.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Danielle Salvaggio (fourth year)

2008 Record: 5-11 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Helen Gillis (Senior), Jen Field (Sophomore), Jasmyn Welch (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Scarborough, April 29 (H) BIDDEFORD, May 1 @ Portland, May 4 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, May 6 @ Cheverus, May 18 @ Deering, May 29 (H) GORHAM

Coach's comment: "We're looking to improve over last year's record. We have a very young team with two seniors, two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen. All the girls have great knowledge of the game and are excited for the season. This year, like every other, playoffs are definitely a goal."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Lions haven't been in the postseason since 2005 and will have their work cut out this spring, but there is some raw talent on the roster that could quickly come of age and help the cause. The battery is as young as any in the Southern Maine Activities Association. Field has great potential, while Welch is solid behind the plate as catcher and at the plate (she projects to be the team's cleanup hitter). Gillis is the seasoned veteran and anchors the infield at shortstop. Keep an eye on freshmen Shelby Bryant and Nicole Nutter. They can play anywhere and will be key during the season. McAuley is hoping a spring training trip to Florida and the extra games played there will help the team come together quickly. The Lions should be able to compete against most of the teams in the league. If they can get off to a hot start, they might just be able to make a run to the playoffs. Regardless, the future for the program is very bright.

Fun fact: Last season, the Lions won two more games than the season before. The last time such improvement happened was 2002 to 2003, when McAuley went from five wins to 10.

LACROSSE

Coach: Jo-Ellen Rand (sixth year)

2008 Record: 4-8 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Ashley Alofs (Senior), Jackie Dubois (Senior), Sky Hilton (Senior), Gina Johnson (Senior), Gabi Michaud (Senior), Sam Dedian (Junior), Natalie Stone (Junior), Michele Girard (Sophomore), Olivia Porch (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 (H) PORTLAND, April 30 @ Bonny Eagle, May 21 @ Noble, May 22 @ Westbrook, May 27 (H) GORHAM, June 1 @ South Portland

Coach's comment: "I have a good feeling about the team this year. Two of my leading scorers are back. We have a lot of returning players. Also, our goalie got a lot of experience last year and has gotten stronger. I think we'll be very competitive in the tier we're competing in. Our goal is to make the playoffs. I feel it's a goal we will accomplish this year."

The Forecaster's forecast: After taking some lumps against some strong teams a year ago, McAuley should benefit from its slate this spring. The Lions have a lot of talent returning and that group is hungry to improve. The offense begins with Hilton (27 goals, a team-high 14 assists and a second-team all-star mention in 2008) and Michaud (26 goals and 11 assists last season). Hilton will play both midfield and attack, while Michaud will play attack exclusively. Alofs, Dubois, Johnson (10 goals, nine assists in '08) and new players junior Olivia Locke, sophomore Tori Tenenbaum and freshman Taxia Arabatzis will also look to fill the net. Defensively, Dedian, Girard and Stone will protect Porch (an all-Rookie team selection a year ago), who is a solid last resort. Offense wasn't a problem for the Lions last season. The production figures to continue. If McAuley can tighten up the defense and take advantage of an easier schedule, a first-ever winning record and the first playoff berth since 2005 could be the reward.

Fun fact: McAuley won one more game than it did the previous season in both 2007 and 2008.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Tim Donovan (seventh year)

2008 Results: 8th @ Class B state meet

Top returning athletes: Maddie Brodeur (Senior), Laura Duran (Senior), Katherine Fecteau (Senior), Macauley Kenney (Senior), Olivia MacKenzie (Senior), Lauren Fecteau (Junior), Victoria Hugo-Vidal (Junior), Autumn Becker (Sophomore), Maura Esten (Sophomore), Emma Kenney (Sophomore)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Scarborough, Thornton Academy

Coach's comment: "Our team is young, but we will have more depth we've had in the past. We hope to have some great performances from our girls."

The Forecaster's forecast: As always, McAuley has a solid distance contingent. That will be this team's strength. Leading the way is Lauren Fecteau, who was second in the two-mile and third in the mile at last spring's Class B state meet. MacKenzie finished third in the two-mile and fifth in the mile last season. Duran, Katherine Fecteau, Macauley Kenney and Hugo-Vidal will also be heard from, as might freshman Rebecca Kaiser. Brodeur, Esten and Emma Kenney are the returning sprinters. They're joined by new senior Kate Johnson and freshman Christina Leake. Becker hopes to contend in the hurdles. The Lions don't appear to have much in the throws or jumps, but have enough track points to have a solid regular season and perhaps move up at the state meet.

GIRLS TENNIS

Coach: Joe Kilmartin (20th year)

2008 Results: 6-7 (Lost 2-3 to Westbrook in Western Class A prelim)

Top returning players: Catherine Tracy (Senior), Erin Woodbury (Senior), Rachel Bornheimer (Junior), Julia Haverty (Junior), Danielle LaCasse (Junior), Mary Scully (Junior), Priya Ahluwalia (Sophomore), Nicki Connolly (Sophomore), Paige Hickey (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 29 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 6 @ Deering, May 26 @ Portland

Coach's comment: "Last year was a learning experience. Hopefully we learned. The whole team's back. We should be a lot more competitive. It depends on how doubles meshes together. I feel better about our chances."

The Forecaster's forecast: McAuley, a state finalist in 2007, could be right back near the top after a rare down year. In a season devoid of a heavy favorite, the Lions appear to be as solid as anyone. All three of last year's singles players return. Woodbury (a singles first team all-star last year) played No. 1, Haverty was No. 2 and LaCasse was No. 3, but one will likely be bumped to make way for promising freshman Addie Devine. Six other players will jockey for three doubles spots. Ahluwalia, Bornheimer, Connolly, Hickey and Tracy bring experience and depth. McAuley sees two of its biggest foes, Scarborough and Deering, in the first half of the season and should get a pretty good idea of where it stands and how much work it will have to do. By playoff time, the Lions should be clicking on all cylinders and figure to be in line for another deep run.

Photo:
Senior Olivia MacKenzie leads a strong McAuley distance contingent this spring. (File photo)