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Spring Preview: Yarmouth Clippers

Sports

Spring Preview: Yarmouth Clippers

Yarmouth is defending one state championship and looking to win a few more this spring. Boys' lacrosse has established itself as the state's flagship program over the past five seasons, but has yet to win a state title in an odd-numbered year. That aberration could soon change. The girls' lacrosse squad saw its two-year title reign end last spring, but the Clippers have the talent to get back to the pinnacle. Boys' tennis is viewed as the favorite. The girls' team is always in the hunt. Baseball enjoyed a stirring postseason run last year and is loaded for bear in 2009. Softball is hoping to make it back to the playoffs. Both track teams feature some strong athletes and hope to make a mark in-conference and at the state level.

BASEBALL

Coach: Marc Halsted (third year)

2008 Record: 12-7 (Lost 5-4 to Lincoln Academy in Western Class B semifinals)

Top returning players: Chan Arndt (Senior), Andrew Totta (Senior), Sanders Wommack (Senior), Jeff Kuklewicz (Junior), Travis Merrill (Junior), Nick Whittaker (Junior), Luke Pierce (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 (H) FALMOUTH, April 29 (H) YORK, May 13 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 19 (H) GREELY, May 25 @ Falmouth, May 27 @ York, May 29 @ Greely

Coach's comment: "We hope to compete with the typical Class B powers. After our strong playoff run last year, we have some very high expectations. I believe we're knocking on the door at this point, especially with the mix of senior leadership and young athleticism we have. Our kids are excited to get going."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Clippers have gotten going and are off to a great start after last week's 5-2 home win over NYA. In that one, Whittaker made an early statement with six strong innings to get the victory. He fanned seven. Totta, in the Jonathan Papelbon role, closed it out. Arndt doubled and homered and Totta ripped a triple. Wommack had a pair of hits. All four those players will be key contributors throughout the season. Yarmouth is on the short list of top contenders for the first time since moving up to Class B. Whittaker (7-2 with a 3.03 ERA last spring), Arndt (2-2) and Totta (3.23 ERA) lead the pitching staff. New junior Dan Kameisha and new sophomores Campbell Belisle-Haley and Aidan Sullivan are also jockeying to see some time on the hill. Halsted is excited about the addition of pitching coach Rich Strabley, who will work to better all of the hurlers. Sam Tureff's absence will be felt behind the plate, but a pair of newcomers could fill the void. Junior Willie Strabley and sophomore Nick Proscia are looking to step in. Pierce (who hit .408 with 16 RBI as a freshman) may see some time as well. Arndt (.471, three home runs and a first-team all-star last season), Wommack (10 RBI) and Merrill (.333, 15 RBI) anchor the infield. The outfield features Pierce, Kuklewicz (who scored 15 times from the leadoff position in 2008) and Totta (.429, 3 HR, 20 RBI and a second-team all-star selection last spring). Cape Elizabeth, the defending regional champion, is viewed as the favorite and Falmouth, Greely and York will be tough, but there's every reason to be Yarmouth will be right there with those squads. If the returning players continue to produce and the newcomers are able to contribute, the Clippers should post a solid record and will be in position for another deep playoff run in June.

Fun fact: Yarmouth's trip to the semifinals was its first since the 1995 squad won the Class C state championship.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Jim Senecal (fifth year)

2008 Record: 8-9 (Lost 12-0, in five innings, to Oak Hill in Western Class B prelim)

Top returning players: Kate Darrell (Junior), Abbey Ridge (Junior), Julie Dursema (Sophomore), Abbie Hutchinson (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 (H) FALMOUTH, May 1 (H) LAKE REGION, May 6 @ Wells, May 13 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 19 (H) GREELY, May 20 @ Gray-NG, May 22 (H) FRYEBURG, May 25 @ Falmouth, May 29 @ Greely

Coach's comment: "We'll have a new look this year. We'll start the year with a new player in each of our nine positions. When you have new players at every position and a lineup that will rely primarily on sophomores to produce, it would easy for us to be pessimistic. We're not. Our girls are truly looking forward to exceeding expectations and competing once again for a playoff berth. We've got a few more pieces to put together, but if we continue to improve at the pace we've started, I honestly believe we can get there."

The Forecaster's forecast: Yarmouth will be one of the more intriguing teams this spring. The Clippers could struggle or they could be a pleasant surprise. Hutchinson takes over as the No. 1 hurler. She has a great upside. Dursema slides in behind the plate, replacing her older sister, Annie, a three-time all-star. The infield is new. Darrell moves from second to shortstop. Senior Anne Lyons, who played as a freshman before going to school overseas as a sophomore and junior, will anchor third. Morgan Ruetty will see some time at first and serve as backup catcher. Ridge (.309 in 2008) is the top returning hitter and will play the outfield along with new junior Alyssa Brown, who has a cannon arm. Several other players are looking for spots in the lineup. Seniors Tanley Hudson and Niki Sealey (who has great speed), juniors Christina Defusco, Iris Gwynne (a top bunter), Rachel Moser and Melanie Shaw, and sophomore Abby Smith will all be heard from as the season progresses. The pieces are in place for a competitive team. It might take awhile for the Clippers to jell, especially with a very tough schedule, but this will be a team that no one wants to play down the stretch and if they make it, in the postseason. The future is very bright as well.

Fun fact: Last season marked the first time in five years that Yarmouth dropped its first playoff game.

BOYS LACROSSE

Coach: Craig Curry (sixth year)

2008 Record: 13-2 (Defeated Cape Elizabeth 9-4 to win Class B state championship)

Top returning players: Peter Erickson (Senior), Jake Gallagher (Senior), Rob Highland (Senior), Chad Lorenz (Senior), Leo Oliva (Senior), Luke Torres (Senior), Steven Petrovek (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 27 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, April 30 @ Greely, May 9 @ Cheverus, May 12 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 15 @ Kennebunk, May 18 (H) PORTLAND, May 27 @ Falmouth, June 1 (H) NYA

Coach's comment: "We'll try to follow up and not have a letdown. We have great leadership. Peter Erickson is the first three-time captain in Yarmouth history. It'll be a special year for him. We're young. We have a lot of new kids stepping up. We look good so far. I'm excited. It's fun to have different opponents."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Clippers have been the premiere program in the state since 2004, but there's one thing the program has failed to accomplish: repeat as champion. In 2005, Yarmouth was upset by Cape Elizabeth in the state game and two years ago, the Clippers lost a tough regional final to NYA. Yarmouth has a great chance to check that final item off the list this season as the program is absolutely loaded, like usual, even after the departure of All-Americans John Curry and Sam Miller. Erickson, Gallagher, Highland, Petrovek and Torres will score their share of goals. The Clippers defense is always overlooked, but it is always stellar. This year, Oliva (long stick middie) and Lorenz will look to make junior Cam Woodworth's adjustment to starter an easy one. Senior Stephen Derry, who missed time last year with injury, will be the faceoff specialist. Every season, the Clippers say goodbye to standout players, several of whom go on to play in college. Yet every year, Yarmouth is the best or one of the best teams in the state. The complete program, from the youth level on up, is largely responsible for the consistent excellence. This year's team will face a very tough schedule, with only a couple breathers, so it should be battle tested by playoff time. There, the Clippers will once again have to find a way to hold off its fierce rival and neighbor NYA, then, if they get to the state game, Cape Elizabeth will likely be waiting. Does Yarmouth have another title run in it? The guess here is yes. It's time for an encore.

Fun fact: Since taking over the program in 2004, Curry has won 82 of 95 games and three state championships.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Coach: Dorothy Holt (fifth year)

2008 Record: 9-5 (Lost 10-9 to NYA in Eastern Class B Final)

Top returning players: Tess Beem (Senior), Lanier Bolmer (Senior), Hannah Coleman (Senior), Kelley Kasper (Senior), Lexi Wing (Senior), Molly Curry (Junior), Nalini Robbins (Junior), Danielle Torres (Junior), Devin Simsarian (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 7 @ Scarborough, May 12 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 21 @ Greely, May 22 (H) CHEVERUS, May 27 (H) NYA, June 1 (H) WAYNFLETE

Coach's comment: "I think we're going to be young, but our seniors have a lot of experience. It's a strong group. I think we'll be strong in lacrosse knowledge and speed. We have to use it to our advantage. We have great camaraderie. These girls have played together a long time. I'd like to get back to the regional final."

The Forecaster's forecast: Getting back to the regional final is a near certainty for a program which has done it five years in a row. Last season, the Clippers valiantly got within a win of going for a third successive championship, but couldn't hold a lead and fell to rival NYA by a goal. After graduating the likes of All American and Spring Athlete of the Year Nicole Grover and standout Tierney Minte, Yarmouth has some holes to fill, but the Clippers are more seasoned than they were this time last year and should be clicking on all cylinders by the time they face NYA and defending state champion Waynflete late in the schedule. Kasper is a returning all-star in goal. She's aided in shutting down the opposition by Simsarian and Wing, who is healthy this spring. New sophomores Becca Bell, Kate Dilworth and Natalie Salmon will also be key on that side of the ball. Offensively, Yarmouth can turn to several weapons. Bolmer handles the draws and is accustomed to scoring with abandon. She's joined in the midfield by Torres. On attack, Beem, Coleman, Curry and Robbins will all tickle the twine. Bell and Salmon may see time on offense as well. The Clippers are always well coached, fast and fundamentally sound. They don't have to deal with the specter of a long winning streak or defending a championship this spring. They can just go out and play and let NYA and Waynflete deal with the expectations. That should serve them well in the long run. If Yarmouth can avoid injury, an always critical component, it will improve on last year's win-loss record and be in position to host the regional final (the home team has won the last five). Three teams are capable of winning the Class B championship this season. The Clippers are on that list. Look for a very exciting and satisfying campaign from this group.

Fun fact: Yarmouth has never had a losing season during the MPA-sanctioned era. Last year was just the second since 1998 that the Clippers won fewer than 10 games.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Bob Morse (19th year)

2008 Results:
(Boys) no score @ Class C state meet
(Girls) T-17th @ Class C state meet

Top returning athletes:
(Boys) Peter Gill (Senior), Josh Nightingale (Senior), Justin Wendler (Senior)
(Girls) Victoria Ballenger (Senior), Emilie Gorman (Senior), Haley Knaub (Senior)

Top foes: Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely

Coach's comment: "The boys' team has 24 members this year. We're trying to score more points in the WMC championship meet. We're also trying to get more than one relay team to qualify for states. We have 22 girls out this season. That's our biggest turnout in many years. We're trying to qualify more relay teams to the state meet than the boys."

The Forecaster's forecast: Yarmouth has several potential point scorers on both teams this year.

The boys will be led by Nightingale and Wendler in the middle distance and relays. Gill runs the hurdles and relays. Several others will help fill the events. Morse is hoping a few athletes emerge as top scorers in the league and possibly at states. The Clippers have a very good opportunity to make their presence felt in the postseason.

On the girls' side, Knaub is the lone returning scorer. She was fourth in the javelin last spring. She'll also jump and take part in the relays. Ballenger is a distance and relay threat. Gorman will run middle distance and relays. As is the case with the boys' team, a lot of other girls will help cover the events and look to make a mark. Yarmouth would love to score at states again and should be able to meet that goal.

BOYS TENNIS

Coach: Mark Marstaller (11th year)

2008 Results: 12-3 (Lost 3-2 to Falmouth in Western Class B Final)

Top returning players: Mike Hickey (Senior), Lane O'Connor (Senior), Teddy Roche (Senior), John Vicenzi (Senior), Eli Pitegoff (Junior), Ben Robinson (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 (H) GREELY, May 4 (H) FALMOUTH, May 8 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, May 15 (H) WAYNFLETE, May 22 @ NYA, May 27 @ Greely

Coach's comment: "We lost only one doubles player from last year's team which lost 3-2 in the regional final. I expect that we'll do at least as well as last year."

The Forecaster's forecast: Yarmouth is coming off its first regional final since moving up to Class B and is now seeking to win a championship for the first time since the Clippers won three in a four years between 1993 and 1996. This year's squad has all the pieces in place to reach such lofty heights. Hickey and Robinson are returning league all-stars. Hickey will play first singles. Robinson is in the No. 2 spot. O'Connor, Roche and Pitegoff are in the hunt for the third spot. Vicenzi will be in a doubles spot. While three-time defending regional champion Falmouth remains strong and Cape Elizabeth is formidable as always, Yarmouth has a great shot at being at the top of the heap. One thing the Clippers haven't had to deal with is expectations, but they're present this spring. The talent is undeniable. If Yarmouth can handle the pressure of being expected to win and stay healthy and hungry, this squad could make history. It's a very talented group.

GIRLS TENNIS

Coach: Ann Harradon (13th year)

2008 Results: 6-7 (Lost 3-2 to Oak Hill in Western Class B quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Mariah Martin (Senior), Michelle Moylan (Senior), Maddie Pizey (Junior), Smythe Eddy (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 27 @ Greely, May 4 @ Falmouth, May 6 @ York, May 8 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 15 @ Waynflete, May 22 (H) NYA, May 26 (H) GREELY

Coach's comment: "We return five from last year. We could surprise, depending on how the freshmen come along. We're a middle-of-the-road group. I'd like to make playoffs. It will be, as always, an interesting year."

The Forecaster's forecast: The Clippers are never boring and should contend again in 2009. Last year was Yarmouth's earliest playoff ouster in 20 years, but there's reason to believe this team could be more of a factor. The Clippers have a new first singles player this spring as freshman Hannah Potter steps in to take on some of the best players in the state. Martin will be second singles. Pizey will be at No. 3. The top doubles team will consist of Moylan and Eddy. Yarmouth has some solid athletes on the roster. A few newcomers will try to make their presence felt as well. While the likes of Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely, NYA, Waynflete and York make for as tough a schedule as any, the Clippers will battle every time out. By season's end, Yarmouth figures to be at its best, as is has been so many times before. The Clippers will not be an easy out in June.

 

Photo:
The Yarmouth boys' lacrosse team celebrated its third Class B title in five seasons last year. The Clippers are seeking an encore performance in 2009. (File photo)

Photo:
Junior Danielle Torres can do a lot of things for the Yarmouth girls' lacrosse team. She's one of several standouts hoping to lead the Clippers back to the pinnacle (File photo)

Photo:
Haley Knaub came in fourth last year in the javelin. She's looking to continue her excellence this spring. (File photo)