McAuley Lions Winter Sports Preview
Look for a very strong winter season from McAuley. The storied basketball program is primed to leap right back into the top tier of contenders and hopes to finish the decade as it started, as the best team in Western A. Track has some first-rate talent and should be a force. Swimming has a small team, but can't be overlooked.
COACH: Wil Smith (fourth year)
2008-09 Record: 11-9 (Lost 42-27 to eventual state champion Deering in Western Class A quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Caitlin Cimino (Senior), Margaret Cruz (Senior), Allina Verrillo (Senior), Chantalle Desjardins (Junior), Rebecca Knight (Junior), Alexa Coulombe (Sophomore), Sadie DiPierro (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 8 (H) TA, Dec. 11 @ Windham, Dec. 15 (H) CHEVERUS, Dec. 22 @ Scarborough, Jan. 7 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 12 (H) BIDDEFORD, Jan. 14 @ Portland, Jan. 28 (H) DEERING, Feb. 2 @ Cheverus, Feb. 5 @ Deering
COACH'S COMMENT: "I'm cautiously very optimistic about the season. I think if we stay healthy, we could have a very good year. We're still relatively young, but that youth has a lot of game experience. All five girls can handle the ball. The maturity of Knight and Cimino will help us a lot. We'll be back to an up-tempo game on both ends of the floor which should help us get some offense out of our defense. The potential's there, but potential's just that."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Deering went on to win the Class A title last winter, but rest assured the Rams were frightened silly by the Lions in the quarterfinal round. That loss (which was much, much closer than the final scored indicated) provided momentum for this year's team, which has the potential to be very strong. McAuley has size, speed and shooting ability and now just needs to put it all together over the next couple months. The Lions are led by Knight (an SMAA first-team all-star in 2008-09), who has verbally committed to the University of Maine. At the moment, she's pegged to be the point guard, but she's equally adept inside or out and can shoot (14.7 points per game on 52 percent accuracy last year), rebound (6.2 per game last winter) and play solid defense. She had 16 points Friday night as McAuley opened with a narrow 39-35 home win over Marshwood. Cimino (10 points in the opener) and Coulombe (an All-Rookie team selection last year who was also the league leader in blocks per game with 4.7 and a top rebounder, 8.4 per game) will also do their share of scoring. Verrillo's defense won't make life easy for the opposition. Cruz, Desjardins and DiPierro can all handle the ball and shoot as well. Look for freshman Hannah Cooke to step right in and make an impact. She might wind up the team's point guard before all is said and done. McAuley's interchangeable parts will serve it well. Teams will not be able to focus on shutting down one player or relying on their pressure defense. The Lions can spread the offense around and keep possession. Knight is on the verge of being one of the league's elite players. If she gets some support, the younger players develop as hoped and the team stays healthy, McAuley could once again be standing in Deering's way come February and this time, deny the Rams altogether.
FUN FACT: After just nine playoff appearances in the program's first 25 years, the Lions have been in the postseason 10 years running.
COACH: Tim Donovan (eighth year)
2008-09 Results: 9th @ Southwesterns (Tie-9th @ Class B state meet)
TOP RETURNING ATHLETES: Lauren Fecteau (Senior), Becca Tanous (Senior), Allina Verrillo (Senior), Allison Bonner (Junior), Emma Kenney (Junior), Taxiarhia Arabatzis (Sophomore)
TOP FOES: Cheverus, Scarborough, Thornton Academy
COACH'S COMMENT: "We finished ninth last year with a very young team. We have better numbers this year with some experience, It could be one of our better teams in years."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: With a little bit of luck, McAuley will be right in the state meet hunt this winter. The Lions return their Fall Athlete of the Year, Fecteau, who was third in the mile and fifth in the two-mile last winter, along with Verrillo, who was runner-up in the shot put. This season, Fecteau will be kept company in the distance by senior Victoria Hugo-Vidal and sophomore Christina Leake. The shorter races will be run by Arabatzis, Bonner, Kenney, Tanous, juniors Autumn Becker and Sarah Meuse and sophomores Wendy Doan and LuLu Hawks. Becker, Tanous and junior Victoria Tanenbaum are the hurdlers. Kenney, Meuse and Tanenbaum are also jumpers. Hawks and senior Zrnitza Savova add depth to the throws. McAuley will hold its own during the regular season and look to make a move at Southwesterns and then at the Class B state meet. Don't bet against the Lions.
COACH: John Smith (fifth year)
2008-09 Results: 4th @ Southwesterns (3rd @ Class B state meet)
TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS: Emily Gajewski (Senior), Lib Rand (Senior), Aoife Ryle (Junior)
TOP FOES: Falmouth, Greely
COACH'S COMMENT: "This year I'm expecting a strong season. We have a good group of new high school swimmers who will have a tough season, but in the end we'll prove to be a contender for the top three spot in states."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: McAuley shocked the field and won Class B in 2008, then was very strong again a year ago. After losing the standout Desrosiers sisters, this year's team doesn't have the depth to compete with Falmouth and Greely, but should comport itself very well again. The Lions' top returners are Gajewski (breaststroke), Rand (fly) and Ryle (distance freestyle). Mix in freshmen Taylor Church (breaststroke), Libby Gajewski (distance freestyle) and Audrey Thames (breaststroke and 50 free) and you can see why McAuley has reason for optimism. The Lions should steady improve during the regular season and be at top form for the Southwesterns and states. Another high finish is a distinct possibility.