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Deering Rams Spring Sports Preview

Sports

Deering Rams Spring Sports Preview

Deering's spring sports teams are gearing up for greatness. Leading the way is the nonpareil baseball program which just keeps winning and winning, year after year. Defending yet another title with essentially a brand new team, the Rams should be able to play deep into June yet again. Softball hopes to post a winning mark and get back to the postseason. Both lacrosse squads stand to improve. Track has some very promising athletes and will be strong in the regular and postseasons. Boys' tennis welcomes a new coach and should contend. The girls' program is always solid and expects to be in the mix once again.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Coutts (second year)

2009 Record: 20-0 (Beat Cony 2-1 to win third straight Class A state championship)

Top returning players: Jake Nichols (Senior), Travis Wade (Senior), Sam Balzano (Junior), Nick Colucci (Junior), Nick DiBiase (Junior), Jamie Ross (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 24 @ Cheverus, May 6 (H) PORTLAND, May 8 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, May 20 @ Westbrook, May 22 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, May 27 (H) SCARBOROUGH, June 1 (H) CHEVERUS

Coach's comment: “Every day will be a challenge in our league. We'll have to play our best. We can't turn it on and off. I'd say we're pretty balanced. It'll be interesting. We have a new group of guys who have been great so far. It's a new challenge. The kids can't try to live up to the expectations of the past. We don't want the kids to live in that shadow. All we can do is our best every day and hope they make a name for themselves.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Dominance, they name has been Deering for many, many years. The Rams have won three straight Class A titles, eight of the past 11 and hasn't lost a countable game since May 10, 2007, a run of 50 straight victories. That amazing pedigree notwithstanding, Deering has its work cut out this spring after losing some sensational talent (including ace pitcher Taylor Candage and pro prospect Regan Flaherty) to graduation. Weep not for the Rams, however. They'll be just fine by June. It's not as if the cupboard is bare. Balzano (a first-team all-star and a member of the All-Rookie team in 2009), who possesses great speed, is back and will hit leadoff. He led the SMAA in steals (24) and runs scored (29) and was second in hits (27) a year ago and will track down everything hit toward the spacious centerfield area at Hadlock Field. Colucci (.357 average with 14 RBI a year ago), Nichols (a second-team all-star and All-Rookie team member last year, who hit .389 with 11 RBI) and Ross (.286) will also be offensive factors, as could DiBiase and Wade. Nichols, Ross, Wade and DiBiase look to help ease the loss of Candage, Matt Powers, Luke Hammond and Flaherty on the hill. Junior Johnny Miranda will likely be the catcher, with help from senior Pat Bride and junior Devin Fitzgerald. If the rest of the league is hoping to knock off the Rams, this is likely the year to do so. Deering might take a few lumps, but will still likely post another solid record. By year's end, if players develop as hoped, the Rams will be in the hunt for a title. Never count this storied and proud program out.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Maggie Soule (second year)

2009 Record: 7-10 (Lost 3-0 to Gorham in Western Class A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Netta Brown (Senior), Fiona Densmore (Senior), Annalisa Ferrante (Senior), Kate Pickering (Senior), Jennifer Lynch (Junior), Tina Merrill (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 (H) BIDDEFORD, April 26 @ Portland, April 28 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, April 30 @ Cheverus, May 3 (H) BONNY EAGLE, May 5 @ McAuley, May 10 @ Kennebunk, May 28 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, June 1 @ Scarborough

Coach's Comment: “We're a young team this year. We have some great returning leaders as well as some eager and excited underclassmen. Our goals consist of having fun, learning some new skills and making it to the playoffs. We hope to accomplish a winning season.”

The Forecaster's forecast: The Rams finished under .500 last season for the first time since 2000, but managed to stretch its streak of postseason appearances to nine. This spring, Deering feels it can be in contention and make some noise in June. Junior Kaylee Wheeler will see most of the time on the mound. Freshman Chelsea Saucier will also get an opportunity to pitch. Ferrante is a veteran behind the plate and will guide both pitchers through the season. The infield features a veteran core of Lynch (who was an SMAA first-team all-star last spring), Merrill and Pickering. Brown and Densmore have experience in the outfield. Several newcomers will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact. That group includes junior Audrey MacDuff, who will play both the infield and outfield, sophomores Nicole Mason (outfield) and Caley Presby (infield) and freshman Brianna Walker (infield and outfield). Deering's offense was feast or famine a year ago, scoring 58 runs in seven victories, while managing just 17 in its 10 defeats. If the Rams can get some consistent run production, they could be very tough. This is a team to keep an eye on. One that could be a pleasant surprise by the end of the year.

BOYS' LACROSSE

Coach: Bob Rothbart (fifth year)

2009 Record: 3-9 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Riley Asbury (Senior), Jackson Sewall (Senior), Joe Webster (Senior), Carleton Allen (Junior), A.J. Asbury (Junior), Jake Farrell (Junior), Matt Thomes (Junior), Karl Rickett (Sophomore), Isaac Wipfler (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 21 @ Thornton Academy, April 24 @ South Portland, May 12 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 15 (H) MORSE, May 22 @ Portland

Coach's comment: “We'll definitely be better this year. We have speed for the first time since I've been here. Our defense is jelling nicely. We're very deep. There's no one on our schedule that we can't beat. Of course, there are very few teams on our schedule that thing they can't beat us. I think we could be playoff-bound.”

The Forecaster's forecast: After a pair of sub-.500 campaigns with no playoff berths, the Rams are primed to turn this corner this year. Deering features some top-notch talent, a nice balance of experience and youth, hunger to improve and a favorable schedule. The Rams (who pummeled visiting Marshwood, 16-3, in their opener Saturday) have a couple key challenges in the opening week, at Thornton Academy and South Portland, but the majority of the slate features favorable matchups. This year's team will be paced on offense by Allen (four goals in the opener), the team's leading scorer and a second-team SMAA all-star a year ago, who is also a groundball specialist, in addition to other myriad skills. Riley Asbury (four goals and two assists versus Marshwood), Sewall (four goals, two assists Saturday) and Thomes (the team's third-leading scorer last spring) can also tickle the twine. A.J. Asbury and Wipfler bring diverse skills to the midfield spot. The defense is paced by Rickett, a budding standout, who will take faceoffs (he won 14 of 17 in the first game) and figures to snare his share of groundballs. Farrell and Webster also play key roles on defense in front of new goalie, junior Nick Holton, who was a backup a year ago. The Rams will be potent on offense and should tighten things up on defense. Some early victories would go a long way toward building confidence for May games against traditional power Kennebunk and defending Class A champion Portland. If Deering takes care of business against the teams it's supposed to, it will find itself back in the postseason, this time in Eastern A (along with the other Portland schools), where the Rams could be capable of sticking around awhile. This will certainly be one of the most improved squads around.

GIRLS' LACROSSE

Coach: Andrew Gordon (sixth year)

2009 Record: 2-10 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Taylor Dean (Senior), Lindsay Dearborn (Senior), Ursula Donovan (Senior), Kristen Grandonico (Senior), Monique Guimond (Senior), Sophie Halpin (Senior), Julie Pallozzi (Senior), Lydia Raszmann (Senior), Lauren Tuttle (Senior), Zahra Abu (Junior), Veronica Mitchell (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 30 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 4 @ Scarborough, May 6 (H) CHEVERUS, May 18 (H) PORTLAND, May 25 @ South Portland

Coach's comment: “We have a much more favorable schedule than last year, now we just have to take advantage of it. I'm glad to be playing local teams like Portland, South Portland and Westbrook again. We have some experience, especially on defense and one of the best goalies around. We have some speed, but I'm still concerned about where goals are going to come from. I'd like to think we have a chance of making the playoffs, but it will take a real team effort to get there.”

The Forecaster's forecast: A year ago, Deering missed the playoffs for the first time in its 11-year history, but there were extenuating circumstances, most notably a brutal schedule. That figures to be an aberration as the Rams have the potential to turn things around quickly this spring. A strong goalie is a great equalizer and Deering feels it has one of the best around in Pallozzi, who was a second-team SMAA all-star in 2009. She has some solid defenders in front her, including Donovan, Guimond and Tuttle. Offense is less certain. The Rams scored less than five goals a game last spring and need to improve upon that dramatically. Gordon is hopeful that Abu (who switches from defense to offense), Dean, Dearborn, Halpin, Mitchell, Raszmann and perhaps junior Jesse Cinque will step up. Grandonico and Mitchell (who made the SMAA All-Rookie team last spring) will handle the draws. New junior Ania Chandler, junior transfer from McAuley Maddie Burns and sophomore Delaney Loring will also be heard from. The first third of the schedule will remind Deering of last year, as the Rams have to meet three-time defending regional champion Kennebunk, powerhouse Scarborough and dangerous Cheverus in consecutive outings, but after that, the slate eases dramatically and Deering should be able to make its move. If the offense comes around, a winning record and a playoff berth are realistic goals.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys' coach: Dick Kress (28th year)

Girls' coach: Kevin Olson (second year)

2009 Results:

(Boys) tie-15th @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) 14th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Erik Aikens (Senior), David Nguyen (Senior), Anthony Villarreal (Senior), Sean Perry (Sophomore)

(Girls) Jane Farrell (Senior), Maggie McKeon (Senior), Claire Ramonas (Senior), Sarah Savage (Senior), Dali Tauwala (Senior), Amanda Masse (Junior), Britni Mikulanecz (Junior), Aleeza Stearns (Junior)

Top foes: Cheverus, Gorham, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland boys; Bonny Eagle, Scarborough and Thornton Academy girls

Coach Kress' comment: “Our team hopes to be competitive in the regular season and improve individually in respective events. We have a small, relatively inexperienced team trying to maintain a positive attitude while competing against larger, more experienced teams.”

Coach Olson's comment: “We have a team with a mix of veterans and rookies. The girls have been working hard and we hope to be competitive. Our goal is to take one meet at a time and work hard to improve, both individually and as a team. It should be a fun season.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Both Deering outdoor track teams have enough good athletes to be a factor in the regular season and in June.

The boys don't return any points from last year, however, a solid core will make their mark this spring. Aikens and Villarreal will be heard from in the sprints. Nguyen is a promising hurdler and Perry will compete in the middle distance. New sophomore Tom Dean will look to impress in the distance races. The Rams should be able to hang tough in the league and will likely improve upon their scores at Southwesterns and the state meet.

On the girls' side, Deering is seeking its first top 10 state finish since 2001. There's reason to believe the Rams will do so. Ramonas, the school's Winter Female Athlete of the Year, was runner-up in the shot put and was an SMAA all-star last spring and would love to move up a spot this time. Mikulanecz has tremendous speed, is a big-time competitor and was sixth in the 300 hurdles a year ago, while being named to the SMAA all-star team. She'll lead the sprinters and will be joined by Masse, Savage and freshmen Whitney Adell and Tricia Stewart (who is also a jumper). Farrell scored in the 300 hurdles at the league meet last season and will be in the hunt. McKeon and Tauwala, along with sophomore Ella Ramonas, lead the distance charge. Stearns is another throwing threat. The potential is there for Deering to move up the standings. Look for a very positive season from this group.

BOYS' TENNIS

Coach: Regina Morton (first year)

2009 Results: 6-7 (Lost 4-1 to Kennebunk in Western Class A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Jesse Barkin (Junior), Jesse Butler (Sophomore), Noah Finberg (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 28 (H) CHEVERUS, May 3 @ Portland, May 7 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 19 (H) KENNEBUNK

Coach's comment: “I have an outstanding group of boys who are very knowledgeable about and do their research about their opponents to be as prepared as possible. I intend to use their expertise to help guide me through my first season. Our team is enthusiastic and passionate about the sport. We have only three returning varsity players, so we're a young team. We know we will experience a growing period, but we should not be underestimated.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Deering has been in the playoffs for 16 straight seasons. This year, the Rams welcome a new coach in Morton, who was the tennis coach at Lincoln Middle School for six years. Her brother, Gregg, will assist. They inherit a squad that is capable of doing some damage. There isn't much experience on the roster, but the veterans will anchor the singles spots, as Butler, Finberg and Barkin all look to make a name for themselves. The doubles teams consist of new and promising players, including senior Caleb Titherington, juniors Nick Brown and Colby Kenny, sophomores Tyler Giroux and Dejan Varejec and freshman Antonio Macomber. Deering has a proud tradition and will look to build on that this year. If the new players can hit their stride as the season progresses, the Rams will win their share of matches. While Deering isn't viewed as a favorite, it could be a team that no one will want to face when the playoffs commence.

GIRLS' TENNIS

Coach: Gus Goodwin (eighth year)

2009 Results: 9-5 (Lost 4-1 to Gorham in Western Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Jean McCabe (Senior), Rachel Miller (Senior), Georgia Hutchins (Sophomore), Jackie Huynh (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: May 3 (H) PORTLAND, May 7 @ Scarborough, May 12 @ McAuley, May 21 (H) GORHAM

Coach's comment: “My team is tenacious. We hope to play in the state championship.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Deering's on a run of 11 straight winning seasons with trips to the playoffs every time. The Rams should keep the good times rolling in 2010. Miller is back at first singles and will look to hold her own against some of the best players around. Hutchins, Huynh and McCabe also have experience. Several other players will look to step in and provide depth. The Rams enter the year in the shadow of city rivals Portland (the defending regional champ) and McAuley, but by season's end, will likely have a winning record once again and be a force to be reckoned with.