North Yarmouth Academy Panthers Fall Sports Preview

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NYA had its share of near misses a year ago during a very successful fall campaign. Boys’ soccer didn’t lose a game until the semifinals. The girls’ team got back to the playoffs after several years away, but dropped an overtime heartbreaker. Speaking of heartbreakers, field hockey fell just one goal shy of another championship. Both cross country teams return some top-level talent and should be very much in the mix. Golf looks to get back to states, while volleyball is coming off its first ever trip to the postseason. The Panthers enjoyed it so much that they aim to go back.

BOYS’ SOCCER

COACH: Raiff Gwinnett (first year)

2013 record: 15-1 (Lost, 3-2, to eventual state champion Maranacook in Western C semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Clayton Manchester (Senior), D.J. Nicholas (Senior), Jeremy Thelven (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 8 RICHMOND, Sept. 23 @ Waynflete, Oct. 3 @ Freeport, Oct. 11 WAYNFLETE, Oct. 21 @ Poland

COACH’S COMMENT: “I hope to improve the team as a group and individually. I hope we win as many games as we can. I am hoping to work closely with the boys and improve them for the future and when they go to college.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA was never boring during Martyn Keen’s reign as coach and last season perfectly illustrated that point. The Panthers enjoyed their first unbeaten regular season since 2006, then, with the prospect of an agonizing quarterfinal loss to Waynflete staring them in the face, they rallied for an overtime victory. NYA came back again, this time from two goals down at eventual champion Maranacook in the semis, but ultimately fell a goal short.

This year’s team has a very different look, both on the pitch and on the sidelines. Keen has moved on and was replaced by Gwinnett, who played professionally in England. He spent time coaching in England as well before coming to the United States. He takes over a team that lost a lot to graduation, but still holds promise.

This fall, the Panthers will be led by Nicholas, an all-state standout in 2013. He’ll create plenty of offense. Thelven, coming off an impressive freshman season, and freshman Michael Pitts will also be heard from on offense. Manchester looks to make a mark as the goalkeeper. Sophomore Bobby Murphy, a transfer from Yarmouth, is another player to watch.

NYA, due to its many changes and challenging schedule, likely won’t have a perfect record this season, but this is a group that will have to be taken seriously by everybody. With a player the caliber of Nicholas leading the way, the Panthers could be primed for another deep postseason run.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

COACH: Josh Thornton (second year)

2013 record: 7-6-2 (Lost, 1-0, in OT, to Monmouth in Western C preliminary round)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Mel Regan (Senior), Emily Baker (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 12 SACOPEE, Sept. 23 WAYNFLETE, Sept. 30 @ Sacopee, Oct. 2 FREEPORT, Oct. 11 @ Waynflete

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a small squad with a lot of big player losses from the year before. We hope to make the playoffs.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: After falling short of the playoffs three years running, NYA took a big step forward in 2013, posting a winning record and qualifying. While the season ended with a disappointing loss to Monmouth, bigger things are in store. NYA lost several seniors to graduation and standout Alex Wahlstrom, who scored a series of clutch goals last fall, left the school, so there are holes to fill.

Baker is a good building block. She was a league all-star in 2013 and will be a force either on defense or in the middle of the field. Regan will help pace the offense. Freshman Rachel Hooker is a newcomer to watch. Sophomore Lyndsay Tuft will be in goal this autumn.

Like everyone else in Class C, the Panthers are chasing rival Waynflete, the two-time defending champion. NYA should be able to compete with most teams on the schedule and hopes to get back to the postseason. That’s a likely destination for this group. Perhaps this time, they’ll taste more success.

FIELD HOCKEY

COACH: Tracy Quimby (fourth year, 42-10-1 overall record, one state championship)

2013 record: 14-3-1 (Lost, 1-0, to Foxcroft Academy in Class C Final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Muriel Adams (Senior), Alex Barnes (Senior), Elizabeth Coughlin (Senior), Charlotte Eisenberg (Senior), Marina Poole (Senior), Linnea Hull (Junior), Mackenzie Sangster (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 11 @ Yarmouth, Sept. 17 @ Sacopee, Sept. 24 FALMOUTH, Oct. 3 YARMOUTH, Oct. 10 SACOPEE, Oct. 15 @ York

COACH’S COMMENT: “We lost some quality players and kids. It’s a different team this year, but we do have returners who have been to states and will keep us competitive. We’ll have to work very hard this year. I think we’ve got the right kids. We just have to learn to play together and pull together.

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA has now taken part in five of the past six Class C championship games and has three titles to its credit in that span, but the Panthers are still smarting about the one that got away last year. Adding to the sting of that loss was the graduation of stars like Olivia Madore and reigning Fall Female Athlete of the Year Kayla Rose. Making things even more challenging, Juju Tardif, who was such a big part of the program’s success the past two seasons, left NYA. While the Panthers will have a different look in 2014, you can’t write them off and it would surprise absolutely no one if they play in the regional and state finals.

Anytime you have a premier goalie you’re always in contention and that’s what NYA has with Coughlin, a first-team all-conference selection a year ago. Coughlin, a captain who is now in her fourth season in the cage, has a reputation for making big saves and she’s been at her best in the biggest games. Barnes, also an all-star and captain, and Adams solidify the defensive unit. The offense figures to come from Poole, a captain, Eisenberg, Hull, Sangster and perhaps sophomore Kiersten Marr.

Triumph won’t come as easily this fall and the Panthers might stumble from time to time, but they tend to excel in late October. A little more NYA magic could still be in store.

CROSS COUNTRY

COACHES:
(BOYS) Peter Sillin (10th year, two state championships)
(GIRLS) Chris Mazzurco (15th year, one state championship)

2013 results:
(BOYS) 7th @ Class C state meet
(GIRLS) 11th @ Class C state meet

TOP RETURNING RUNNERS:
(BOYS) Haley Cunningham (Senior), Patrick Jackson (Senior), John LeBlanc (Senior), Matt Malcom (Senior), Jack Kostelnik (Sophomore), Jake Malcom (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Hannah Austin (Senior), Ellis Miskell (Senior), Kate Hilscher (Junior), Claire Maurer (Junior), Sarah Austin (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Merriconeag, Waynflete

COACH SILLIN’S COMMENT: “We have kind of a ‘doughnut’ team this year, a bunch of seniors and freshmen with only a couple in the middle. It makes for an unusual mix, but it bodes well for the future. It will be really fun to see what Matt can do this year. He ran well over the summer and is quite fit. He should be among the state’s elite in any class this fall. After that, we’ll have to see what summer training the guys put in. Our overall goals remain pretty consistent: steady improvement across the board while building a fun, hardworking team culture. I think we have a good chance at qualifying for states again and if we have a good day there, we could improve on last year.”

COACH MAZZURCO’S COMMENT: “We’re a little smaller team than last year. I think we’ll be able to make it back to states. That’s very feasible. We want to step up and do better than we did. Hannah’s got a chance to do very well at the big meets. She’s put in a lot of time this summer. We have several other strong runners too.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both NYA teams will be in thick of the action all the way through the postseason.

The boys will be led by Matt Malcom, who was second for scoring purposes at last year’s state meet. He’ll be one of the elite runners in the state, regardless of class. Other returning scorers include LeBlanc (16th), Cunningham (30th) and Kostelnik (60th). Jackson and Jake Malcom look to move up the ranks, while freshman Devlin O’Keefe could soon make his presence felt. The Panthers should be competitive in a very deep and talented league. A sixth straight trip to the state meet should be the end result.

The NYA girls also have an individual standout who will battling for top honors in Hannah Austin, who was the individual runner-up at last year’s state meet. She’ll try to move up a notch this fall. Maurer (44th), Sarah Austin (48th) and Hilscher (55th) also scored at states a year ago. Miskell provides depth and some other girls will hope to help the cause. The Panthers will be in the hunt for another trip to states. This should be another exciting and successful campaign.

GOLF

COACH: Charlie Hudson (third year)

2013 results: 9-3 (6th @ Class C state match)

GOLFERS TO WATCH: Ben Ambrose (Senior), Brad Potter (Senior), Nick Demers (Junior), Brad Rockey (Junior), Dana Nichols (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: OOB, Waynflete

COACH’S COMMENT: “It’s a good group of kids. We have good numbers back. Five of last year’s top six. We have a good nucleus of competitive athletes. I think we have a good chance to get back to states and hope to finish as high as fourth. We should have another fun season and win our share of matches..”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA was very good in 2013 and could be even better this season with several top scorers back.

Leading the way is Demers, a Western Maine Conference all-star in 2013. He shot a 93 at the Class C team state match and followed that up with a round of 97 at the individual Class C championships a year ago. Potter had the Panthers’ low score that day (90) and is an experienced leader, as is Ambrose (110 at the state match last season). Rockey (96 at states) is another key returner. Nichols is looking to move his way up the ladder, as will sophomores Haven Cutko, Owen McCarthy and Cris Paradis. NYA will likely post another impressive record and should get back to the state match. Whether the Panthers can move up the ladder once they get there remains to be seen, but this group has quite the upside.

VOLLEYBALL

COACH: Nora Krainis (ninth year)

2013 results: 7-8 (Lost, 3-2, to Calais in Class B quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Nina Babbitt (Senior), Hannah Carr (Senior), Anya Siviski (Senior), Sara Thompson (Senior)

PIVOTAL MATCHES: Sept. 11 @ Yarmouth, Sept. 27 BUCKSPORT, Sept. 27 SUMNER, Oct. 3 @ Jonesport-Beals, Oct. 4 @ Washington Academy, Oct. 4 @ Machias, Oct. 7 CAPE ELIZABETH, Oct. 16 YARMOUTH

COACH’S COMMENT: “We look forward to continued growth all around, with a competitive schedule, and we hope to see the playoffs again.

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA was quite the feel-good story in 2013, making it to the playoffs for the first time before giving traditional power Calais a scare in the quarterfinals. The Panthers want to make the postseason a habit and this year’s team should be in Class B contention once more.

NYA returns captains Siviski (a fourth-year setter) and Thompson (a third-year libero and outside hitter). Also back are hitters Babbitt and Carr, who made their mark a season ago.

While trying to keep up with defending champion Yarmouth, the Panthers will also see its share of Down East opposition, as those teams are possible playoff foes. Seeing that style of play helps the Panthers in the long run. Now that this program has tasted success, look for it to continue, not just with a return to the playoffs, but perhaps with a first ever postseason triumph.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Senior D.J. Nicholas will once again be one of the region’s premier players. He and his boys’ soccer teammates hope for another great season.

Junior Emily Baker was an all-star last season, helping NYA’s girls’ soccer team return to the playoffs.

Senior Mel Regan’s athleticism and skill will help NYA’s playoff quest.

Senior Charlotte Eisenberg looks to lead NYA’s field hockey team deep into the playoffs again.

Junior Linnea Hull will play a key role on this year’s team.

Senior Marina Poole packs a powerful shot.

Senior Matt Malcom was runner-up at last year’s Class C boys’ cross country meet. He’ll shoot for the top spot in 2014.

Senior John LeBlanc also scored high (16th) a year ago at states.

Senior Hannah Austin will be one of the premier girls’ cross country runners in Class C this season.

Sidebar Elements


Standout goalie Elizabeth Coughlin returns for her senior season and hopes to lead NYA’s field hockey team back to the state final.

File photos.

More photos below.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.