North Yarmouth Academy Panthers Spring Sports Preview

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North Yarmouth Academy’s girls’ tennis team won Class C last spring for the first time in five years. The Panthers will go for a repeat this season.

BASEBALL

Coach: Brett Kapteina (second year)

2015 record: 4-12 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Galen Arnold (Junior), Haven Cutko (Junior), Joey Hogan (Junior), Andrew Keith (Junior), Dana Nichols (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Sacopee, April 30 @ Traip, May 2 @ OOB, May 6 @ Waynflete, May 9 @ Waynflete, May 10 @ Sacopee, May 14 TRAIP, May 16 @ OOB, May 21 SACOPEE, May 23 @ Traip, May 25 @ OOB, May 28 WAYNFLETE

Coach’s comment: “The Panthers may be poised for their first postseason appearance in quite a while. Hitting and defense will be the key to winning games. We don’t have a deep pitching staff, so limiting walks and errors will be important to compete. We hope that we’ll be a playoff team. I believe we’re capable of winning enough games to get in. Once you get into the tournament, anything can happen.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: North Yarmouth Academy last reached the playoffs in 2011. This year’s team has what it takes to end that drought.

Cutko was a second-team league all-star in 2015. He’ll be a top pitcher and he can hit as well. Keith, Nichols and promising freshman Joe Strabley will also see time on the mound. Arnold and Hogan also have experience and will help the team in myriad ways. Sophomore Brent Rickett is another key newcomer.

The Panthers should improve their win-loss record, but this team is going to measure itself on whether it can reach the postseason. Most of NYA’s schedule comes against the teams it will compete against for a playoff spot, so it controls its destiny. Don’t be surprised if this group gets to play into June.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Peter Gerrity (fourth year, 17-25 overall record)

2015 record: 6-9 (Lost, 10-4, to Yarmouth in Eastern B Final)

Top returning players: Nick Demers (Senior), Wyatt Nice (Senior), Sam Johnson (Junior), Thomas Pitts (Junior), Jeremy Thelven (Junior), Mike Pitts (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Greely, April 30 @ Gardiner, May 6 KENNEBUNK, May 14 MARANACOOK, May 17 @ Waynflete, May 27 GREELY

Coach’s comment: “We have the lowest numbers we’ve had, possibly ever. Some kids have played, but we’re very young. We have nine freshmen. It’ll be fun though. The freshmen will contribute right away. We’ve shown flashes of solid offense, which is surprising considering how little these guys have played. Making the playoffs would be incredible. That’s our goal for the season. I think we can do that.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Last year marked the 12th time in 13 seasons that the Panthers reached the semifinals or better and this spring, while NYA faces some challenges with manpower and youth, the likelihood is that Gerrity will develop this team into a team no one wants to face by the postseason, if only the Panthers can qualify.

NYA will miss graduated goalie D.J. Nicholas, a reigning first-team all-star and Spring Male Athlete of the Year. Mike Pitts, who played and the field and was Nicholas’ backup last season, will step in between the pipes. Defensively, Demers and Nice join Fall Athlete of the Year Thomas Pitts, a longstick middie who could be in for a breakout season, to make Mike Pitts’ transition as easy as possible. Sophomore Connor Clock will take faceoffs. The offense is led by Johnson and Thelven, while freshman Ryan Baker and Zack Woods hope to make an immediate impact.

The Panthers have a schedule that will help them in a couple ways. They’ll face the elite powers which will make them stronger and they also see a couple squads, Gardiner and Maranacook, that they’ll be battling for playoff spots, so they control their postseason fate. NYA should steadily improve this season and if it can win enough games to make the playoff cut, look out. This squad could be a darkhorse.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Molly Climo (first year)

2015 record: 1-11 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Jenna Block (Senior), Anna Laprise (Senior), Mackenzie Sangster (Senior), Emily Taylor (Senior), Kiersten Marr (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 27 GREELY, May 7 YARMOUTH, May 10 @ Falmouth, May 16 WAYNFLETE, May 24 CAPE ELIZABETH, May 27 @ Greely, June 1 @ Kennebunk

Coach’s comment: “ It’s bound to be a transition year, but so far I’m being proved wrong. These girls are working hard and we’re already seeing huge improvements. Our team is made up of a fun and driven group of girls that will be solid if we can piece together our defense, midfield transition and capitalize on our attacking strategy. The biggest and most important goal for me is to see improvement each day and with each game and that the girls are enjoying themselves. Any former student-athlete knows that your time playing flies by, so it’s important to me that while we are working hard to win, we are working hard to enjoy it too.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: North Yarmouth Academy is still trying to get back to the level where it’s battling for championships every season. Expect the Panthers to take a step in the right direction this spring. NYA welcomes a new coach this year. Climo played high school lacrosse in Sudbury, Massachusetts and at Gould Academy, then played four years at Hobart and William Smith, where she was named Liberty League Rookie of the Year and led the team in points and goals for three years. Climo previously served as a coach at Husson College and inherits a squad that has some returning talent and some promising newcomers.

Taylor will take the majority of the draws. Marr will also see time in the circle, as will freshman Isabelle Coleman. The scoring will likely be balanced. Sangster will be a force on attack and on defense. Taylor will use her speed to create offense. Coleman, seniors Acacia Bright and Callie Sturgeon, juniors Zelda Clegg and Lauren Tufts and freshmen Charlotte Collins and Amber Rose also figure into the mix. Defensively, Laprise and Marr lead the way in front of Block, who will be in goal.

NYA will certainly improve over last year’s record, but just how much will be determined by how the Panthers play against the top teams in the area. Look for steady improvement as the season goes along. If the Panthers do make the postseason, they’ll be a very difficult matchup.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Chris Mazzurco (20th year, four state championships)

2015 results:
(Boys) 9th @ Class C state meet
(Girls) Tie-13th @ Class C state meet

Top returning athletes:
(Boys) Xander Bartone (Junior), Jake Malcom (Junior), Henry Quesada (Junior), Jack Sillin (Sophomore)

(Girls) Emily Baker (Senior), Kate Hilscher (Senior), Linnea Hull (Senior), Sonia Lin (Senior), Liz McIntosh (Senior), Sarah Austin (Junior), Isabelle See (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “The boys’ team is the smallest group we have had in several years, but the quality is quite high. Several members placed highly in the state meet last year and with no seniors on the team, we are looking to make an impact this season as individuals and even possibly as a team at the larger meets. On the girls’ side, there is a strong core of talented veterans to lead the charge. The majority of the events have at least one returning state qualifier. With some athletes expanding their role on the team to new events, we should be competitive all season long.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: North Yarmouth Academy’s numbers are low, but there are quality athletes of both genders.

The boys’ team has finished in the top 10 at states 12 years running and will be led this spring by Bartone, who finished second in the 400 and sixth in the 800 last spring. He was also part of a runner-up 4×800 relay team along with Quesada. Bartone will be a premier sprinter this season. Quesada looks to score in the longer races. Malcom competes in the hurdles. Sillin will be the top thrower. Look for this group to be consistently excellent and to score some points in June.

On the girls’ side, standout thrower and two-time Spring Female Athlete of the Year Muriel Adams has graduated, but Hull returns. She was runner-up in the pole vault last season and hopes to take the top spot this spring. Baker (sprints), Hilscher (distance and throws), Winter Female Athlete of the Year Lin (sprints and jumps) and McIntosh (sprints and jumps) are seasoned veterans who will vie for the podium in their events. Austin (distance), See (high jump) and sophomore distance runner Megan Alberding are other athletes to watch. Don’t be surprised if several of these athletes make their mark in the weeks to come.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Charlie Hudson (38th year, two state championships)

2015 record: 1-11 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Dan McVicar (Senior), Henry Briggs (Junior), Hunter Mahoney (Junior), Parker Elkins (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 28 FREEPORT, April 29 @ Waynflete, May 6 @ Yarmouth, May 13 @ Greely, May 17 YARMOUTH, May 23 WAYNFLETE

Coach’s comment: “It’s promising. We should be deeper and more competitive this year. We have some new kids to fit into the mix. We want to make the playoffs, but we have a tough schedule, so that’s a tough goal.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: North Yarmouth Academy is coming off a rough year in regards to wins and losses. This spring, the Panthers figure to make a quantum leap up the standings.

Mahoney projects to be in the first singles spot. Briggs and McVicar, along with freshman Josh Soucy, were vying for the other singles positions at press time. Elkins will play a key role in doubles, as should seniors Peter Li and Chenxi Liu. Three freshmen, Abram Buehner, Miles Chapman and Marcus Russell, will also be looking to earn roles.

Whatever success NYA enjoys this spring will only pay dividends down the road. The playoffs are a possibility this season. Going forward, the Panthers should be regular participants.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Lorena Coffin (10th year, five state championships)

2015 record: 11-3 (Beat Van Buren, 5-0, to win Class C state title)

Top returning players: Hannah Chapman (Senior), Corinne Poitras (Senior), Lena Rich (Senior)

Pivotal matches: April 26 CAPE ELIZABETH, April 29 WAYNFLETE, May 6 YARMOUTH, May 9 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 13 GREELY, May 17 @ Yarmouth, May 20 @ Falmouth, May 23 @ Waynflete

Coach’s comment: “Our roster features some experienced seniors who are playing high school tennis for their fourth year, as well as several returning exhibition players from last year, along with new, enthusiastic freshmen who are all vying for starting positions. Once the season gets underway, we could be a competitive team to watch.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After four years away, North Yarmouth Academy got back to the pinnacle last spring, perhaps ushering in another run of excellence. Not only did the season result in a state title, but coach Lorena Coffin eclipsed the 100-match win plateau in the regular season finale. The 2016 Panthers feature a nice blend of experience and promising youth.

Rich, a first-team all-star a year ago, is back and will likely be the top singles player. Chapman and Poitras also have experience. Freshmen Emma Cohen, Carson Fassett and Elizabeth Sevigny hope to step in and quickly make a mark.

NYA will be pushed by several tough foes during the regular season and in the postseason, the Panthers will likely have to get past Waynflete (the teams have combined for the past 10 championships), but this squad is up to the task and is eyeing more hardware.

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

Junior Andrew Keith should be one of the better hitters for an NYA baseball team seeking to make the playoffs.

Senior Anna Laprise is back on defense for NYA’s girls’ lacrosse team.

Junior Xander Bartone will be a top sprinter for NYA’s boys’ outdoor track team.

Senior Lena Rich returns to play first singles after being named a first-team league all-star in 2015.

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