Portland Bulldogs Spring Sports Preview

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As usual, Portland High features a compelling mix of new and old this spring. Baseball welcomes one of the state’s best known coaches and behind a promising, young core, could sneak up and become one of the top teams in Western Class A. Softball is primed for a bounce-back season. Boys’ lacrosse has been as good as anyone the past three years. After falling two goals short of a repeat championship in 2010, the Bulldogs hope to get back to the pinnacle. Girls’ lacrosse has been a regular playoff participant in recent years and should compete again. Both track teams are small, but full of promise. Boys’ tennis welcomes a new coach. The girls’ team, after the two best years in program history, have some rebuilding to do, but shouldn’t be ruled out of playoff contention.

BASEBALL

Coach: Tony DiBiase (first year)

2010 Record: 8-8 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Rudy Dimillo (Senior), Caleb Fraser (Sophomore), Kyle Reichert (Sophomore), Tim Rovnak (Sophomore), Nick Volger (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 3 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, May 7 (H) BIDDEFORD, May 12 @ Deering, May 14 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, May 19 (H) CHEVERUS, May 26 @ Westbrook, May 31 (H) SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “We’re very young, but talented. We have close to 50 kids in the program, which is a huge jump from a couple years ago. We have very strong freshman and sophomore classes. Our future is very bright. We’ll be very competitive this year, even though we’re young. The kids have won all the way up through. Our goal is to make the playoffs and get better as the year goes on. If we do, we’ll be a good team by the end. We’re going to be really good. It just depends on when.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The very young Bulldogs got off to a 6-3 start a year ago, which included victories over Deering and Westbrook, but they lost five of their final seven contests and fell short of the postseason for the first time since 1983. This spring, with several key cogs a year older, Portland expects to make it to the playoffs and stay awhile. The Bulldogs welcome one of the state’s well known coaches, Tony DiBiase, this season. DiBiase was a football, basketball and baseball playing standout at Westbrook High School and went on to play baseball at the University of Maine. He was the South Portland baseball coach from 1997-2010, winning 153 games. He’s excited about this team, both this year and going forward. This squad has strong pitching, led by Dimillo (2.92 earned run average a year ago) Fraser (three wins, 30 strikeouts as a freshman in an All-Rookie team campaign), Reichert and sophomore Nate Smart (who’s returned from arm surgery). Volger works behind the plate and has one of the team’s better bats (he paced Portland with a .341 average, 14 hits and six steals in eight tries last year). Dimillo (11 hits last spring), Fraser (.255, six RBI in 2010), Reichert and Rovnak also bring some pop. Portland isn’t viewed as one of the favorites in Western Class A, but the Bulldogs will be very competitive throughout and should win more than they lose. If the younger kids can make a big leap, Portland could be a serious contender this season. Otherwise, we’ll be hearing plenty from the Bulldogs in the years to come.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Dee Allen (third year)

2010 Record: 1-15 (no postseason)

Top returning player: Leanne Reichert (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 25 @ Deering, May 2 (H) NOBLE, May 13 @ Scarborough, May 16 (H) BIDDEFORD, May 20 @ South Portland, May 23 (H) CHEVERUS, May 27 (H) MCAULEY

Coach’s comment: “I’m excited about our season. We’ll be young again, with freshmen pitching and a lot of sophomores in our lineup. Leanne will be the leader of our team. She brings a great attitude and energy. We look to improve as we gain more experience throughout the season and to make the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The proud Portland softball program has struggled through five straight losing seasons and fell short of the postseason the past two years, but there are positive signs that a resurgence could be right around the corner. This edition is very, very young, but there is plenty of promise on the roster as the Bulldogs begin the long climb back. The top returner is Reichert, who hit .318 as a freshman. At catcher, she could evolve in to one of the league’s better players. The pitching staff is completely comprised of freshmen. Look for Cassandra Kennie, Kelly Walsh and Amanda Gould all to see time on the hill. Senior Becca Smith is new to the team and will help anchor the outfield, along with sophomore Ashley Frank. Portland’s learning curve will mean there will be some tough days, but the Bulldogs hope to be competitive with most of the teams in Western Class A. Portland should be able to improve on last year’s win total, perhaps by several victories. While the playoffs are likely still a thing of the future, expect this team to play hard throughout and improve while laying the foundation for future triumph.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Eric Begonia (ninth year)

2010 Record: 14-1 (Lost 8-6 to Scarborough in Class A state final)

Top returning players: Bronson Guimond (Senior), Caleb Kenney (Senior), Jordan Voisine (Senior), Eddie Walsh (Senior), Will Walsh (Senior), Anthony Bowden (Junior), Nick Higgins (Junior), Ryan Jurgelevich (Junior), Seamus Kilbride (Junior), Max Pierter (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 (H) KENNEBUNK, April 30 (H) LEWISTON, May 14 @ Messalonskee, May 21 @ Deering, June 1 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “It’s certainly a rebuilding year even with some of the guys we have on the team. We’re pretty thin, building depth. We lost key players at each position, but we do have anchors at each position this year. Ryan may be the best goalie in the state. Caleb’s bigger and stronger and playing with a healthy shoulder. We want to get back to the playoffs. It’ll be a one-game-at-a-time season. We hope to develop. I like to think we can challenge for the regional championship again.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Portland program has been as good as any over the past four seasons. In that span, the Bulldogs have won three regional titles and took state honors in 2009. Last year’s squad was undefeated heading into the state game, but the emotion over the tragic death of teammate Garrett Cormier just a few days before the final and a strong effort from Scarborough added up to a runner-up finish. This edition should keep the excellence rolling, even if the team might come back to the pack a bit. Kenney is a reigning All-American, Portland’s 2010 Spring Male Athlete of the Year and first-team league all-star and could be the most formidable force around with his size, strength and nose for the goal (he had 52 goals last year, including a mindboggling 10 in one game. He also had 28 assists and 114 ground balls). Kenney will go to prep school next year with an eye toward playing lacrosse at the Division One level the following season. If he’s not enough to contend with at midfield, mix in Guimond (an honorable mention all-star last spring), who will play at Maine Maritime in 2012. He broke his thumb in hockey and has been held back in the preseason, but Begonia feels he’ll be good to go for the regular year. Kilbride (coming off a breakout season) and Pierter are other top scoring threats. Senior Evan Michalski could be a breakout star this season at either midfield or attack. Mix in senior midfielders Pat Cormier (who will handle much of the faceoff duty) and Charlie Marr and junior middie Jason Webster and once again, the Bulldogs project to score a lot of goals. Defensively, Bowden, Higgins, Voisine, Eddie Walsh and Will Walsh hope to fill some holes. Even if they don’t, the last line of defense, reigning first-team all-star Jurgelevich, will make life miserable for the opposition. Portland has a favorable early schedule. The Bulldogs will see three of their biggest rivals in Eastern A (remember, they’re classified in the East for lacrosse) in resurgent Deering, Lewiston and Messalonskee and close at Scarborough in a state final rematch. By then, Portland should be clicking on all cylinders. If this team comes together as hoped (and with Begonia at the helm, there’s every reason to believe they will), the Bulldogs might see the Red Storm again in the state final and this time, reverse last year’s disappointment.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Eric Wales (fourth year)

2010 Record: 7-6 (Lost 9-6 to Cheverus in Eastern Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Neala Broderick (Senior), Effie Drew (Senior), Malinka Jankowski (Senior), Abby Scrutchfield (Senior), Zoe Swaffer (Senior), Raechel Allen (Junior), Catherine Flaherty (Junior), Mary Roma (Junior), Drew Barry (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 @ Scarborough, May 2 (H) CHEVERUS, May 12 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, May 16 (H) DEERING, May 26 @ South Portland

Coach’s comment: “We had a small graduating class last year, which was beneficial. My largest concern is the loss of our goal, Dani Holt. We have a ton of seniors this year. We need to get everything straightened out. We do have talent. We have a competitive schedule. I’m not worried about our offense or zone defense. The girls will be disappointed if we don’t make the playoffs. We’re excited and looking for a successful season..”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland has averaged seven wins the past three seasons and made it to the quarterfinals each time. This year, the Bulldogs hope to go further and an athletic core might be able to make that happen. Offensively, several girls can get the job done. Leading the way will be Allen, Barry (an All-Rookie team selection last year), Drew, Flaherty and Jankowski. Junior Carly McQuinn and freshman Lizzie Landry look to step in and help the cause. Allen and Swaffer handle draw controls. On defense, Broderick, Roma and Scrutchfield hold down the fort in front of a pair of new goalies, as senior Ellen Taffere and junior Kara Grant look to replace Holt. Portland has a lot of winnable games on its schedule and should be able to make a run at exceeding last year’s total. If this team develops as hoped in a year devoid of a favorite in Eastern A (where the Bulldogs are sent for the postseason), Portland could be a team capable of making a deep playoff run in June.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys’ coach: Carroll Nappi (10th year)

Girls’ coach: Liz Koharian (fourth year)

2010 Results:

(Boys) 21st @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) no score @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Abde Ahmed (Senior), Nemanja Jankovic (Senior), Imadhi Zagon (Senior), Isaac Atterberry (Junior), Drew Graham (Sophomore)

(Girls) Mary Nyembo (Senior), Maura O’Connor (Senior), Alice Lala (Junior), Courtney Rickett (Junior)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Scarborough boys; Bonny Eagle, Scarborough, Thornton Academy girls

Coach Nappi’s comment: “It’s a small team. The other teams get too big outdoors and I can’t get kids rounded up. Hopefully we’ll go far on an individual basis. Imadhi’s in a good frame of mind. Hopefully he’ll finish strong.”

Coach Koharian’s comment: “We have a small team, but very dedicated. We have a lot of talent in the freshman group. I’m really excited to see what they will do this year. Our goal to continue to build a strong program and also to score in the state meet .”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Portland outdoor track teams lack quantity, but do feature quality.

The boys, as always and for one final time, will be led by the dynamic Zagon, one of the state’s premier athletes. Last spring, Zagon was hampered by injury and only scored in the high jump (fourth) at the state meet. This time around, he looks to excel in the high jump, long jump, 100 and 200. Ahmed and Atterberry are threats in the sprints. Graham hopes to score in the hurdles. Jankovic is the lead thrower. If Zagon stays healthy, he’ll be good for an abundance of points as the season progresses, certainly in the postseason. If he gets some help, Portland could easily move back into the top 10.

On the girls’ side, Nyembo leads the way. She scored indoors in both the 55 and 200 and was voted the Most Improved Senior Athlete by the SMAA coaches. She hopes to help the Bulldogs score some points at states. Lala is another sprinter to watch. O’Connor will be a threat in the sprints and high jump. Rickett returns from injury and could be one of the league’s top throwers. Four newcomers could also be heard from, Sarah Gale in the middle distance races and Marianna Angelo, Monica Reno and Charlotte Spritz in the sprints. This group should show steady improvement and could help Portland score at states for the first time since 2007.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Andrew Hopkins (first year)

2010 Record: 4-8 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Owen Carten (Junior), Will Chapman (Junior), Isaac Jaegerman (Junior), Jack Swann (Junior), Malcolm Henry (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 29 @ Windham, May 2 @ Deering, May 11 (H) CHEVERUS, May 18 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “It’s a building year. We don’t have any seniors. They’re good kids with a sense of initiative. We want to get better. We hope to improve on last year. We have five freshmen with a lot of potential. It would be great to have a winning record and make the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland looks to get back to the playoffs after falling short last year. The Bulldogs have a new coach this season in Hopkins, who played tennis, wrestled and ran cross country at Ellsworth High School and played tennis and squash at Tufts before coaching boys’ tennis for three seasons in Brunswick. He takes over a young team that hopes to show great improvement in the weeks to come. Chapman and Jaegerman are battling for the top singles spot. Swann and freshman Chris Eye will also be in the singles mix. Carten and Henry, along with new sophomores John Gatti (the hockey goalie), Matt Livermore and Zac Nour, are vying for doubles positions. Portland is hoping its hard work pays off and that the wins will come. The Bulldogs have the potential to be a dark horse and make a run at a playoff berth before all is said and done.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Bonnie Moran (fourth year)

2010 Record: 14-1 (Lost 3-2 to Gorham in Western Class A Final)

Top returning players: Molly Gallagher (Sophomore), Sophie Hulbert (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: May 2 (H) DEERING, May 9 @ Gorham, May 11 @ Cheverus, May 18 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 23 (H) MCAULEY

Coach’s comment: “We’re working hard on getting our ladder set. It’s a large, young team with many players at approximately the same skill level. It will all depend on their motivation and the speed at which they progress. My goal for our team this year is continue to develop skills, strategy and confidence. The girls are highly motivated and willing to work hard, recognizing there are several open slots. As always, a primary goal for me is for all the girls, beginners on up, to come to love the game of tennis so they can take it into their adult lives. I want them to have fun.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland’s had plenty of fun the past two years, which marked the best two-year stretch in program history (a first-ever regional crown in 2009 and an undefeated regular season last year). Graduation hit that juggernaut hard, however, and the Bulldogs will have to regroup on the fly this spring. Only two varsity players are back. Gallagher and Hulbert (a doubles second-team all-star last year) are in line for singles spots. Juniors Natalie Anderson, Mary Badger, Nyaliep Deng, Akari Ishii, Ellen Jewett and Nyador Nguany, sophomore Lily Bruenjes and freshmen Kayla Berg and Annette Denekas are in the running for the other spots. It’s a very different season for the Bulldogs. While they were a championship-caliber team the past two years, this time around, they’ll hope to improve as they season progresses and win as many matches as possible. The playoffs are still a tangible goal and after the learning curve of this spring, Portland’s future should once again be bright.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net and followed on Twitter @foresports

Junior Seamus Kilbride is coming off a solid sophomore season and is a top scoring threat for the Bulldogs.

Bruising senior Eddie Walsh anchors the Portland defense.

Junior Ryan Jurgelevich returns for his third season in goal.

Junior Raechel Allen is due for a big scoring season this spring.

Sophomore Drew Barry is another top offensive threat for the Bulldogs.

Senior Malinka Jankowski will anchor the Bulldogs’ midfield.

Junior Mary Roma returns on defense for the Bulldogs.

Senior Abby Scrutchfield is a top returner for the Portland girls’ lacrosse team.

Senior Imahdi Zagon hopes for big things in his final high school season.

Sidebar Elements


Senior Caleb Kenney, a reigning All-American and one of the most prolific offensive forces in the state, looks to close his high school career with another state championship this spring.

More photos below.

Portland Spring Sports Schedule

(See phsbulldogs.org for updated times)

BASEBALL

Sat., April 23 H GORHAM

Tues., April 26 @ Marshwood

Thurs., April 28 @ Bonny Eagle

Sat., April 30 H MASSABESIC

Tues., May 3 H SP

Thurs., May 5 @ Kennebunk

Sat., May 7 H BIDDEFORD

Thurs., May 12 @ Deering

Sat., May 14 H TA

Tues., May 17 @ Sanford

Thurs., May 19 H CHEVERUS

Sat., May 21 H NOBLE

Tues., May 24 @ Windham

Thurs., May 26 @ Westbrook

Sat., May 28 @ Gorham

Tues., May 31 H SCARBOROUGH

SOFTBALL

Mon., April 25 @ Deering

Wed., April 27 H WESTBROOK

Fri., April 29 @ Windham

Mon., May 2 H NOBLE

Wed., May 4 @ Marshwood

Fri., May 6 H GORHAM

Mon., May 9 @ Massabesic

Wed., May 11 H TA

Fri., May 13 @ Scarborough

Mon., May 16 H BIDDEFORD

Fri., May 20 @ SP

Sat., May 21 H KENNEBUNK

Mon., May 23 H CHEVERUS

Wed., May 25 @ Bonny Eagle

Fri., May 27 H MCAULEY

Tues., May 31 @ Sanford

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Wed., April 20 H BONNY EAGLE

Sat., April 23 @ Noble

Wed., April 27 H KENNEBUNK

Sat., April 30 H LEWISTON

Wed., May 4 H MARSHWOOD

Sat., May 7 @ Massabesic

Wed., May 11 H BIDDEFORD

Sat., May 14 @ Messalonskee

Wed., May 18 H GORHAM

Sat., May 21 @ Deering

Wed., May 25 @ Westbrook

Wed., June 1 @ Scarborough

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Mon., April 25 @ Biddeford

Thurs., April 28 @ Scarborough

Sat., April 30 H GARDINER

Mon., May 2 H CHEVERUS

Thurs., May 5 H WINDHAM

Mon., May 9 @ Bonny Eagle

Thurs., May 12 H TA

Fri., May 13 @ Camden

Mon., May 16 H DEERING

Thurs., May 19 @ Westbrook

Thurs., May 26 @ SP

Tues,. May 31 H MARSHWOOD

BOYS’ OUTDOOR TRACK

Wed., April 27 @ Noble

Tues., May 3 @ Deering (Chev, SP)

Wed., May 11 @ Marshwood

Tues., May 17 H MASS, TA, WEST

Fri., May 20 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 Southwesterns

Sat., June 4 CLASS A STATE MEET

GIRLS’ OUTDOOR TRACK

Mon., April 25 H GORHAM, NOBLE, TA

Mon., May 2 @ Cheverus (Deering, McA, SP)

Tues., May 10 @ Scarborough

Mon., May 16 @ Westbrook

Fri., May 20 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 @ Southwesterns

Sat., June 4 CLASS A STATE MEET

BOYS’ TENNIS

Mon., April 25 H BONNY EAGLE

Wed., April 27 H MASSABESIC

Fri., April 29 @ Windham

Mon., May 2 @ Deering

Fri., May 6 @ TA

Mon., May 9 H GORHAM

Wed., May 11 H CHEVERUS

Fri., May 13 @ Kennebunk

Mon., May 16 H BIDDEFORD

Wed., May 18 @ Scarborough

Fri., May 20 H SP

Mon., May 23 @ Sanford

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Mon., April 25 @ Bonny Eagle

Wed., April 27 @ Massabesic

Fri., April 29 H WINDHAM

Mon., May 2 H DEERING

Fri., May 6 H TA

Mon., May 9 @ Gorham

Wed., May 11 @ Cheverus

Fri., May 13 H KENNEBUNK

Mon., May 16 @ Biddeford

Wed., May 18 H SCARBOROUGH

Fri., May 20 @ SP

Mon., May 23 H MCAULEY

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