South Portland Red Riots Fall Athletes of the Year

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MALE:

KHALID SUJA, Senior-Soccer

  •  All-State
  • Class A South regional all-star
  •  SMAA all-star, second-team
  •  Captain

Suja didn’t play a glamorous position, but did he ever play a huge role this fall for a team which hit its stride and made a run to the playoffs.

Suja grew up in South Portland and following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ahmed, started playing soccer at a young age. It quickly became his top sport and is the only sport he’s played in high school.

“I like the thinking that goes into (soccer),” Suja said. “It’s a team sport and I love being part of a team. My love for the game motivates me. I want to be the best I can be.”

Suja spent his freshman year at Waynflete, then came to South Portland as a sophomore. By his junior year, he was a league all-star and this year, Suja was invaluable for a Red Riots squad that overcame a slow start and surged into the playoffs.

Suja played a holding defensive midfield position, so he didn’t get the accolades reserved for goal scorers and goalkeepers, but he stymied the opposition and set up his teammates with equal aplomb.

“My job is to control the midfield and create and I’m happy to do that,” Suja said.

South Portland started 2-3, then roared to life, winning its final nine games, shutting out its final six foes. The Red Riots had the misfortune of facing Scarborough in the quarterfinals and only allowed one goal, on a gorgeous shot, and had its season come to an end.

“We put it all together after that tough stretch the first five games, but it ended too soon,” Suja said.

Suja has played premier soccer for many years with the Portland Phoenix program. He’s undecided on his college plans, but soccer could be part of them.

He’ll certainly contribute if he has the chance. Khalid Suja, South Portland’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year, is an invaluable talent who simply makes everyone around him better.

Coach Bryan Hoy’s comment: “Khalid’s contribution to the team often goes unnoticed because he doesn’t show up in the box score with goals or shutouts, however, he was the starting point of our offense and the first line of our stellar defense. On offense, Khalid does a great job of spraying passes to all areas of the field. His ability to change the direction of the attack and find open spaces on the field really helped us create opportunities throughout the year. Defensively, I can’t praise him enough. He’s not the fastest player on the field, but he makes up for it with superior positioning. This foresight allows him to take away areas of the field before the offense even knows that is where they are going. The younger players look up to him and not just because of his skill, but his intelligence, kindness and devotion to our team’s success. He’s an incredibly gifted soccer talent, without any of the antics that often accompany that. He’s been a great role model for all athletes in our community.”

Prior winners:

2015 Gary Maietta (soccer)

2014 Henry Curran (soccer)

2013 Duncan Preston (football)

2012 Damjan Draskovic (soccer)

2011 Logan Gaddar (football)

2010 Nem Kaurin (soccer)

2009 Ryan Curit (football)

2008 Ryan Chapin (soccer)

2007 Nick Gaddar (football)

2006 David Knowland (cross country)

2005 Endy Carrera (soccer)

2004 Nolan Moon (cross country)

2003 Eric Giddings (cross country)

2002 Eric Giddings (cross country)

2001 Devin Shaw (cross country)

FEMALE:

LYDIA HENDERSON, Senior—Field hockey

  • All-state

  • SMAA all-star, first-team

  • Captain

Henderson has long been known for her ability on the basketball court, but field hockey has become her passion and as a senior, Henderson had a brilliant season, helping the Red Riots come of age and make a run to the playoffs.

Henderson started playing field hockey in middle school and quickly grew to love it.

“Field hockey is different than anything I’ve played,” Henderson said. “I just really love it. I have a hunger to win and a competitive spirit, not just in sports.”

Henderson played four years of varsity field hockey at South Portland and started each season. Henderson was the SMAA Rookie of the Year as a freshman, an all-conference honorable mention as a sophomore and after overcoming mono as a junior, had her finest season this fall. Henderson scored 12 goals and added four assists this season, giving her 21 career goals and 15 career assists.

Henderson had a goal in a loss to Cheverus, scored twice in a victory over Deering, scored a goal in wins over Bonny Eagle and Windham, had two goals in a victory over Sanford and scored goals in wins over Noble and Portland.

South Portland got to the playoffs, but was blanked at Cheverus in the preliminary round.

“It was the best season yet,” Henderson said. “We just loved to play field hockey and our team chemistry helped us immensely on the field.”

Henderson, who volunteers and is a member of National Honor Society, SoPoUnite and the school’s History and Spanish Clubs, was honored at the conference and state level and isn’t done with field hockey, as she wants to play in college. First, she’ll look to lead the South Portland girls’ basketball team to a championship. She also plays tennis.

Field hockey is where she starred this year. Lydia Henderson, South Portland’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, etched her name in program lore thanks to a dominant senior campaign.

Coach Leslie Dyer’s comment: “Lydia is one of the reasons this program has changed. Her dedication, competitiveness and strive to be better made her a great role model for everyone around her. Daily, she pushed teammates to be better on the field and in the classroom. She was a great playmaker and was the decision maker out there on the field. She was a great asset on and off the field.”

Prior winners:

2015 Serena McKenzie (cross country)

2014 Casey Loring (cross country)

2013 Shannon Conley (cross country)

2012 Nyajock Pan (cross country)

2011 Nyajock Pan (cross country)

2010 Rebecca Roberts (field hockey)

2009 Karleigh Bradbury (soccer)

2008 Annelise Donahue (cross country)

2007 Annelise Donahue (cross country)

2006 Kristina Aceto (field hockey)

2005 Emily Haeuser (cross country)

2004 Courtney Albin (soccer)

2003 Christina Aceto (soccer)

2002 Andrea Giddings (cross country)

2001 Andrea Giddings (cross country)

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

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