South Portland Red Riots Fall Sports Preview

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Senior Charlie Cronin is a top returner for South Portland’s boys’ soccer team which hopes to contend again in Class A South.

File photos.

More photos below.

FOOTBALL

Coach: Steve Stinson (13th year, 37-66 overall record)

2016 results: 2-7 (Lost, 42-6, to Scarborough in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Dave Albert (Senior), Riley Campbell (Senior), Joe Conti (Senior), Spencer Houlette (Senior), Zack Johnson (Senior), Jack Napolitano (Senior), Jake Poole (Senior), Brad Seigars (Senior), Caden Horton (Junior), Artimus Stilley (Junior), Nate Ellington (Sophomore), Hunter Owen (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 22 @ Bonny Eagle, Sept. 29 @ Scarborough, Oct. 14 @ Thornton Academy, Oct. 21 PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “We return a great deal of experience and will be led by a large senior class. We have great balance on offense and return four starting linemen, two tight ends, our top receiver from last year and our top running back. Jake Poole, who has the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs, takes over at quarterback. Defensively, we have a large and deep front. Our secondary has the potential to be very good. We’ve had an outstanding summer of preparation and look forward to improving each week this season. We’ll strive to become a team that gets stronger and better with the goal of playing our best football in late October and hopefully into November.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland resides in the most challenging division in the state and as a result, is flying under the radar heading into the 2017 campaign, but the Red Riots could make some strides in the weeks to come.

Poole will be under center this year. He can throw and run with equal ability. Top receiving threats include Campbell, Conti, Horton, Owen and Johnson, who led the team in receptions in 2016. On the ground, Houlette is a top returner and Stilley will see his share of carries too. South Portland’s offensive line features Albert, Ellington, Napolitano and Seigars. Johnson will do the punting and placekicking.

The Red Riots hope to tighten things up on the defensive end and have a lot of experience on that side of the ball. The line includes Albert, Conti, Ellington and Napolitano. The linebacking corps features Campbell, Horton, Owen, Poole, Seigars and Stilley. Houlette and Johnson are top defensive backs.

The Red Riots have to contend with the likes of defending champion Bonny Eagle, this year’s favorite, Scarborough, and perennial powerhouse Thornton Academy and that’s just in their region. Other tough games loom as well, but South Portland should be able to make the playoffs for a fifth straight season. Whether or not the Red Riots can close the gap between themselves and the state’s best teams will be the question. This group will give its all every time out and with a little luck could enjoy more triumph than it did a year ago.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Bryan Hoy (11th year, 91-50-17 overall record)

2016 results: 12-4 (Lost, 1-0, to Scarborough in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Charlie Cronin (Senior), Riley Ellis (Senior), Riley Hasson (Senior), Aleks Kaurin (Junior), Cooper Mehlhorn (Junior), Jacob Milton (Junior), Anthony Perron (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 7 GORHAM, Sept. 28 FALMOUTH, Oct. 3 @ Cheverus, Oct. 10 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “We have very high expectations this year. With Riley returning in goal along with two of our backline starters from last year, we feel pretty confident that we’ll be in every game. Charlie Cronin will move back to his natural position in the midfield and we should have a very skilled and very fast attack. If we can stay healthy, we should be in line for another playoff run.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland is coming off its most successful season (in terms of victories) since 1988 and while graduation took some key contributors, the Red Riots still have enough talent to remain near the top of the Class A South field.

Hasson, a first-team league all-star a year ago, returns in goal. He produced nine shutouts, including seven straight, last season. He’ll again be one of the best keepers in the conference. Hasson will be aided defensively by Ellis and Milton. Cronin was a second-team all-star last year and will be the offensive sparkplug in the midfield. He can score his share of goals and also won’t hesitate to set up teammates. Kaurin, Mehlhorn and Perron will also be key midfielders. Senior striker Kyle Patterson, a transfer from Gorham, is a nice addition to the offense.

South Portland is in a very tough conference and there will be few easy games. As a result, the Red Riots will have a hard time matching last year’s win total, but this team is most concerned about its play in the postseason. If South Portland saves its best for last, it will be one of the last teams standing.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Jeff Selser (fourth year, 11-28-3 overall record)

2016 record: 4-9-1 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Sophie Chase (Senior), Margaret Clay (Senior), Madi Cyr (Senior), Paige Fleming (Senior), Meghan Graff (Senior), Juliana Selser (Senior), Hannah Yesse (Senior), Julia Banks (Junior), Bela Cloutier (Junior), Jena Leckie (Junior), Grace Steady (Junior), Brooklynn Ortiz (Sophomore), Hattie Tetzlaff (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 2 @ Windham, Sept. 8 @ Cheverus, Sept. 23 @ Portland, Sept. 30 @ Falmouth, Oct. 17 DEERING

Coach’s comment: “Our expectation is to make playoffs and our hope is to advance quite deep. Last year was a bit disappointing because we did everything right but still lost a lot of close games. This year, we’re looking for the breaks to fall our way. There are a lot of strong veterans returning and we have a lot of excellent freshmen pushing the upperclassmen to perform. That makes the entire program stronger. The team is focused and energized for a breakout season.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has missed the playoffs four years running, but the Red Riots were very competitive last fall, even if that didn’t result in many victories. This time around, South Portland is poised to post a winning record and to return to the postseason.

Selser is a top returner. She made the SMAA second-team as a junior after scoring eight goals and adding five assists.. Selser has led the Red Riots in assists for three straight years and will again pace the offense. Several other players also return to help create offense. Graff (3 goals, 2 assists), Banks (2 goals), Chase (2 goals), Cyr, Fleming, Ortiz and Tetlaff, along with freshmen Mackenzie Farnham, Evelyn Selser and Koto Yamada will also be in the scoring mix. Defensively, South Portland will rely on Clay, Cloutier, Leckie, Steady, Yesse and senior Kaya Backman, who returns from a broken arm. Seniors Lauren Elsemore and Maddie Plummer will also be heard from. Sophomore Maria Buck will be in goal. She was the junior varsity keeper as a freshman and is primed to make the jump.

South Portland has the ability to take the next step, it just needs some confidence. The Red Riots have been competitive the past few seasons, they just need a statement victory and from there, the sky could be the limit. If you’re looking for a team to make a quantum leap this autumn, South Portland could be it and a memorable run could be the end result.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Leslie Dyer (seventh year, 22-62-2 overall record)

2016 record: 6-9 (Lost, 3-0, to Cheverus in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Abby Darling (Senior), Bonge Lako (Senior), Kiley Callow (Junior), Sydney Sherburne (Junior), Kayle Whitten (Junior), Maddie Drolet (Sophomore), Lydia Grant (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Aug. 30 @ Scarborough, Sept. 13 @ Cheverus, Sept. 29 FALMOUTH, Oct. 9 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “We’re looking good. The girls worked hard in the offseason. This is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been coaching. We’re united and hungry and we move the ball fast. I expect we’ll have a winning record. I think it’ll be our statement year. We don’t want to settle for just making a prelim.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: There is plenty of optimism around the South Portland program this fall and for good reason. After making the playoffs last fall, the Red Riots return a key player and could be in line to make a big jump.

The departure of last year’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, Lydia Henderson, will be felt, but South Portland’s offense will get a major boost as Lako makes a dramatic return after being sidelined for the 2016 season. She’ll be an offensive force who will get help from Callow, Grant and Sherburne. Darling and Whitten are top defenders. Drolet returns in goal. Junior Abby Jellison will also see time in the cage.

South Portland won’t have many easy games, but in a season devoid of a clear favorite, it has a chance to contend against virtually every team it faces. The Red Riots want to take the next step and won’t be content just making the playoffs. It’s been seven years since South Portland has posted a winning record or reached the quarterfinals. This year’s team could go even deeper into the postseason if all goes well.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Nicole Kane (third year, 11-18 overall record)

2016 record: 5-10 (Lost, 3-0, to Biddeford in Class A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Molly Mawhinney (Senior), Kaleisha Towle (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 5 @ Gorham, Sept. 7 YARMOUTH, Sept. 12 @ Deering, Sept. 14 @ Falmouth, Sept. 19 CHEVERUS, Sept. 28 @ Portland, Oct. 3 BIDDEFORD, Oct. 17 SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “We’re hoping to ride the momentum of our first playoff appearance into this season. We had a record number of girls try out and we have a lot of versatile players giving us the opportunity to play a different lineup each match. Our veterans will provide a solid core to expand and grow from. I think we’ll be more competitive than in years past. The girls have worked hard and I’m excited to see what’s in store.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland made history a year ago, making the playoffs, and this fall, the Red Riots look to post a winning record and enjoy an even longer postseason stay.

Mawhinney is a top returner. She was a second-team league all-star in 2016. She led South Portland in kills and aces last season and will pace this year’s squad from her outside hitter spot. Towle was an honorable mention all-star last autumn. She’s a top blocker and was second in kills. She’ll be a force at the net as well. Sophomores Ashlee Aceto and Kelsey Shallow and freshman Maria Degifico are top newcomers.

This program keeps getting better. With several top programs leaving Class A for Class B due to realignment, the Red Riots have the potential to move up both in the regular season and in the playoffs. South Portland is on the rise and its present and future are bright.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coaches:
(Boys) Dave Kahill (sixth year)
(Girls) Karen Reardon (15th year)

2016 results:
(Boys) 15th @ Class A state meet
(Girls) DNQ for Class A state meet (14th @ regionals)

Top returners:
(Boys) Zach Dyer (Senior), Josh Hyssong (Senior), Lionel Whitehead (Senior), Santana Garcia (Junior), Sam Norberg (Junior), Cliff Robbins-Sennewald (Junior), Liam Piper (Sophomore)
(Girls) Madison Smith (Senior), Grace Caselden (Sophomore)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “After losing seven of our top eight runners, we have a great challenge for the season. We’ll be looking to improve the roster in order to be in the top half of the SMAA and qualify for the state meet. Many of the guys enter the year with excellent preparation and improvement.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “We’re in a major rebuilding year with only two returning runners. The immediate goal was to create a team to start the season and we’ve done that. Now we’re looking to continue to add to that group and develop the talents of the runners we have. We’ll have some struggles along the way to start with some of the more experienced teams, but I expect this group will make a lot of strides forward throughout the season.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both South Portland teams are in a building mode this autumn, but have plenty of upside.

The boys will reload behind seniors Dyer, Hyssong and Whitehead. Garcia, Norberg and Robbins-Sennewald area also experienced and Piper, along with new sophomore Ethan McCarthy and freshmen Nic Borelli and T.J. Vose, hope to play key roles in helping the Red Riots build a pack and contend. South Portland has qualified for states in seven of the past eight years and while it will be an uphill climb this time around, look for the Red Riots to improve steadily.

On the girls’ side, South Portland missed the state meet last season for the first time since 2008 and while getting back will be a challenge, this year’s team has a bright future. Smith, a captain, should be a part of the top seven and Caselden has also shown improvement. Freshman Rachel Kingsley might be the team’s top talent. Freshman Marina Brandao is another promising runner. Senior Liv Sivik, junior Alex Rowell and sophomores Chloe Pascale and Eva Rowell are other newcomers to watch. The Red Riots have a lot of tough teams standing in their way, but they’ll get better as the season goes on and have a chance to qualify for states if they come of age.

GOLF

Coach: Tom Hyland (sixth year)

2016 results: 2-8 (DNQ for Class A state match)

Top returners: Connor Buckley (Senior), Noah McHugh (Senior), Daniel Mickiewicz (Senior), Aidan Schifano (Senior)

Coach’s comment: “I have high hopes for the season. My seniors got excellent experience last year. My top four have made steady progress and we have three young players who are keen students of the game and will fill in the lineup quite well. This is our year to make some noise in a very tough conference and we’re all ready for the challenge.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Optimism is high for the Red Riots this season, even though they reside in the same division as potential powerhouses Cheverus, Falmouth, Portland and Scarborough. A nice blend of experience and youth will serve this team well and South Portland should steadily improve as the fall progresses.

Mickiewicz shot an 86 at last year’s conference qualifier. He’s a top returner who is joined by veterans Buckley (91 at qualifying) Scifano (93) and McHugh (96). Sophomores Calvin Flaherty, Noah Lewis and Andrew Varipatis round out a promising top seven.

The Red Riots will have a hard time earning wins in the regular season, but going up against some of the state’s best programs will serve them well in preparation for qualifying day. South Portland wants to get over the hump and make it to the state match. This team might just steal some headlines in October if all goes well.

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

Senior Joe Conti is a top returning two-way player for a South Portland football team looking to improve on last year’s record.

Senior Zach Johnson will be a top receiver and defensive back.

Junior Aleks Kaurin will play a key role directing the offense in the weeks to come.

Junior Cooper Mehlhorn will play a bigger role on offense this season.

Senior Juliana Selser is equally adept putting the ball in the goal or setting up teammates to do so. She hopes to lead South Portland’s girls’ soccer team to the playoffs this season.

Senior Sophie Chase should also score her share of goals this season.

Junior Bela Cloutier will be a key defender.

Junior Jena Leckie is a force in the middle of the field.

Senior Bonge Lako returns from injury and figures to score a lot of goals for a South Portland field hockey team ready to make a move up the standings.

Senior Maddie Drolet will see time again in goal this season.

Junior Kaylee Whitten will help out on the defensive end.

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