South Portland Red Riots Fall Sports Preview

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Junior Ashlee Aceto and her South Portland volleyball teammates stole headlines a year ago, making a surprise run to the Class A state match. This year, Aceto and the Red Riots are hoping for more triumph.

File photos.

More photos below.

FOOTBALL

Coach: Steve Stinson (14th year, 41-71 overall record)

2017 results: 4-5 (Lost,21-18, to Sanford in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Josh Frank (Senior), Caden Horton (Senior), Artimus Stilley (Senior), Nate Ellington (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 7 @ Massabesic, Sept. 28 @ Sanford, Oct. 5 @ Deering, Oct. 19 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “We lost a ton. We only have four seniors, but we’re off to a decent start. We need to get some experience. Our schedule is very tough. We’ll try to get better day by day. We want to show improvement from beginning to end. We’ll do everything we can to win, but a lot of what we do, we’ll build on next year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland made it five straight trips to the postseason a year ago, but a sixth won’t come easily. The Red Riots have a lot of holes to fill, but there is optimism at the dawn of a new season.

South Portland will turn to junior Anthony Poole to play quarterback. Poole has been a top receiver for the squad in the past. This year, when he’s not keeping the ball or handing it off, Poole will look to throw to Frank, Horton and junior Cole Benevides. Sophomore Luca Desjardins could also see some time under center. The running back group includes Stilley, junior Keenan Jones and junior Theo Burns, a transfer from Westbrook. Ellington returns for his third year to anchor the line. He’s joined by junior Caleb Viola. Horton, senior Michael Hammond-Daniels and junior Jordan Hansen were vying for the place-kicking position at press time. Horton will punt.

On defense, Ellington and Viola will be up front. The linebacking corps includes Horton and Stilley. Benevides, Burns, Desjardins, Frank, Jones and Poole will all see time in the secondary.

The schedule-maker certainly didn’t do this young team any favors. After opening with Bonny Eagle, the Red Riots have to face resurgent Massabesic, defending champion Scarborough, preseason favorite Thornton Academy and highly-touted Sanford. South Portland could get into the playoffs with one or two wins and if the Red Riots can do so, it would be a great way to build momentum heading into a 2019 campaign which will see South Portland much better equipped to compete.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Bryan Hoy (12th year, 104-51-18 overall record)

2017 results: 13-1-1 (Lost, 0-0, 1-4 PKs, to Thornton Academy in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Dylan Houle (Senior), Aleks Kaurin (Senior), Cooper Mehlhorn (Senior), Jacob Milton (Senior), Dillan Bolduc (Junior), Anthony Perron (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 4 TA, Sept. 6 @ Gorham, Sept. 29 @ Falmouth, Oct. 2 CHEVERUS, Oct. 9 PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “We returned a lot of talent, but our departing seniors left some fairly large roles to fill. Kyle Patterson and SMAA Offensive MVP Charlie Cronin were both toward the top in scoring last season, so finding new offensive firepower is a must. Defensively we lost our two center backs, Sean Scott and Riley Ellis, as well as goalie and SMAA Defensive MVP Riley Hasson. Our strength this year will be our midfield, where we return four of our five starters from last year. We have a lot of work to do to get back to the top of the SMAA, but we have the talent to do just that.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After years of not being appropriately appreciated for what it accomplished, South Portland stole the headlines in 2017, winning the league, going undefeated and giving Hoy, the SMAA Coach of the Year, his 100th victory with the program. Unfortunately, the good times ended prematurely with a stunning upset loss in the quarterfinals. Graduation took a mighty toll on the program and this season, the Red Riots will find themselves back in a familiar spot, where they’ll be somewhat overlooked, yet still capable of making noise.

Kaurin was a first-team all-star last autumn. As a captain this season, Kaurin will be a rock on defense and will stymie the opposition with regularity. Kaurin is joined in the back by Milton, another captain, as well as Bolduc and senior Jackson Linscott, who spent the past three years at North Yarmouth Academy. Replacing Hasson in goal will be senior Shippen Savidge, who previously served as the backup. Savidge’s size and athleticism will allow him to enjoy success. There’s a lot of goal-scoring to replace after Cronin and Patterson departed. Mehlhorn (seven goals, seven assists in 2017), the lacrosse standout, along with Perron (two goals, three assists), who is also a captain, Houle, seniors Joseph Emery and Anthony Riga and sophomore Damir Brkic will seek to fill the void. Senior midfielder Shamma Nazali, senior back/midfielder James Dufitimana and sophomore utilityman Noah Dreifus will fit into the mix as well. 

While teams like Deering, Falmouth, Gorham, Portland and Scarborough are receiving most of the preseason buzz, South Portland can’t be overlooked. It will take some time for this team to put all the pieces together and the Red Riots won’t have the glowing record of a year ago, but if all goes well, they might be in for a happier ending.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Jeff Selser (fifth year, 19-33-6 overall record)

2017 record: 8-5-3 (Lost, 1-0, to Kennebunk in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Julia Banks (Senior), Jena Leckie (Senior), Grace Steady (Senior), Maria Buck (Junior), Mackenzie Farnham (Junior), Brooklynn Ortiz (Junior), Hattie Tetzlaff (Junior), Evelyn Selser (Sophomore), Koto Yamada (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Aug. 30 WINDHAM, Sept. 7 CHEVERUS, Sept. 12 MARSHWOOD, Sept. 18 @ Kennebunk, Sept. 22 PORTLAND, Sept. 28 FALMOUTH, Oct. 16 @ Deering

Coach’s comment: “We graduated 10 seniors, all of whom contributed on the field. Many of these were three- and four-year varsity players and starters and it will be a tall order filling their spots. However, we have the deepest program since I began coaching this team five years ago and the entire incoming freshman class is incredibly strong. With only eight varsity players returning from last year, and only three seniors, the team is young and may lack some of the varsity experience of other teams in the league, but the new players are adapting well to the pace and physicality of the varsity level and the entire team is connecting as if they have been playing together for a long time. We’re adjusting our system of play to suit the makeup of the team this year and the competition for starting spots and playing time will be fierce. The team attitude is excellent and the players are motivated and energized for a great season. Last year, we had one of the best seasons in the history of the program and we look to build on that success this year. If we can get the pieces to all fit together, that is a very real possibility.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland is coming off its best season since 2006 and while there are many key players to replace, most notably all-region selection Juliana Selser, the Red Riots believe they will pick right up where they left off and be a force to be reckoned with again.

Buck was an honorable mention league all-star last season after making 115 saves in goal. South Portland has plenty of depth at that spot, as in addition to Buck, junior Jewels Ward (19 saves in limited action in 2017) and freshman Elise Connor will also vie for time. On defense, Leckie returns as one of the league’s top center-backs. Junior Izzy Penny, sophomores Grace Thayer, Abby Trefsger and Annie von Seggern and freshman Zoe Baker provide depth at that spot. The offense will be led by Evelyn Selser (11 goals, five assists in 2017), Tetzlaff (six goals, six assists), Ortiz (three goals, three assists) and Farnham (three goals). Banks, who was hindered by injury last year, Steady and Yamada will also be heard from. Juniors Izzy Chase, Anna Folley, Jordyn Hulsey, sophomores Julia Steady, Izzy Stocks, Beth Stone-Grannell and Kate von Seggern and freshmen Julianne Coyne and Eliese Perron are all vying to see time on offense as well. 

There’s no shortage of talent on the roster. Much of it is unproven, however, and it will take awhile for the Red Riots to hit their stride. While South Portland isn’t viewed as a top contender in Class A South, any top squad would be wise to take this group seriously. If the Red Riots can get back to the playoffs, they’ll be capable of doing some damage.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Olivia Madore (first year)

2017 record: 4-10 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Molly Walker (Senior), Lydia Grant (Junior), Mary Conley (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 1 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 13 CHEVERUS, Sept. 19 @ Biddeford, Sept. 27 @ Falmouth, Oct. 1 TA, Oct. 5 PORTLAND, Oct. 9 @ Westbrook

Coach’s comment: “I have a great group of girls who have been working really hard this preseason. I look forward to seeing what this season brings and I am excited to continue to grow the program. My goal for the team this season is to make the playoffs. I believe that this team can do it if they come out ready to play every game.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland fell just short of the postseason a year ago, but could get right back in contention this season. The Red Riots welcome a new coach this fall in Madore, who was a standout player, scoring many clutch goals, at North Yarmouth Academy, before going on to play in college at the University of  New England. Madore is coaching a varsity team for the first time. She inherits a squad that should show steady improvement in the weeks to come.

Grant was a second-team all-star a year ago. She returns to anchor what should be a strong midfield, which also includes Walker and sophomores Chloe Macvane and Phoebe Sykes. Conley and sophomore Lucie Beaulieu, South Portland’s Rookie of the Year last season, will look to put the ball in the cage. At press time, senior Abbie Jellison and junior Madelynn Drolet were vying for the goalie position. 

The Red Riots aren’t being viewed as a top echelon team, but they have what it takes to be competitive with anyone and once this team gains some confidence, the wins will come. If it wins enough to get into the playoffs, South Portland could be a very dangerous out.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Nicole Kane (fourth year, 21-25 overall record)

2017 record: 10-7 (Lost, 3-1, to Scarborough in Class A state final)

Top returning players: Grace Rende (Senior), Katie Whitmore (Senior), Ashlee Aceto (Junior), Kaleisha Towle (Junior), Maria Degifico (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 4 @ Gorham, Sept. 6 YARMOUTH, Sept. 11 FALMOUTH, Sept. 13 @ Deering, Oct. 2 @ Biddeford, Oct. 16 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “We’re lucky enough to be returning five of our six starters, but with that being said, we have to find a way to fill the shoes of Gatorade Player of the Year Molly Mawhinney. Our girls have worked hard in the offseason and have made great improvements. Our returners have grown stronger and have really focused on improving their basic skills. We want to continue to be a playoff-contending program. I’m excited for the season to being. We’ve made our mark, so teams may now have us on the radar unlike past years.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland enjoyed a magical playoff run a year ago, one which didn’t end until the fourth set of the Class A state final when the Red Riots lost to Scarborough. While the loss of Mawhinney is huge, the cupboard isn’t bare and this year’s squad is out to prove that it wasn’t a one-hit wonder.

Towle was a second-team league all-star a year ago. She’ll be a top hitter. Aceto, an honorable mention all-star last season, is the setter. She was at her best in the biggest matches as a sophomore. Degifico, Rende and Whitmore are other hitters to watch. Keep an eye on junior Kelsey Shallow, who will also be in the mix. Freshman Pearl Friedland-Farley is a top defender. 

The past few seasons, South Portland’s opponents worried first and foremost about Mawhinney’s hitting prowess. This fall, the Red Riots will have a more balanced attack, which could make them very difficult to match up against. While South Portland (again) isn’t viewed as a top contender in Class A, don’t be surprised if the Red Riots (again) refuse to follow the script and once again embark on a memorable ride.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coaches:
(Boys) Dave Kahill (seventh year)
(Girls) Karen Reardon (16th year)

2017 results:
(Boys) DNQ for Class A state meet (17th @ regionals)
(Girls) DNQ for Class A state meet (17th @ regionals)

Top returners:
(Boys) Santana Garcia (Senior), Cliff Robbins-Sennewald (Senior), Liam Piper (Junior), Nic Borelli (Sophomore), T.J. Vose (Sophomore)
(Girls) Grace Caselden (Junior), Marina Brandao (Sophomore), Rachel Kingsley (Sophomore)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “We have a fantastic group of hard-working and positive young men this year. We return five of our top seven runners and should be competitive to get back to states this year. If the team can run cohesively as a group and improve with the better runners in the conference, it will have a successful season.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “Improvement is the quest for our team this year. Last year we only had one senior and have only one again this year. Therefore, everyone is learning to step up and do their part. We came a long way last season in learning what the sport was all about and how to compete and push the limits. Already, I can see improvement in the girls’ level of strength and fitness. We’ll look to be much more competitive each meet throughout the season. Our goal is to get our team back to the state meet, which was the case for several years in a row. ”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both South Portland cross country teams look to bounce back this fall and qualify for states.

The boys will be led by Robbins-Senewald, who was 48th at last year’s regional meet. Other scorers from that meet who return are Borelli (61st) and Vose (107th). Garcia and Piper also have experience. Junior Jack Kingsley, who ran as a freshman and played soccer last fall, returns to the team to add depth. Freshman Jacob Ramos is a promising addition. The Red Riots will look to improve throughout the regular season and be in prime condition to make noise at the regional meet. Look for this group to move up the ladder in the weeks to come.

On the girls’ side, Caselden (107th) and Kingsley (108th) both scored at regionals a year ago and look to move up. Senior Eileen Porterfield, who ran as a freshman and sophomore before going to another school as a junior, returns to add depth and leadership. Brandao, who was hindered by injury as a freshman, could make quite an impact. Freshmen Autumn Gervais and Audrey Pearson are new runners to watch. After two years of falling short, don’t be surprised if South Portland returns to the state meet and turns some heads.

GOLF

Coach: Tom Hyland (seventh year)

2017 results: 0-10 (DNQ for Class A state match)

Top returners: Calvin Flaherty (Junior), Andrew Varipatis (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “We’re young and relatively inexperienced. I have a fine group of dedicated and hard working students and we will develop and improve as the year progresses and as always, be competitive, respectful and responsible.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has some holes to fill this season and has the potential to show steady improvement.

Flaherty and Varipatis have experience. Former junior varsity players Alex Beecher, Matt Connolly, Brady Doucette and Noah Lewis and freshmen Aidan Garneau, Alex Leupold and Caitlin Rodrigue all look to factor into the rotation as well. 

The Red Riots are in a very difficult division, but regular season wins and losses don’t matter as much as what happens on qualifying day. South Portland is a longshot, but if this group develops as hoped, anything is possible. 

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

Junior Anthony Poole will play quarterback this fall for South Portland’s football team, which is coming off a playoff appearance.

Senior Caden Horton will be a force on both sides of the ball for the Red Riots.

Junior Nate Ellington will be a top defensive player for the Red Riots.

Senior Alecks Kaurin is a returning all-star who will be a captain this fall for a South Portland boys’ soccer team which is seeking to stay near the top of the Class A South standings.

Senior Dylan Houle is another key returning veteran.

Junior Anthony Perron looks to step up his offense this season.

Senior Jena Leckie is a top returner for a South Portland girls’ soccer team coming off its best season in years.

Junior Lydia Grant was a league all-star last fall. She hopes to lead South Portland’s field hockey team to the postseason.

Junior Kaleisha Towle is a reigning league all-star for the Red Riots.

Senior hitter Grace Rende has great athleticism and can make things happen at the net.

Senior Cliff Robbins-Sennewald is a top returning runner for a South Portland boys’ cross country team aiming to qualify for states.

Sophomore Nick Borelli also scored at states a year ago.

Junior Grace Caselden is a top returning runner for South Portland’s girls’ cross country team.

Sophomore Rachel Kingsley is another key returning runner this fall.

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