South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

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Junior Hunter Owen and his South Portland baseball teammates have high hopes as the 2019 season begins.

File photos.

More photos below.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Owens (ninth year, 96-48 overall record)

2018 record: 14-3 (Lost, 4-2, to Falmouth in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Caden Horton (Senior), Dillan Bolduc (Junior), Noah Lewis (Junior), Hunter Owen (Junior), Anthony Perron (Junior), Anthony Poole (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 FALMOUTH, April 25 @ Windham, May 2 @ Scarborough, May 9 TA, May 11 PORTLAND, May 18 @ Deering, May 23 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We lost our whole infield and an outfielder. We have to replace six starters, but we do have some talent coming back. We have two of the top pitchers in the league and that will keep us in games. We can hit and we have speed. There are a lot of good teams this year. I expect nerves early, but this is as talented and deep a group as I’ve ever had here. We’ll define our roles and want to peak going into the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland had a fabulous season a year ago, but the ending was painful, as the top-ranked Red Riots were upset by No. 9 Falmouth in the Class A South quarterfinals. Several key contributors graduated, but this year’s team is once again on the short list of title contenders.

Owen was a first-team SMAA all-star last season and is considered one of the top pitchers in the state. He’ll be the ace again and he can hit as well, ranking second on the team a year ago. Owen plays first base or rightfield when he isn’t on the mound. Other hurlers to watch include Lewis and juniors Garen Kelley and Gus Lappin. Horton returns as the catcher. He’s a veteran who can handle the bat as well. Lewis (when he doesn’t pitch), Garik Bialorucki and Poole will play key roles in the middle of the infield. Bolduc and Perron are top outfielders. This team should be solid in all aspects.

South Portland has unfinished business. The league boasts several strong teams and the schedule will be challenging, but the Red Riots should post a winning record for the sixth straight season and will be poised for postseason success when all is said and done.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Ralph Aceto (eighth year, 104-26 overall record, one state championship)

2018 record: 8-9 (Lost, 2-0, to Portland in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Meghan Livingston (Senior), Grace Rende (Senior), Sydney Sherburne (Senior), Kaylee Whitten (Senior), Maria Buck (Junior), Julia Connors (Sophomore), Chloe Grant (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 3 @ Massabesic, May 8 @ Portland, May 10 NOBLE, May 13 @ Scarborough, May 17 TA

Coach’s comment: “I have some fearless freshmen who will turn this program back around to where we were. They come to play. I think we’ll be better than last year. I’m hoping to be in the middle tier. It would be great to jump into the top four.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland began its climb back to its accustomed perch last season as Aceto returned as coach. This spring, the Red Riots have some key returners and they’re bolstered by the arrival of several promising freshmen.

Connors returns on the mound. Freshman Mia Micucci will see innings as well. Ashlee Aceto isn’t catching this year (choosing to focus on volleyball and basketball). Sophomore Sam Hellier and freshmen Elise Connor and Elise Perron were vying for that spot at press time. The infield features Sherburne at first base, Grant (an honorable mention all-star a year ago) at second, Whitten at shortstop and Livingston at third. Rende (a first-team SMAA all-star in 2018) anchors the outfield and projects to be the team’s top hitter. Buck and senior Courtney Luce join her. Freshman Hylah Owen will see action on the infield.

South Portland will be vastly improved between now and June and the Red Riots’ growth will be fun to watch. Look for an improved record, a higher playoff seed and quite possibly, a longer postseason stay.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Tom Fiorini (12th year, 99-53 overall record, one state championship)

2018 record: 8-6 (Lost, 13-4, to eventual champion Thornton Academy in Class A South semifinals)

Top returning players: Josh Doan (Senior), Eli Falconer (Senior), David Fiorini (Senior), Ryan Loring (Senior), Cooper Mehlhorn (Senior), Shippen Savidge (Senior), Quinn Watson (Senior)

Pivotal games: April 26 @ Brunswick, May 3 YARMOUTH, May 8 FALMOUTH, May 18 CAPE ELIZABETH, May 22 @ Thornton Academy, May 29 SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “We’re looking sharp. Almost everybody is back. We’re a senior-laden team. I feel pretty confident we can hold our own in our region. At the end of the day, we have to get past TA. We’ll go as far as our seniors can take us.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After its 10th straight playoff trip and sixth consecutive trip to the semifinals, South Portland is looking to win it all this spring and while the Red Riots are in a very difficult region, the sky is the limit. South Portland had no trouble with Deering in its opener, winning, 17-1, to give Fiorini his 100th victory with the program.

Fiorini and Mehlhorn will be the engine that drives this potent offense. Fiorini, who will play at U. Mass-Lowell, and Mehlhorn, South Portland’s reigning Spring Male Athlete of the Year, were both all-stars in 2018. Mehlhorn (seven goals in the opener) can light it up from his attack position, while Fiorini (three goals versus Deering) will be in the midfield. Senior Logan Doucette and junior Alex Stevens (three goals on Opening Night) will also score their share of goals. Doan is the faceoff specialist and also plays defense. That unit, which also includes Falconer, Loring and Savidge (an all-star last season) could be strong for the Red Riots. Watson is back in goal after an all-star campaign.

South Portland has to contend with the likes of defending champion Thornton Academy and perennial powers Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Scarborough to get where it wants to go. The goals will come. If the defense can come up big against top foes, the Red Riots are capable of stealing headlines.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Leslie Dyer (fifth year, 27-27 overall record)

2018 record: 6-8 (Lost, 16-6, to Kennebunk in Class A South semifinals)

Top returning players: Jena Leckie (Senior), Molly Walker (Senior), Savannah Dunbar (Junior), Maya Ellington (Junior), Mackenzie Farnham (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 30 @ Portland, May 8 @ Massabesic, May 21 @ Kennebunk, May 28 @ Windham, May 30 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “It’s a solid team. Our entire defense is new. We have a lot of individual talent. We haven’t had an opportunity to put everything together. When we finally come together, I think we’ll produce great things. Like every year, we want to make the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland had another solid season a year ago, reaching the semifinals for the second time in three years. The Red Riots should be very competitive again this spring in a deep Class A South and they started fast Thursday with a 17-6 victory over Deering.

Leckie was a second-team all-star in 2018 and will be a top offensive threat, seeing time in the midfield and on attack. She scored five times in the opener. Walker (four goals versus Deering) will play a similar role. Farnham moves up from defense to play in the midfield and Dunbar adds depth at that position. Freshman Zoe Baker could step in and do some scoring. On defense, junior Izzy Penny and sophomore Emma Darling will hold the fort in front of Ellington, who returns in goal. Sophomore Katie Conley will also see time between the pipes.

South Portland has some holes to fill and possibly some growing pains to suffer through, but this is a squad that will steadily improve and will be in line for another playoff run come June.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (12th year)

(Girls) Karen Reardon (eighth year)

2018 results:

(Boys) 16th @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) 12th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Joseph Emery (Senior), Santana Garcia (Senior), T.J. Nakummun (Senior), Clifford Robbins-Sennewald (Senior), Ben Sivik (Senior), Jack Dresser (Junior), Drew Lewis (Junior), Ethan McCarthy (Junior), Oscar Sullivan (Junior), Nic Borelli (Sophomore), Jacob Costin (Sophomore), T.J. Vose (Sophomore), Paul Zechman (Sophomore)

(Girls) Rhode Niangasa-Phambu (Senior), Izzy Chase (Junior), Mary DiSanto (Junior), Anna Folley (Junior), Jordyn Hulsey (Junior), Rebekah Hunnewell-Dunphe (Junior), Kaleisha Towle (Junior), Marina Brandao (Sophomore), Tianna Greaves (Sophomore), Simon Ickia-Ngallo (Sophomore), Rachel Kingsley (Sophomore), Fiona Stawarz (Sophomore)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “We have a large team of about 50 athletes with wonderful enthusiasm and work ethic. We have some top performers at the league and state level. The team is well-balanced in terms of age and the returning upperclassmen are solid leaders and role models with pronounced focus and passion for track. As usual, developing depth and talent will be a key to improving throughout the season. To that end, the team has had a solid preseason and is showing great potential to improve and to potentially be in the top 5 at the SMAA championship.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “We’re still a young team, but our youth has gained a great deal of experience over the past two years. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do this spring. We have a good group of girls, talented, hard working and great to be around. I expect us to be very competitive throughout the season. We have some strong throwers, good hurdlers, our sprints are getting stronger, as are our jumps, and we can also score in the racewalk. The middle distance group will be very competitive as well and we hope to get that group deeper as the season progresses. We are fairly well balanced and will pick up a lot of points in a number of events throughout the season. Last year, our sophomores and freshmen were very competitive, so it will be exciting to see where they can go this year. ”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland is loaded this spring with strong athletes of both genders.

The boys’ squad returns Emery, a captain, who was third in the 300 hurdles at last year’s state meet and figures to be a top hurdler in the league this spring, and Robbins-Sennewald, who placed third in the racewalk last season and has enjoyed an impressive school year. Robbins-Sennewald will compete in the racewalk and run the two-mile. Costin and freshman Eben Drolet also do the racewalk and distance races. Garcia and Zechman run distance. Sullivan is a racewalker, who hurdles and runs middle-distance. Borelli is another middle-distance runner, who also competes in the hurdles. Freshman Jacob Ramos will be heard from the middle-distance races. Lewis and McCarthy (who also sprints) join Emery in the hurdles. Vose is a hurdler and distance threat. Dresser, Sivik and freshmen Miguel Anselmo and Alex Kellough will compete in the sprints. On the field side, Garcia, Nakummun and Ramos hope to score in the pole vault. Jumpers to watch include Anselmo, Borelli, Dresser, Emery, McCarthy and Nakummun. Freshman Amir Broadus and junior Nate Ellington will compete in the throws. The pieces are in place for South Portland to have a strong regular season and post a higher finish at states.

On the girls’ side, Folley is the top returning scorer. She was second in the 800 at states a year ago and hopes to move up. She’s joined in the longer races by Kingsley and freshmen Julianne Coyne, Autumn Gervais and Eva Tierney-Trevor. Brandao hopes to score in the racewalk. Towle (fifth in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles a year ago) will lead the hurdlers. Hulsey and Katie Nakummun join her as potential scorers. The sprinting contingent is promising and features Chase, Greaves, Ickia-Ngallo and Towle, along with sophomore Traci Francis, who impressed indoors, and freshmen Geneva Holmes and Margarita Kissaca. On the field side, Hunnewell-Dunphe (South Portland’s Winter Female Athlete of the Year) is coming off a third-place showing outdoors in the shot put and she’ll make a run at the top spot this spring. DiSanto (seventh in the discus last season), Brandao, Greaves, Holmes, Nakummun, Niangasa-Phambu and Stawarz are other top throwers. Jumpers to watch include Chase, Coyne, Greaves, Hulsey, Ickia-Ngallo, Kissaca, Tierney-Trevor and Towle. Holmes and Nakummun hope to score in the pole vault. There’s plenty of promise on this roster and the Red Riots could be poised to move into the top 10 at states this time around.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (11th year)

2018 results: 4-9 (Lost, 4-1, to Deering in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Michael Feely (Senior), Max Safer Meng (Senior), Elliot Cronin (Junior), Ian McCutcheon (Junior),

Coach’s comment: “After a rough year last year with only seven players total, we have rebounded this year with some new blood and talent. Our outlook is good as we will be solid and competitive 1 through 7 and our goal is clearly set on the playoffs. Our league is tough but this year, we will be back in the mix. The boys are excited and we approach each day with a positive attitude and good work ethic. Bring on the matches.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland is poised to move up the ladder this season as the roster features many good returning players, bolstered by the arrival of some promising newcomers.

Feely is a definite at singles. Senior Dylan House joins the team and will likely play singles as well. McCutchen and senior Alecks Kaurin (the soccer standout who is new to the team) were battling for the other spot at press time. Cronin and Meng will play doubles and junior Cade Carr, who is new to the squad, will also play doubles.

The Red Riots hope to not just make the playoffs this year, but to post a winning record and make a postseason run. Don’t bet against them.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (20th year)

2018 results: 4-9 (Lost, 5-0, to Portland in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Abby Trieu (Senior), Zoe Collins (Sophomore), Lucy Hartley (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “Every season, we look to improve our skills, sharpen our strategy and come together as a team. It’s hard to predict the outcome of matches, but this feels like a building year. Personnel-wise, this is an exceptionally cohesive group. They support each other’s successes and help each other improve. They work hard and have fun in practices. This team, JV and varsity combined, is a fantastic group.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Red Riots have been a model of consistency under Scifres, reaching the playoffs in all of her years at the helm. South Portland has some question marks as a new season dawns, but don’t be surprised if the Red Riots get back to the postseason again when all is said and done.

Trieu has experience and will lead the way. Collins and Hartley were a dynamic doubles tandem last season and will be formidable again, whether they play together or in other spots. Other girls will have a chance to step in and make their mark as the season progresses.

South Portland will hold its own this spring and position itself for even more success in the years to come.

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

Junior Noah Lewis is another top pitcher for the South Portland baseball team.

Junior Anthony Perron will be a top outfielder for the Red Riots.

Senior Grace Rende will do a little of everything for South Portland’s softball team, which could be a darkhorse this season.

Senior Meghan Livingston is a veteran on the infield.

Senior Kaylee Whitten is back at shortstop for the Red Riots.

Senior Cooper Mehlhorn will score plenty of goals this season for a South Portland boys’ lacrosse team that should be among the best in Class A South.

Senior David Fiorini figures to score a lot of goals as well before taking his talent to U. Mass-Lowell.

Senior Josh Doan is the Red Riots’ faceoff specialist.

Senior Quinn Watson is back for another year in goal for the Red Riots.

Senior Jena Leckie will make life miserable for the opposition this season as she hopes to lead South Portland’s girls’ lacrosse team to another strong campaign.

Senior Molly Walker is another key returner for the Red Riots.

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