Yarmouth Clippers Fall Sports Preview

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Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team had no peer a year ago and got to celebrate a long-awaited Class B state championship. The Clippers have some new faces this time around but still have what it takes to capture another Gold Ball.

File photos.

More photos below.

FOOTBALL

Coach: Jason Veilleux (fourth year, 20-11 overall record)

2016 results: 3-6 (Lost, 56-12, to eventual state champion Wells in Class C South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Ben Gleason (Senior), Hunter Harrington (Senior), Jack True (Senior), Henry Venden (Senior), Noah Eckersley-Ray (Junior), Liam Harke (Junior), Caden Middleton (Junior), Jack Ricciardi (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 1 @ Cape Elizabeth, Sept. 15 MORSE, Sept. 29 LEAVITT, Oct. 6 WELLS, Oct. 20 FREEPORT

Coach’s comment: “We return nine on offense and 10 on defense, so we’re starting in better shape than last year. We have good numbers. More than what we’ve been used to. We have big junior and freshman classes. We have a little more depth. We had a great offseason, working hard in the weight room. The chemistry and enthusiasm have been outstanding. We have talent, but we have to block and tackle. We’ll be among a bunch of teams fighting for a playoff spot.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth closed the 2016 season with six straight losses, but did make the playoffs for the eighth straight year. While the loss of quarterback John Thoma and all-star Remi Leblanc to graduation hurts, the Clippers return a lot of talent and are excited about the season ahead.

Eckersley-Ray will step in under center and lead the offense. Eckersley-Ray, who is a team captain, can run and pass effectively. Gleason, Harke, Ricciardi and Venden (another captain) will get an opportunity to carry the ball. Through the air, Eckersley-Ray can look for Middleton (who has been limited by a foot injury in the preseason), freshman AJ Michalski and True, the tight end, who is working his way back from a collarbone injury. Harrington, a captain, is the top returning lineman. Yarmouth could be tough to stop.

On the defensive end, Harrington and True will anchor the line. Ricciardi is a linebacker of note. Eckersley-Ray and Venden will wreak havoc in the backfield.

The Clippers have a tough opener at Cape Elizabeth and there will be other challenges as the season progresses, but look for Yarmouth to rediscover its winning ways and steadily improve over the course of the year. The Clippers have the potential to keep their postseason streak alive and to be much more competitive in late October and even November.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Mike Hagerty (21st year, 244-56-38 overall record, eight state championships)

2016 results: 15-2-1 (Beat Winslow, 5-2, to win third straight Class B state title)

Top returning players: Max Coury (Senior), Tahj Garvey (Senior), Luke Groothoff (Senior), Cal Owen (Senior), Luke Waeldner (Senior), Eric LaBrie (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 5 @ Greely, Sept. 12 @ York, Sept. 16 GREELY, Sept. 22 CAPE ELIZABETH, Sept. 26 YORK, Oct. 14 @ Cape Elizabeth

Coach’s comment: “At this point, we’re so much better than at any point last year. We’ve had super positive chemistry since day one. It’s one of the fastest teams we’ve had. We have a lot of depth and it’s a smart group. This could be one of our best offensive teams. We still have to figure out a few things on defense. We look forward to being the favorite.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Golden Age of Yarmouth boys’ soccer continued last fall as the Clippers stumbled just twice (both times to rival Falmouth in the teams’ final countable meetings for the foreseeable future), survived a mighty scare from Greely in the semifinals and captured a program-first third successive Gold Ball. While nothing is guaranteed, a fourth consecutive crown is there for the taking as the Clippers are oozing with talent.

Groothoff is the state’s best player in Hagerty’s estimation. Groothoff turned down the opportunity to play at several top schools to join his brother Jon, YHS Class of 2016, at Messiah College next year. First, he’ll look to go three-for-three in championships in his time in a Yarmouth uniform. Groothoff, an all-New England selection last year, will make the midfield his playground and his vision and skill will lead to goals not just for him but for many teammates. Coury will benefit from Groothoff’s presence and make Groothoff better in the process. He’ll produce his share of offense too. The team’s most prolific scorer a year ago was LaBrie, who scored 15 times on just 38 shots, a percentage that would be impressive in basketball, not to mention soccer. LaBrie, a league all-star in 2016, is a matchup nightmare with his speed and tenacity. If that’s not enough to give opposing coaches nightmares, Garvey (the track standout) and Waeldner (last seen leading the Clippers to an improbable baseball title in June) will be tough to stop on the wings. Junior midfielder Jack Jones and sophomores Gavin Hamm (who stands 6-foot-2) and Liam Ireland round out what could be an unstoppable offense. Yarmouth has plenty of talent on the defensive end too. Seniors Silas Chappell, Eric Loomis and Bennett Wheaton, junior Jonny Torres and sophomores Jon D’Appolonia and Aidan Hickey will all be charged with limiting shots on Owen, who is back in goal.

Yarmouth is a clear favorite to win it again, but the Clippers only have to look back at last year’s semifinal to know that on any given day, a season can be pushed to the brink. Only Scarborough in the 1970s and Falmouth early this century have won four consecutive big school championships. Yarmouth is ready to join them and fulfill its destiny. Sit back and enjoy this squad. The Clippers will play soccer at an incredibly high level. It’s probable this ride won’t end until another celebration is unleashed.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Chris Coleman (first year)

2016 results: 16-1-1 (Beat Waterville, 3-1, to win Class B state title)

Top returning players: Hannah Corey (Senior), Sara D’Appolonia (Senior), Sophia Harpool (Senior), Meredith Lane (Senior), Eva Then (Senior), Olivia Feeley (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 5 @ Greely, Sept. 13 YORK, Sept. 16 GREELY, Sept. 22 CAPE ELIZABETH, Sept. 26 @ York, Oct. 14 @ Cape Elizabeth

Coach’s comment: “This is a great program. It’s been an easy transition for me. We graduated five starters, so we have some big holes to fill, but many quality players who work hard have returned. A lot of teams want to beat us. We’re a new team this year and we’ll have to take it game by game. We want to get back to the state championship.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After a dozen years of close calls, the Clippers broke through with a vengeance and won an elusive Class B state title in dazzling fashion last fall. This year’s team has the pieces in place to produce a first-ever program repeat, but there are some new faces in new places and some spots to fill. Coleman replaces Josh Thornton as coach. Coleman is from Liverpool, England and played professionally overseas. He’s coached in several places in the United States and spent the past several years with the Global Premier Soccer club squad. He’s excited about taking over a team primed for more greatness.

The Clippers will be paced by the nonpareil talents of D’Appolonia, who has starred since her freshman year. D’Appolonia, Maine’s Gatorade Player of the Year last season, is bound for the University of Delaware, but before becoming a Blue Hen, she’ll look to help produce another Gold Ball. D’Appoloia, a captain, is back in the midfield, where she can set up her teammates with her terrific vision, or take advantage of opportunities to bury shots. Then will also be a top scoring threat up top. She’s joined by sophomores Hannah Dwyer and Adriana Whitlock and freshman Parker Harnett, who could quickly become a breakout star. Joining D’Appolonia in the midfield will be sophomores Ashlyn Feeley, Audrey Goessling and Abi Hinks. Olivia Feeley is playing center back and will be a force all over the field. She has a fine finishing touch as well. Corey, a captain, and Harpool are anchors on defense. They’ll be joined by sophomore Ella Caruso and freshman Lily Davis in front of Lane, who is back in goal.

Yarmouth will certainly be tested by the likes of Cape Elizabeth, Greely and York, but if the hunger remains and this group can remain healthy, it’s clear that the road to gold will have to go through the Clippers. Again.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Amy Ashley (second year)

2016 results: 12-5 (Lost, 2-1, to eventual champion York in Class B South Final)

Top returning players: Maggie Gunville (Senior), Emilie Martin (Senior), Sophie McGrath (Senior), Cate Ralph (Senior), Kirsten Thomas (Senior), Anna Wiebus (Senior)

Pivotal games: Aug. 31 POLAND, Sept. 6 @ York, Sept. 16 @ Greely, Sept. 22 @ NYA, Sept. 26 @ Freeport, Oct. 2 YORK, Oct. 10 @ Poland

Coach’s comment: “We’ll have a different look after we graduated so many talented seniors, but we still have a solid core returning. We’ll be athletic, so my hope is to play really hard and fast this year. Our focus has on getting everyone to play tight and tough defense. Our schedule is tough right out of the gate. There will be moments of greatness followed by moments of clear inexperience, but my hope is to be playing our best field hockey come postseason. I believe the team you see in August will be a very different team in mid-October”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth is coming off its best season in nearly two decades and the Clippers came as close as anyone to solving York in the playoffs before falling just short in the regional final. Graduation took an abundance of talent, including league all-stars Ally McLeod, Abby McDowell, Nicole McDowell and Taylor Robison, but this program has reloaded and should be a top Class B South contender once again. Yarmouth will be bolstered this year by the addition of assistant coach Kristy Bernatchez, who played at Messalonskee and at the University of North Carolina.

This fall, the Clippers’ offense will be paced by Gunville, Martin and McGrath. Junior Lydia Guay projects to step right in and be a factor in the scoring area as well. Ralph moves from goalie to the midfield. She’s joined by junior Kyaira Grondin and sophomore Tessa Piker. Thomas and Wiebus will anchor the defense. Junior Cayte Tillotson is new in goal.

Yarmouth has to face two of the region’s best teams, Poland and York, right out of the gate, which will be a tough task with so many new faces, but by the time the Clippers meet those squads again, in October, they’ll be far more equipped to hold their own. Ashley always gets the most out of her players. She’ll bring this team along nicely. By the end of the season, Yarmouth will be dangerous. So much so that no one will want to see the Clippers once the postseason begins.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Jim Senecal (11th year, 104-53 overall record, three state championships)

2016 results: 12-5 (Lost, 3-1, to Scarborough in Class A semifinal)

Top returning players: Skylar Bennett (Junior), Marie Leblanc (Junior), Ceanne Lyon (Junior), Dominique Moran (Junior)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 12 GREELY, Sept. 14 @ Cape Elizabeth, Sept. 21 FALMOUTH, Sept. 26 @ NYA, Oct. 6 @ MDI

Coach’s comment: “We lost our entire defense and two of the top players in the state. It looks like we may be starting at least three freshmen and possibly more, but we go into the season confident we can still compete with the top teams in the league. This is a much taller and more balanced team than we had last year. The key to our success will be in improving our ability to keep teams off-balance with our serve and improving our passing game. If we can accomplish those things, we could be a contender. Like most young teams, we’ll take our lumps early, but I’m feeling good about our chances to be there at the end.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: It’s back to the future for the Clippers, who won Class B in 2011, 2013 and 2014 before competing well in Class A the past two seasons. This fall, with volleyball going to three classes, Yarmouth is back in Class B, but finds itself alongside defending Class A champion Greely and perennial powerhouses Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth. That kind of competition is daunting when you’re reloading, but by season’s end, the Clippers could be very formidable.

Yarmouth has some big holes to fill after the departure of all-stars and standouts Rachel Chillé and Alison Clark, as well as the loss of Andrea St. Pierre and Sydney St. Pierre. This season, look for the offense to start with Moran, who led the league in assists in 2016 with 304. She knows just where to deliver the ball for it to be sent over the net with optimal force. Lyon came along nicely as a middle hitter last season and is primed to be an even bigger factor this autumn. Leblanc was a middle hitter a year ago and will move to opposite this season. The offense will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen outside hitters Kaitlyn Bennett and Maggie Murray and freshman middle hitter Evelyn Lukis. Bennett is the top returning defender, who will help fill holes in the back row.

While the learning curve will be steep and the schedule daunting, this program has the talent and pride necessary to remain one of the state’s best teams. The Clippers have posted a winning record six straight seasons. A seventh wouldn’t be a surprise. Neither would another deep postseason foray.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coach: John Rogers (first year)

2016 results:
(Boys) 4th @ Class B state meet
(Girls) 2nd @ Class B state meet

Top returners:
(Boys) Luke Laverdiere (Senior), Sammy Potter (Senior), Ben Cox-Faxon (Junior), Emmitt Herr (Junior), James Hook (Junior), Justin Pietropaoli (Junior), Zachary Rapone (Junior), Odeh Rizkalleh (Sophomore)
(Girls) Eliza Crowley (Senior), Greta Elder (Senior), Anneka Murrin (Senior), Alex Auger (Sophomore), Sadie Cowles (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “The boys’ team returns five of its top seven and has depth. Luke and Sammy give us leadership and top five finish potential, but we’ll need some underclassmen to step up. Our goal is to be in the hunt for a Class B state title. The girls return four runners from last year’s runner-up team and add quality depth. Our goal is to compete for a title. It will be critical that we stay healthy, be consistent and develop the newcomers.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth’s cross country program remains formidable and a new era begins this fall as longtime coach Bob Morse has retired and is being replaced by Rogers, an assistant for the Clippers for six years, who also is the head track coach. He has a pair of squads hungry to make a run at the top of Class B.

The boys are coming off their best state meet showing since 1998 and they aren’t satisfied. Laverdiere looks to cap his superb high school career by repeating as Class B individual champion. Potter (seventh) is another standout. Cox-Faxon (27th) and Rizkallah (31st) also scored  at last season’s state meet. Herr, Hook, Pietropaoli and Rapone look to step into bigger roles. This is a solid nucleus. While Yarmouth will have its hands full in the league and at the end of the season, a third consecutive top five state meet finish is a distinct possibility.

The girls weren’t able to repeat as Class B champs a year ago, coming in second behind Greely, but the Clippers could return to the pinnacle this fall if all goes well. The loss of reigning Class B champion Abigail Hamilton to graduation hurts, but Murrin (fifth last year) and Elder (30th) will lead the way. Senior Sophia Laukli is back with the team and provides depth. Crowley, Auger and Cowles all look to make a mark. Juniors Aisling Kenny, Olivia Robichaud, Clair Scott and Abi Thornton provide much needed depth. This group will only get better as the season progresses and with Greely now in Class A for the postseason, the door is open for more hardware. Don’t be surprised a title comes to fruition.

GOLF

Coach: Brad Youngs (first year)

2016 results: 10-1 (4th @ Class B state match)

Top returners: Mac Leahy (Senior), Ethan Haag (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “Eight of our top 10 from last season graduated, so this season will be about getting new players involved in a competitive environment to hopefully return to states.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth has been very successful in recent years and despite graduation losses, will be heard from again. The program welcomes a new coach this fall in Youngs, a teaching professional at Toddy Brook, a PGA assistant professional and the Clippers junior varsity coach for a couple of seasons.

This year’s squad will be led by Leahy and Haag, who both qualified for states in 2016. Haag, a league all-star last year, shot a team-best 79 at the Class B state match and a 91 at the individual championships. He’ll be in store for another big year. Leahy shot an 86 at the team match and hopes to qualify as an individual.

Yarmouth will need some other players to step up as the season progresses, but the Clippers should again be one of the better teams in the conference. If this group can save its best for last and qualify, it will go down as a very successful campaign.

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

Junior Noah Eckersley-Ray will be Yarmouth’s quarterback this season. The Clippers football team is a playoff regular and will be in contention again this fall.

Senior Jack True, once he’s fully healthy, will be a top player on both sides of the ball for the Clippers.

Senior captain Henry Venden will be one of Yarmouth’s top ball carriers.

Senior Luke Groothoff is widely recognized as the state’s best boys’ soccer player. He hopes to graduate knowing nothing but championship celebrations.

Senior Tahj Garvey is another key veteran. His speed will generate offensive chances.

Junior Eric LaBrie is close to unstoppable when he gets a head of steam. Expect LaBrie to be a leading scorer for the Clippers again this season.

Aidan Hickey had a strong freshman campaign and will play an even bigger role on defense as a sophomore.

Senior Cal Owen is back in goal for the Clippers.

Junior Jonny Torres will be a key defender for the Clippers.

Senior Luke Waeldner, last seen helping Yarmouth’s baseball team to an improbable state title in June, will be another key offensive player this fall for the Clippers.

Senior Sara D’Appolonia is Maine’s reigning Gatorade girls’ soccer Player of the Year. Before she takes her talents to the University of Delaware, D’Appolonia hopes to lead Yarmouth’s girls’ soccer team to another Class B title.

Senior captain Hannah Corey will be a defensive stalwart for the Clippers.

Junior Olivia Feeley is on the brink of stardom this fall.

Senior Meredith Lane is a reliable last line of defense in goal.

Coming off a fantastic lacrosse season this spring, senior Eva Then will look to score an abundance of goals this fall on the pitch.

Senior Emilie Martin has scored some big goals in her career. This fall, she’ll play an even bigger role on a Yarmouth field hockey team seeking another long playoff run.

Senior Sophie McGrath is another scoring threat back in a Clippers uniform this fall.

Senior Ceanne Lyon will be a top hitter for Yarmouth’s perennially strong volleyball team.

Senior Dominique Moran is a top setter for the Clippers.

Senior Luke Laverdiere was the Class B boys’ cross country individual champion last fall. He looks to do it again and hopes to help Yarmouth also excel as a team.

Senior Sammy Potter is also coming off a terrific season which saw him place seventh in Class B.

Senior Anneka Murrin was fifth at last year’s Class B girls’ cross country state meet. She hopes for an even higher finish this time around and looks to lead the Clippers to the top spot as a team.

Senior Greta Elder also scored at last year’s state meet, coming in 30th. She’ll look to move up 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.