By Lloyd Jones
FRYEBURG — "Tougher, Faster, Smarter" — that's the mantra of the Fryeburg Academy girls basketball team this season.
With no seniors on last year's team, the Raiders return a full cast of characters from last year's playoff team, and are out to make their mark on the hardwood this winter.
Coach Sean Watson is looking forward to his season and eager to see his troops play to their potential.
"I think we may have played the most competitive preseason schedule in the state," he said. "We played all Class AA teams that are all playoff contenders and three might be legitimate State Class AA championship contenders. We lost to South Portland by three, beat Portland by 15, lost to Catherine McAuley by six and got blown out by Cheverus.
"It has been a really good preseason," Watson continued. "We have been dealing with a lot of sickness but hopefully we can put that behind us once we get going on Tuesday."
If the Raiders play as a team good things should happen
"The key to the season will be us playing as a team," Watson said. "We didn't do a very good job of that last year. We need to put the needs of the team first, second, and third. Everyone associated with the program has to be willing to that. That includes players, coaches, and anyone peripherally associated with the program.
"Our motto for the preseason has been 'Tougher, Faster, Smarter.' In order for us to have success we need to be tougher, both physically and mentally, than we were last year. We need to play faster than we did last year. We need to play smarter than we did last year. We also need to be tougher, faster, and smarter than each of our opponents."
In terms of strengths and weaknesses, Coach Watson said there are always areas that can be improved upon, but he likes the fact he has an athletic squad. Many of the Raiders play multiple sports at the Academy.
"The team's strengths would have to include our athleticism and willingness to play at a fast pace," he said. "Our experience should also help. We have a lot of kids that have logged a lot of varsity minutes in their careers.
"Every team has areas where they need to improve and we are no different," he continued. "We need to improve on our full-court defense. We need to be more focused in our transition offense and make sure we run our secondary numbered break off makes and make sure we respond appropriately when we create turnovers and get defensive rebounds."
Fryeburg will unveil a new defense this season.
"We are running a little bit of a more sophisticated defensive scheme this year and we really need to improve our defensive rotations," Watson said. "I am confident we can get to where we need to be."
Fryeburg has a number of talented players, who are not only capable of putting the ball in the basket, but also capable of playing in your face defense and getting on the glass to rebound.
"We have a lot of good players on the team," Watson said. "Some were recognized as all-conference and all-conference honorable mention selections last year (Julia Quinn Second Team, Mackenzie Buzzell Third Team, Alexis L'Heureux-Carland Honorable Mention). But in reality, this is a new season and I hope people focus on our team and what we do together and how we play together. For me, I hope the spectators watch the whole team, one through 11, and keep an eye on how the role players fill their roles. That is the mark of any really good team. I hope that the whole team can be appreciated for their efforts and their value to the team."
Coach Watson will be joined on the sideline this winter by former Fryeburg standout Coreen (Hennessy) Eccleston, who was the varsity assistant last year and returns in that role, in addition to adding the responsibility of being the junior varsity coach. Chris Dutton has joined the staff as a varsity assistant.
The Raiders have one immediate goal, according to Coach Watson.
"Our only goal right now is to play as a team and to play well," he said. "We want to focus on the process and not on the results."
Watson has been impressed by the commitment from his athletes.
"We had a great summer season," he said. "The kids were a joy to coach. We had some really difficult discussions to start the preseason in an effort to avoid some of the unmet expectations from last year. The coaching staff was really happy with the outcome of those discussions. Every single player has agreed to put the team first, second, and third. Every single player has agreed to sacrifice their own individual wants for the benefit of the team. If the players are true to their word, then it will be one heck of a season. I really like every preseason, but I have loved this preseason with this group of committed kids.
"I want to see how we respond to the adversity that every game and season brings," Watson continued. "I want to see if our kids can be true to their words and if we can stick together. I want to see how this all plays out. They have a chance to make this a special season."
- Category: Sports