By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — With a mixture of returning veterans and enthusiastic newcomers, the Kennett High softball team hopes to make a deep post-season run this spring. The Eagles got their season off on the right foot last week with an Opening Day 7-1 victory at Merrimack Valley in what was just their second time on a field this year.
The long winter has carried over into mid-April and has forced the KHS girls to spend the bulk of the preseason in the gym hitting in the batting cage and fielding on the wooden floor and in parking lot space when it's been available.
"It's not what we hoped for," Peter Ames, Eagles' head coach, said. "I would have thought we'd have been out on our field by now, but there's still ice around the backstop and snow by the first base dugout. ...I know it's not been a lot of fun for the team practicing in the gym and parking lots every day."
The Eagles played just one exhibition game — their first time on a field at Pembroke Academy for what turned out to be more of a controlled scrimmage on April 11.
After that, the Eagles headed to Concord to play Merrimack Valley on April 14. The win was No. 400 for Coach Ames. Kennett softball has gone an incredible 400-169 with four state championships and two runner-up plaques since Ames took over the program in 1987.
"It was a nice way to start," Ames said. "We played well, error-free."
Kennett was unable to keep the errorless streak going last Friday in Durham when it committed eight miscues in an 8-1 loss to host Oyster River. The setback left the girls from Conway at 1-1 heading into Wednesday's scheduled home-opener against Kingswood. Results were not known as of press time.
The Eagles came up just short in its upset bid in the opening round of the playoffs at Hollis-Brookline on last June. The Cavaliers rallied from a fifth inning deficit to win the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, 6-5.
It was an action-packed contest and one girls from Conway certainly could have and maybe should have won. Kennett, the No. 14 seeds had the third ranked Cavaliers on the ropes a couple of times leaving the bases loaded once and two Eagles on the pond on two separate occasions.
"We played well for the most part," Ames said at the time. "We had a couple of chances to make plays but we didn't — in a close game those things can come back to hurt you.
"...It was a good game in the sense that we certainly had a chance to win it," he added. "I think we know we can play with them."
KHS out-hit their hosts 13-9 on the afternoon, but also committed three errors to none by Hollis-Brookline.
The Eagles lost four seniors — Shelby Hill, Jordyn Moore, Alyssa Tetreault and Lauren White — to graduation from last year and have a few new faces out and others in different places this spring.
"I think we'll get better as everyone kind of gets experience," Ames said. " I think we'll be okay. It's hard to judge at this point because some of it depends on the people who we play. White Mountain, St. Thomas, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Merrimack Valley all figure to be pretty good. If we can get some bounces to go our way we should win our share of games. ...We're a lot like we were last year, we're not head and shoulders better than anyone, but we'll be competitive."
There are over 30 girls out for the softball program. Larry Meader is the new junior varsity coach while for the first time in the program's history, Ames has an assistant coach and Fred Apt comes with quite a resume.
Fryeburg Academy went 166-56 in Apt's 13 seasons as head coach over a 16-year span that ended last year. In his last seven seasons, the Raiders posted a 130-10 record, winning five straight Western Class B titles from 2008-12 and state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
"Fred has been great," Ames said. "To me he's a tremendous addition to the program. Having someone with his experience allows us to do a lot of things. The kids really like him and took to him quickly. I think he's having fun. We're pretty much on the same page, it's working out real well. It's nice to see him coaching."
Seniors Kaylin Samia and Vonde Saunders were elected captains by their teammates earlier this month. Samia, who has been one of the top hitters in Division II for the past two years, will again patrol centerfield for the Eagles while Saunders returns to anchor the pitching staff and has wealth of experience in pressure situations.
"They're both good leaders," Ames said. "I'm happy with our captains."
The Eagles should once again be in good shape in the pitching department with the return of Saunders who handled the bulk of the duties last year and opened 2014 by tossing a four-hit gem. Freshman Kaitlyn Janos is the No. 2 pitcher and is also capable of playing second base, a position her older sister Sam played for four years while at Kennett.
"If our pitching is solid, which I think it will be, we'll be in every game," Ames said. "Good pitching is always the key. I think we'll hit the ball okay. We probably don't have the power we've had in the past."
The pitchers will have a new target to throw to this spring. Freshman Morgan Colvard is behind the plate as the new catcher.
"She's done a good job back there so far," Ames said and believes the freshman from Tamworth will hit for power as she gets more comfortable at the varsity level. "It's quite a switch from eighth grade to high school varsity."
Elsewhere in the infield, senior Tori Eaton is the starter at first base and has swung the bat well this spring according to Ames.
Sophomore Caroline Jaeger and Janos have handled the second base duties thus far this season. Jaeger lettered as a freshman.
Junior Gwynn McGinley returns for a second year at the hot corner, third base. She has plenty of extra base pop in her bat.
Fellow junior Erin Milford is back at shortstop and the sure-handed fielder is once again expected to create havoc on the base paths with her speed.
"We're fairly experienced up the middle," Ames said. "Erin has been hitting the ball well and with power this season."
The outfield looks solid with Kaylin Samia in center; her sister, Rachel, a senior, in left; and the speedy sophomore Kate McPherson in right-field. McPherson is slap hitting this year and had two hits on Opening Day.
Juniors Sydney Smith and Kylie Morel round out the team and are capable of playing a wide range of positions.
"One of the things I like about this club is I think we're pretty versatile," Ames said. "The key again will be staying healthy and getting good pitching."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 00:38
By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — Mother Nature must not have been a tennis player. Weather has definitely hampered the preseason for the Kennett High girls tennis team, who played its first two matches without having had the opportunity to practice on its home tennis courts.
The Eagles hope to have their nets up in the Jon C. Judge Tennis Park this week provided the weather cooperates and the frost is out of the ground.
Coach Maxine Cadman's troops opened the season April 9 with at Portsmouth followed by a match two days later in Durham at Oyster River. KHS fell 9-0 in both encounters.
"We played two very good teams who had been able to get our on courts which really helped them," Cadman said. "I thought we did some things well, you could see we need to get on our courts. This is just the nature of the beast and we're trying our best to work with it."
"I think for our second match we made quite a bit of improvement," Cadman told Seacoastonline. "Today being the third day being on courts all season and that's been a difficulty. But the girls had really positive attitudes throughout the whole thing and its just another good experience to play some people they don't know."
Cadman said the team has gone indoors once, playing at Cranmore Resort to establish a playing ladder and last week was able to get on the courts at Davis Park in Conway Village for a couple of days.
The Eagles slipped to 0-3 following a 9-0 loss to Kingswood in Wolfeboro on Monday.
Kennett is scheduled to play its home-opener on Monday when St. Thomas comes to town for a 4 p.m. start, weather-permitting.
There are 25 girls out for the program this spring and Cadman, in her second year at the helm of the Eagles, is pleased to have a junior varsity coach this season in Jacques Couture.
"It's been really good," Cadman said. "(Couture) has a little background in teaching private and group lessons — he's' going to be a big help."
Cadman is carrying 14 girls on the varsity squad to open the season.
"Quite a few of them are first year seniors and some of them are turning out to be pretty good, they've been a nice addition," she said. "...It's been really hard to evaluate the girls without a lot of court time."
Last year it wasn't until early May that marked just the second time all season that Coach Cadman had all her troops available and the results showed. The Eagles easily handled visiting Plymouth 6-3. It was the same Bobcats team that beat KHS 9-0 during the first week of the season.
Kennett won four of the six singles matches and then clinched victory by taking two of the three doubles contests.
In singles Erika Szekely, who played No. 3 singles last year, was solid at the No. 1 spot, winning 8-4; Anna Mays fell 8-4; DeGrasse Schrader won 8-4; Molly Goodwin fell 8-5; Abby Rines won 8-3; and team captain Ashley Longmuir won 8-1.
Although up 4-2, none of the Eagles were breathing easy, especially since the doubles matches were all close.
"We were actually losing all three doubles for a second there," Cadman said last May, laughing. "Things got a little nervous for a few minutes."
Cadman saw the perfect time to use a time-out in the No. 3 doubles match with Longmuir/Rines trailing 7-6.
"I called them over and just told them to slow it down and play the match point by point," she said.
The words of wisdom did the trick as the Kennett tandem went on to win the next three games and win the match 9-7 and clinch overall victory for the Eagles.
Cadman offered the same advice to the No. 1 duo of Szekely/Mays, who trailed 5-1 at one point. They rallied back top 6-7 and then won the next three games for the 9-7 win.
This year's team captains are seniors Szekely and Mays along with Schrader, who is a junior. The trio also make up the top three of Kennett's singles lineup. Szekely will play No. 1 for the second straight year while Mays and Schrader are both comfortable in the No. 2 and 3 spots.
Sophomore Allie Wanek is currently at No. 4 followed by fellow sophomore Isabelle Doucette at No 5. and freshman Olivia Couture at No. 6 singles.
Sophomore Emma Niiler and Catherine Lees along with seniors Kayla Kennett and Jordan Dicey are also expected to see action over the course of the season.
Cadman has a few goals for this season.
"We want to continue to improve and I think we will the more we're able to get out on our courts," she said. "Having a JV program will allow more of a chance to work on specifics with the varsity. We'll be able to work more in-depth on strategy."
A key to the season will be keeping players healthy and having everyone make matches.
"I try to stress that when you miss a match, it's not just you who it effects, it's everyone on the ladder who has to move up to fill your spot," Cadman said.
Coach Cadman likes the make-up of her squad and is looking forward to the start of the season.
"I've got a great bunch of girls," she said. "We've done a lot of good team bonding (in the preseason). Everyone is friendly, but competitive on the court, they're challenging each other to improve which I really like to see."
The playoffs would be a nice accomplish this season, the Eagles last went to the tournament in 2010.
"The playoffs are any coach's dream, but that's not the No. 1 goal," Cadman said. "I'm not about just winning. I want all of the girls to have a successful experience, improve their skills and make them feel like they are a part of something."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 00:23
By Charlie Tryder
FRYEBURG — Every year every high school athletic team looks to replace graduates, and the Fryeburg Academy girls lacrosse team is no different. For the Raiders, however, things look different this year in some ways according to coach Bob Cobb.
"There are always expectations as one looks forward to a new season," he said. "This year is different though. The seniors that left last year played major roles in moving the program forward. Unlike most other years though, those holes have experienced players to fill them."
Senior captain Amber Dindorf and Alexa Maddox are the only returners on defense with starting experience, but juniors Cayle Johnson and defensive-middie Hanna Howard have already shown the ability to provide steady play in the defensive end of the field. Senior goalie Jasmine Ramsey worked in the off-season to improve on already good goalie play.
At midfield, sophomore McKenna Gerchman will take over draws from departed captain Kendra Fox. Fox performed at an all-star level according to Cobb and consequently will be missed, but Gerchman has been working to fill Fox's role.
Leading the midfield will be junior captain Mary Shea. Her passionate play earned her a regular spot on the circle as a sophomore and a captaincy for this year.
Jordan Hikel and Shelby Hesslein will complement the play of Mackenzie Hill in the offensive end of the field. Hill was one of the leading Raider scorers last year in spite of missing several games. Hill's performance last year earned the confidence of her teammates last year and a captain's title this year.
Along with experience and ability at every position, this year's Raider model has a number of experienced sophomores and freshman ready to move up in the event of injury. Best of all, the team is excited to play a more up tempo game in the eight meter and tighter defense. According to Cobb, the team is more set at this point in the year than in the past, but it will be interesting to see who surprises once the preseason games start.
Fryeburg dropped its season-opener on April 17, falling to Cape Elizabeth 21-2 on the road. Gerchman scored both Fryeburg goals while Emma Landes and Abby McInerney scored four goals apiece for the Capers.
Fryeburg is back in action on Monday when it hosts Wells at 4 p.m. The Raiders are then slated to travel to Freeport on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. match followed by home contest on Friday (4 p.m.) with North Yarmouth Academy.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 00:17
By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — With a completely new pitching staff and having to replace eight seniors it might take a little while for the 2014 Kennett High baseball team to hit its stride, but head coach Brian Day is "cautiously optimistic" that the Eagles can make a playoff run.
A late start to the spring hasn't helped the Eagles, who as of Monday still had not been able to get out onto a field to practice.
"We've got a lot of new faces," Day said Monday. "We really haven't been able to do what we'd like in terms of getting outdoors on our field. Peter (Ames, softball coach) put a metal pipe into the ground on Sunday and it only went down three or four inches before he struck frost. I'm not sure when our field will be ready to go. We were supposed to scrimmage Fryeburg (Academy) on April 10, but there was still four feet of snow on the ground."
Kennett is off to an 0-2 start on the diamond after dropping a pair of road contests. The Eagles fell 9-5 at Merrimack Valley on April 14, and dropped a tough 2-0 contest at Oyster River on April 18. Against the Bobcats, Kennett was held to two hits and pair of walks while striking out 12 times.
"All of our pitching is relatively new, but we did a pretty good job in the first two games," Day said.
Left-hander Richie Crouse started the opener for the Eagles and gave up two hits over the first four innings against M.V. Sophomore Axel Olson made the start against Oyster River and gave up one earned run while striking out seven in six innings.
"Richie and Axel both threw the ball well," Day said. "I think control-wise Richie will be fine. ...Axel did a very nice job."
Day is also looking to get innings from David Farinella, who also plays second base; Billy Chick, who also patrols centerfield; an Dominic Knox, who also plays third base.
"Our problem thus far has been with the offense, we really haven't hit a whole lot," Day said. "We struck out 12 times against Oyster River and eight against Merrimack Valley. We need to do a better job of making contact and putting the ball in play. When 20 of your first 42 outs are strikeouts it makes it easy on opposing teams. Right now we're struggling to hit the ball. We getting pretty decent pitching but are not scoring for them. We're young and are all going to grow up together. ...We've got to lay off high pitches, we're chasing too many of them — once again that may be due to some early-season nerves."
The Eagles lost eight seniors to graduation including the entire pitching rotation of Ben Garner, Nick Massa and Derek Roberts along with Tyler Lamar, Mike Mosher, Dylan Thurston, Nate Ela and David Darrigo.
Kennett, the No. 15 seeds in last year's Division II baseball playoffs with a 6-10 record, gave No. 2 ranked Portsmouth all it could handle in the post-season in 2013 before the hosts scored three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to prevail 7-0.
Kennett was held to just three hits, but left 11 runners on base and a couple of times was a hit away from making things very interesting.
"I think we were their closest game in the playoffs, they steamrolled everyone else," Day said. "...There was talk on (the Portsmouth) bench when we got there about just playing four and a half innings against us (and winning on the 10-run rule). Well, that didn't happen, they knew they were in a ball game."
Day, along with volunteer assistant Rick West, who has been with the program for six seasons, and new junior varsity coach Erik Brown have been impressed with what they've seen from this year's squads in terms of attitude and work ethic. Harley Lowd has also returned to the program as pitching coach.
The team captains are Crouse, Chick and Christian Rivers, who plays third base.
"This is a very good group," Day said. "There are no cliques. We've got three good captains who all lead by example. For a young group they're working hard and learning."
Sophomore Nate Emerson and junior Casey Sandman are handling the catching chores. Emerson has also played in the outfield this spring.
Jacob Cameron is playing first base while Kyle Noyes has played second and shortstop in the opening two games.
Olson is slated to play short when not on the mound while Rivers and Knox are at the hot corner, third base.
Chick will anchor the outfield in center and has been flanked by Shane O'Neil, who has two hits on the early season, in left field, while Crouse and Emerson have platooned in right-field.
Tyler Eaton, Josh Fields, Robert Marra and Eric Harmon provide depth among the infield and outfield positions while Dylan Sanborn is the new player/team manager.
"We're going to learn more about ourselves when we get out on a field and work on things," Day said. "Other than the two away games we've either been in the gym or on a parking lot. We do all we can in the gym, trying to go over different game situations and we've done a lot of hitting off the machine, but it's just not the same."
Day and his team have talked goals for 2014.
"The No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs," he said. "Once you get in anything can happen. We may start out slow, but we're going to have to grow as a group. It could be a tough start, but I really think we're going to get better and be pretty good by the end of the season. Of course we have to stay healthy, come ready to work had every day and not get down."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 00:09
By Charlie Tryder
FRYEBURG — The 2013 Fryeburg Academy boys' lacrosse team finished 2–10, but the expectations are significantly higher for 2014. With a group of veterans returning and some talented newcomers cracking the lineup, the Raiders should be a much improved team.
Coach Scott Lees laid out three goals for the group in a preseason conversation. "First and foremost we want to win the sportsmanship award. Secondly, we want to win more games than last year. Finally we want to be a .500 team and make the playoffs."
The final goal may prove to be the most elusive one, as the Raiders' schedule consists primarily of schools from the Portland suburbs where athletes grow up playing far more lacrosse at a higher level of competition. Despite this reality, the 2014 Raiders may be the group capable of taking this very challenging step.
Lees seemed confident while discussing the team strategy entering the season. "We have put in a new complex system that we could have never put in during previous years. We will confuse some teams. The system calls for a lot of substitutions. With the talent and high lacrosse IQ we have we will be able to work it."
Lees noted that he is very fortunate to have returning JV coach Steve Bush focusing on the offense and volunteer assistant Hannes Schneider focusing on the defense. Lees commented, "The three of us make a good mix."
Anchoring the Raiders' defense will be junior goalie Malik Mobley. Lees believes Mobley will perform at an All-State caliber. Lees also notes that the Raiders will have a talented ninth grader, Tyler Worcester, to back up Mobley in the net.
Junior Hannes Schneider, a captain, will provide intelligent and talented defense in front of Mobley. Schneider is the embodiment of who Lees hopes the Raiders will be, "Hannes is a true leader. He was a captain as a sophomore. He is an honors student and a gentleman on and off the field."
Juniors Josh Osgood and Colin McKeith will also protect the front of the net for Mobley and the Raiders. Newcomer Isaac Wakefield, a ninth grader, will play some long stick defense and midfield.
Sophomore Ryan Caracciolo, who according to Lees, lives, eats and breathes lacrosse, will play center attack. Ninth grader Huxley Lovering will play alongside Caracciolo at the midfield.
Two more juniors will provide experience and skill for the Raiders as well. A.J. Worcester will lead the Raiders' offense from his attack position. Joe Schrader offers versatility and the ability to contribute from any position on the field.
This is the most talented, skilled, and experienced Raiders' lacrosse team Lees has coached. He believes that they can change people's perceptions of boys' lacrosse at Fryeburg Academy and put the Raiders on the lacrosse map during the next few years, "They are a group of guys who are excellent students and athletes, and they are very dedicated to their sport."
It remains to be seen if their improvement will translate into wins when playing Portland area competition, but regardless of the outcome, it appears we will see a much improved Raiders squad from last year.
Fryeburg is scheduled to open the season on the road against Kennebunk on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Raiders are slated to play their home opener against Freeport on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 00:02