Spring Previews: Westbrook

Chris LaRose volleys for the Blue Blazes boys in a bout last spring.

: Greg Souza
Last year’s record: 3-13
Key players lost: Bailey Ryan, Corey Walker
Key returners: Bailey Sawyer, Justin Coppeta, Dylan Francoeur, Kyle Hebert, Derek Higgins, Kyle Champagne
Key matchups: “All games are important,” Souza says simply.
Outlook: After struggling last year, the Blazes are admirably focused on a single goal: returning to the postseason.

Boys Lacrosse
Coach: Pete Lyons (second year)
Last year’s record: 10-4; fell in the Class A semifinals
Key players lost: Alex LeBlanc, Steve Shackley, Noah Oliver, Curtis Knapton, “and five other key members of the 2016 squad,” Lyons said.
Key returners: Brandon Labbe (sr., M); Anthony Morrison (sr., M); Jared Clark (sr., LSM); David Redmond (sr., G); Grayson Post (jr., A); Ryan Shackley (jr., A); Connor Dougherty (so., A)
Key matchups: April 21 vs. Deering
Outlook: Graduation in June did a number on the Blazes. LeBlanc was among the best keepers around, and Steve Shackley a leading defender. Noah Oliver gobbled up face-off balls like Pac-Man gobbles dots, fruits and ghosts, and Knapton – well, Knapton was an All-American, enough said. So Westbrook has some critical slots to fill. Luckily, Post, Ryan Shackley and Dougherty are, to a man, stand-out attackers, so the team can be expected to hold their ground on offense. The Blazes should perform solidly at middie and on defense as well, though it’s doubtful anyone will bring quite the same explosiveness to those areas of the field that Knapton and Oliver did. Between the pipes, Redmond represents another unknown; he is an able athlete, but he’s moving to the position of full-time keeper from the position of full-time defenseman, and that’s a challenge for anyone. “We’ll represent our school and the city of Westbrook by playing with pride and determination while respecting the game,” says Lyons. “Despite significant graduation losses, we expect to make the playoffs and see how our inexperienced squad rises to the occasion. Go Blazes!” For Lyons, the next game is his boys’ only key matchup; hence, he points to their season-opener at home vs. the Rams as one to watch.

Girls Lacrosse
Coaches: Kevin Roy (head), Rachelle Messuri (asst.)
Last year’s record: 2-10
Key players lost: Madi Mullett, Jenessa Corbett, Sarah Wagner
Key returners: McKenzie Dougherty, Hannah Griffin, Brittany Crocker, Kiersten Hilton
Key matchups: Deering, Oxford Hills, Noble
Outlook: “Young, athletic girls looking to make positive contributions while learning a new sport,” Roy says.

Boys Outdoor Track
Coach: Claton Conrad
Last year’s record: Ninth at SMAAs, 16th at States
Key returners: Dominic Creenan, Shammah Gahomera
Key newcomers: Mahammed Sharif
Outlook: The Gentlemen Blazes turned in an exceptional indoor season, claiming second at States. Conrad hopes to maintain that momentum as his boys head into the outdoor stretch.

Girls Outdoor Track
Coaches: Angie Lally (head), Molly Shannon (asst.)
Last year’s record: Tied for first (with Thornton Academy) at Southwesterns; 15th at States
Key returners: Nyagoa Bayak (jumps), Kelly Dyer (jumps), Samantha Thompson (distance)
Key newcomers: Quincey Lyden (middle distance)
Outlook: “We hope this young team comes together to see what they can do on the track and the field,” Lally says.

Coach: Eddie St. John
Last year’s record: 3-13
Key returners: Lizzie Richardson (sr.), Kayla Horner (sr.), Camryn LaPierre (jr.)
Outlook: “The key for us this year is just to get off to a good start,” St. John says. Luckily, he and his girls may be well-positioned to do just that: They return eight starters from last year, and nine talented contributors overall, all of whom have high expectations. LaPierre earned First-Team All-Conference honors at shortstop last year, and Horner Second-Team honors for her contributions in the outfield. The team also welcomes aboard two skilled freshmen. Seven of the Lady Blazes’ losses in 2016 were by one run; another year’s experience could easily shunt them out front of some of the teams who snuck by them last season. “We’re all a year older and stronger,” says Richardson, a captain, “and we understand the system that our coach has laid out for us.” That system, St. John says, “is to stay committed, play relaxed and have some fun!”

Boys Tennis
Coach: Samuel Johnson (second year)
Last year’s record: 7-7, fell to Thornton Academy in the postseason quarterfinals
Key returners: Garett Sanders, Jameson Waldon, Dylan Ho, Ian Dougless, Chris LaRose
Key newcomers: Austin Pierce, Landon Sjoberg
Key matches: Portland, Deering, Cheverus
Outlook: Johnson found his boys’ resonant frequency in his first year as a coach. The Blazes had, in previous seasons, struggled to win even a match or two, but Johnson convinced them of a few things. That they had nowhere to go but up. That they had potential. And – most importantly – he convinced them that all they needed was heart. Determination. Grit. His boys responded, surprising everyone (including themselves) by breaking even on the year at .500 and making playoffs for the first time in ages. In fact, not only did they make playoffs, they won their prelim bout vs. Biddeford. That they lost to TA in the quarters can’t have been too disheartening, since everybody – everybody – lost to TA. Long story short: Westbrook is already in a good place, and the season hasn’t  even started. Yes, graduation in June claimed three of their key seniors, but they return a strong core. “We have about 12 guys competing for seven spots,” Johnson says, “which is a good problem to have. Having won five of our last six matches last season, we will look to carry that momentum into this season and get off to a fast start. The goal is to be playing tennis on June 10th and we will be working tirelessly until we reach that goal. Go Blue!”

Girls Tennis
Coach: Mike Makin
Last year’s record: 0-12
Key players lost: Hailey Francoeur, Carrie Brown
Key returners: Sasha Simatovic, Masha Kolovskaya, Maura Rielly, Rhiannon Doiron, Dalena Bennett
Key newcomers: Pheobe Adame, Jasmine Im
Outlook: The Lady Blazes this year are quite green. “(We have a) wonderful group of girls,” says Makin, “who will measure success not in wins and losses but in effort and improvement.”

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME

Chris LaRose volleys for the Blue Blazes boys in a bout last spring.

Grayson Post can be expected to rack up a lot of Blazes goals this spring.