Winter Previews: Gorham

Jack Richards returns this winter for his final season as a Ram.

Alpine Skiing (Bonny Eagle and Massabesic ski with Gorham)
Coach: Sean Munkacsi
Key athletes returning: Owen Smith, Victor Popov, Derek Kuusela, Jacob Polchies, Sam Cousins, Maggie Munkacsi, Estelle Ballard
Outlook: “This year our depth has increased considerably and we are focused on putting solid runs together more consistently than last year,” Coach Munkacsi says. “We have increased the number of athletes from Bonny Eagle and welcome a racer from Massabesic. The competition and camaraderie between schools makes us all better athletes.” Smith and Maggie Munkacsi are the team’s Captains, and will need to focus their teammates for each trip down the slopes. “Shawnee Peak will provide outstanding course conditions and we look forward to cold and snow,” Coach Munkacsi says. “We are currently dryland training and look to get on the hill as soon as conditions allow.”

Boys Basketball
: Mark Karter
Last year’s record: 5-15, fell in semifinals to TA
Key players returning: Sean Pocock (sr., F); Tom Nelson (jr., F); Nick Strout (so., G); Jordan Bretton (so., G); Ryan Reno (so., C)
Key matchups: Bonny Eagle, Windham, Westbrook
Outlook: This year’s Rams are young across the board – the lineup includes none of last year’s starters, who, despite their sub-.500 record, played well and very much deserved to penetrate as deeply as they did into the playoffs. One skill this year’s contingent has plenty of is outside shooting: “The Rams will look to incorporate the three-point shot much more than they have in the past,” Karter says, “with multiple players capable of shooting a high percentage.” As many teams hope to do, Gorham aims to play up-tempo ball; they’ll also rely on their defense to rebound and otherwise force turnovers, thus generating offense.

Girls Basketball
: Laughn Berthiaume (11th year)
Last year’s record: 21-0, AA State Champions
Key players lost: Emily Esposito, Kaylea Lundin, Kristen Curley
Key players returning: Mackenzie Holmes, Michelle Rowe, Courtney Brent, Brittany Desjardin, Jacqui Hamilton
Key matchups: South Portland, Scarborough, TA, Portland, Cheverus, Oxford Hills
Outlook: Graduation did a number on last year’s Lady Rams. Esposito (Miss Maine Basketball, Gatorade Player of the Year, All-Conference and GHS’s all-time leading scorer), Lundin (All-Conference, McDonald’s All-Star), and Curley (All-Conference) together started 210 career games, and for the past few years have spearheaded arguably the most potent offense in Maine. On the upside, Gorham has long been deep, and this year’s returners – there are seven, all told – compose another top-notch lineup. Rowe, the lone senior of the bunch, and Holmes, a junior, are veteran starters; they will need to provide scoring and take “a more vocal leadership role,” as Berthiaume says. Holmes is especially dangerous. She brings a towering presence to the inside, as well as sharp aim. Last winter, she earned SMAA Co-Player of the Year laurels for her efforts, which averaged out to 18.8 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game and 4.8 blocks per game. The team has a diverse, tough schedule, but appear to be gelling well and looking forward to hitting the courts. “This year we’ve picked up crossover games with Oxford Hills, Edward Little and Lewiston in AA North, and Greely and Westbrook in Class A South,” Berthiaume says. “This will give us 17 different teams on our schedule, which will be a challenge in itself. We will need to be a more defensive-minded team to be successful, and games will be lower-scoring than they have been in the recent past. We’ve added three freshmen to the roster who are all competing to be impact players. The attitude, communication, and energy have been great so far.”

Boys Hockey
: Jon Portwine
Last year’s record
: 4-12-2, missed playoffs
Key players lost: Carter Landry, Adam Peterson
Key players returning: Lucas Roop (sr., F); Jack Richards (sr., D); Ben Eichner (sr., D); Jack Niles (sr., F); Holden Edwards (sr., F); Trevor Gray (jr., F/D); Tanner Garand (jr, F)
Key newcomers: Garrett Babineau (sr., G); Cole Perreault (so., F/D)
Key matchups: Dec. 16 vs. Yarmouth, Dec. 20 vs. Scarborough, Dec. 23 vs. Greely, Jan. 9 @ York, Jan. 15 @ Yarmouth, Jan. 27 vs. York
Outlook: The Rams didn’t put together a spectacular run last winter, and are looking to rebound this go-round. Graduation in June claimed their top two scorers (Landry and Peterson) from the 2016-17 season, but otherwise the majority of that varsity lineup returns—very heartening news. “Unlike the teams from recent years,” Portwine says, “this group will need to create offense as a team and have more balanced production up and down the roster. Defensively, the top six in minutes on defense all return. This team is deep and well-rounded and should be playoff team.”

Boys Indoor Track
: Jason Tanguay
Last year’s record: 10-8
Key athletes returning: Jason Catoggio (sr., pole vault); Anthony Chase (sr., distance); David Drew (sr., sprints); Luke Gowen (sr., sprints); Wil Rossignol (sr., middle distance); Stefan Street (sr., pole vault); Wes Brinegar (so., hurdles/jumps); Ryan Farr (so., sprints)
Key matchups: Jan. 3 vs. Massabesic, Portland, Windham
Outlook: “I have seen some of our veterans putting in the extra effort necessary in the off-season,” Tanguay says, “so I am looking forward to watch them progress this upcoming season.”

Girls Indoor Track
: John Caterina
Last year’s record: Sixth at Southwesterns, 16th at States
Key athletes returning: Anna Slager (sr., distance); Bridget Rossignol (sr., pole vault/hurdles); Sarah Johnson (sr., middle distance); Meadow Fortier (sr, middle distance); Evelyn Kitchen (jr., shot put/jumps); Lauren Barden (jr., pole vault); Iris Kitchen (so., distance); Kate Tugman (so., distance); Peyton Morton (so., hurdles); Quinn Young (so., jumps)
Key newcomers: Avery Germond (sprints), MacKenna Homer (middle distance), Nevaeh Moore (sprints)
Outlook: “Gorham returns many talented athletes from last year,” Caterina says, “including state scorers Anna Slager, Sarah Johnson, Evelyn Kitchen, Iris Kitchen and Kate Tugman. With Meadow Fortier and Bridget Rossignol returning from injury and the addition of Avery Germond, Gorham should be a contender in both the SMAA and State Meet competition.”

Swimming & Diving
: Adam Cyr
Last year’s record: Boys 2-6, 10th at Southwesterns; girls 4-5, third at Southwesterns and 10th at States
Key athletes lost: Sam Martel, Ben Clark, Molly Sposato, Delaney Burns, Narissa Libby
Key athletes returning: Max Harvey (sr.), Patrick Bishop (so.), Sierra Lumbert (sr.), Caelyn Smith (jr.), Laura Bolduc (so.)
Key newcomers: Sam Prichard (fr.), Cody Smith (fr.), Haley McCullough (jr.), Caitlin Randall (fr.)
Key matchups: Jan. 5 vs. Deering, Feb. 2 @ Massabesic
Outlook: Things are looking up for the Gentlemen Rams; their ranks have swollen nearly threefold this winter, to 11—that’s still not a lengthy bench compared to most, but it does represent huge growth over last year, when the team was just four strong. “When you triple your number of swimmers, you are bound to have a much stronger season,” Cyr says. “Our schedule is tough for the boys, because we don’t swim against many smaller teams, so we will still be the smaller team in almost all contests. But when we get to Southwesterns, by sheer numbers we will do much better. By the end of this season, our very young team will have gotten much stronger.” Over on the girls’ side of things, Gorham’s prospects are a bit more up in the air. Last year’s contingent—who tied the school’s records with their third- and 10th-place finishes at Southwesterns and States, respectively—lost nine heads to graduation in June, seven of whom were among the squad’s 10 States qualifiers. “That being said, a lot of new swimmers, as well as a lot of sophomores and juniors now into their second and third seasons, are ready to step up,” Cyr says. “This year’s schedule is much less front-loaded, as well as having some good key Southwestern benchmark meets scattered throughout the season. With the addition of a diving program, we are looking to defend our Southwesterns third-place finish, as well as to challenge for a better spot.”

Wrestling (Gorham wrestles with Westbrook)
Coach: John Nicholas
Last year’s record: 15-9
Key athletes returning: Ryan Shackley (sr.), Jared Grant (sr.), Dante Edgerly (sr.), Gabby Taylor (jr.), Nicco Pappalardo (jr.), Max Kimmel (jr.), Henri Kuntz (so.)
Key newcomers: Marcus Lawson (sr.), Shane Lowell (fr.), Beck Carrier (fr.)
Key matchups: Dec. 9’s Westbrook Invitational, Jan. 3 @ Portland, Jan. 31 vs. Biddeford (senior night), Feb. 10 Regionals @ Marshwood
Outlook: “This year’s team is led by a strong group of seniors,” Nicholas says. “Shackley is a three-time States qualifier, Grant has also qualified for before, and Edgerly won over 25 matches last season. They will be looked upon to provide a spark. Pappalardo won 30 matches last year and Kuntz did a lot of wrestling in the off-season, so they will also be asked to deliver on the mat.” The rest of Westbrook/Gorham’s roster is a mix of veterans and newcomers; those athletes will fill the team’s other weight-class slots and hopefully morph into fresh standouts as the season progresses. “The team is working hard and we are looking to get off to a fast start and hopefully ride that momentum forward,” Nicholas says. “I am excited to see what this group can deliver and I know they will continue the long tradition of Westbrook wrestling.”

Cheerleading coach Julie Dvilinsky and girls hockey coach Nat Germond could not be reached.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Jack Richards returns this winter for his final season as a Ram.

Courtney Brent will play an important role in the Lady Rams’ run this season.