Winter Previews: Westbrook

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Boys Basketball
Coach: Dan LeGage
Last year’s record: 14-7
Key players lost: Zac Manoogian, Landon Sjoberg
Key returners: Mike Connolly
Key newcomers: Tyler Heathcoat, Braiden Pierce
Key matchups: Biddeford, Marshwood, Windham, Noble
Outlook: The Blazes are green this winter; they’ll field a lot of first-year players. Their primary goal, then, is simply to get better as the season elapses.

Girls Basketball
Coaches: Diana Manduca (head, second year); John Young (asst.); Rachel Mack (asst.)
Last year’s record: 2-16
Key returners: Mikayla Van Zandt (sr., F); Abby Symbol (sr., G); Michaela Russell (sr., G); Avery Tucker (sr., G); Quincey Lyden (jr., PG); Libby Cole (jr., F)
Key matchups: Falmouth, Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth, Kennebunk, Marshwood
Outlook: The Lady Blazes feature nine returners from last season, including four starters, meaning they’ve set their expectations for themselves quite high. The team’s seniors and juniors will provide leadership, of course – especially important as new players swell the ranks, bringing depth but also youth. Manduca means to play an up-tempo style. “Our goal is to be strong defensively and have our defense turn into offense,” she says. “We will look to get the ball inside to forward Mikayla Van Zandt, who’s going to St. Joe’s next year to play basketball, and who led the team in points and rebounds last season. Avery Tucker returns to the team after taking a year away from basketball to focus on field hockey – she has a scholarship to St. A’s. We will also look to get our shooters and returning guards involved, who have started the season showing strong perimeter play. We have a challenging schedule playing four AA teams – Noble, Gorham, BE, Windham – but we look to be competitive throughout.” Westbrook finished well below .500 last winter, but were close in several of their losses. They hope this time around to turn the tables on teams like Cape, Falmouth and Biddeford, to whom they succumbed only narrowly. A few more things should go Westbrook’s way in the coming months, given that the team is settling into a stability it hasn’t known in years. As Manduca says: “We were rebuilding last year, as the program had three different head coaches in three years. We’re looking to build off the foundation we laid last year.”

Boys Hockey
Coach: Greg Leclair
Last year’s results: 3-14-1
Key players lost: Logan Heckman, Cam Morrison, Keegan Pock
Key returners: Derek Corbett (sr., F); Sean White (sr., G); Tommy Lekousi (sr., F); Ben Griffith (jr., F); Holden Anderson (so., F); Austin White (so., F); Derek Palow (so., F); Robert Doherty (so., D); Travis Brown (so., D)
Key newcomers: Chandler Chenard (sr., F); Jake Jeffrey (sr., D); Jack Foley (so., D); Colin Casserly (fr., F); Cole Washburn (fr., F); Aiden Hartwell (fr., F)
Key matchups: Dec. 11 and Feb. 6, Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse/Hyde; Dec. 19 and Feb 2, Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale; Jan. 12 and Jan 30, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete
Outlook: Windham/Westbrook remains young, with a dozen freshmen and sophomores peppering the roster. Most of those sophomores are solid talents, though, and saw regular ice-time last winter. Among the upperclassmen, Sean White, who’s forever standing on his head to stop points and turning in impressive performances, will find himself relied upon quite heavily as the team works to develop its wet-behind-the-ears defense. Offensively, Leclair & Co. are hopeful that at least a couple of the team’s up-and-comers will mature this year into goal-scorers, a resource Windham/Westbrook is desperately short on. “We need to see more production from our top two lines,” Leclair says. He adds: “If we can play disciplined hockey in our defensive zone and stay out of the penalty box, we should be competitive most nights.”

Boys Indoor Track
Coach: Claton Conrad
Last year’s results: 5th at States
Key athletes lost: Dominic Creenan
Key returners: Cam Halloway (sr.), Mahammed Sharif (jr.), Jack Pecararo (jr.), Dante Lingley (jr.)
Key newcomers: Tanner Clark (so.), Dan Johnson (so.), Cam Bessey (fr.)
Outlook: “The Boy Blazes are eager to get their season started this year, with the largest boys team Westbrook has seen in four years,” Conrad says. “They have a lot of newcomers to the team who are going to make a significant impact on the outcome of this year’s indoor track season. The boys are looking forward to the first meet where will face a lot of the bigger teams in Southern Maine and get an idea of what they need to do in order to continually improve over the season.”

Girls Indoor Track
Coach: Angie Lally
Last year’s results: 10 SMAAs qualifiers
Key returners: Nyagoa Bayak, Hope Higgins, Sopa Mongu
Outlook: “We have a good number of girls on the team,” Lally says. “Most are young, 9th & 10th graders. It should be fun seeing the girls set goals and work hard to reach them. Hopefully they all improve individually, more qualify for the ‘big’ meets, and they score more points as a team.”

Swimming
Coaches: Dana Barrows (head), Kirsten Johansen (asst.), Jen Zwart (asst.)
Key athletes lost: Emma Sperry, Camryn LaPierre, Kallie Cyr
Key returners: Jakob Lynham (sr., Captain); Jack Shibles (sr., Captain); Phoebe Adame (sr., Captain); Brad Wallace (jr.); Cam Reece (jr.); Sophie Sweet (jr.)
Key newcomers: TJ Dorn (jr.), Ava LaMontagne (fr.)
Key matchups: Southwesterns, States
Outlook: The Gentlemen Blazes are short on bodies, but they make up for that in talent and dedication, and Barrows expects his boys to contend for some individual accolades, come season’s end. Lynham contributes on the diving board and in the relays; he qualified for States last year as a diver and fought for the title. Shibles qualified for States in only his second year on the team, and should take another step forward this winter. Wallace and Reece “have been training hard and are looking to add to their multiple scoring events at States this year.” Dorn is new to the squad, but his drive and attitude might just carry him all the way to the last meet of the year. Over on the girls’ side of things, “[We’re] looking to qualify over 80% of our swimmers and divers this year,” Barrows says. “The girls are a young team, having only two seniors, but will most certainly round into form by championship time.” Adame expanded her competition repertoire last year to include diving; she the proceeded not only to qualify for States, but to place there as well. Sweet, as Barrows says, “is a versatile swimmer and has put in a lot of work in the off-season; she’ll surprise her competitors in her junior campaign.” Finally, LaMontagne “is an extremely welcome addition to the team. She comes with a lot of experience competing in the water. She may only be a freshman, but she will also contribute as a leader.”

Wrestling
Coach: 
Peter Grant
Last year’s results: 12-9
Key athletes lost: Ryan Shackley, Jared Grant, Dante Edgerly
Key returners: Nicco Pappalardo, Henri Kuntz
Key newcomers: Zach Davis, Matt Reno
Outlook: The Westbrook/Gorham contingent lost some key figures in Shackley, who broke the 100-win mark in his four years; Jared Grant, who claimed third at Regionals at the end of last season; and Edgerly, who bowed out of the 2017-2018 campaign with an injury, but “had the drive you wish to see in ever wrestler,” as Coach Grant says. Both Pappalardo and Kuntz – two Gorhamites – stand to reel in plenty of Ws this winter, however, and Davis and Reno “could both make a big impact at the end of the year.” Coach Grant goes on: “We have a lot of new wrestlers with great potential and I’m looking forward to the next few years. This maybe a growing year but I think a few might step up and surprise a few people.”

Cheering coach Amber DiRenzo couldn’t be reached.

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

Mikayla Van Zandt battles in a game vs. visiting Bonny Eagle last winter.

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