Winter Previews: Westbrook

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Dominic Creenan will undoubtedly prove a force in his events, including the long jump, this winter.

Boys Basketball
Coach: Dan LeGage
Last year’s record: 13-5, fell in quarterfinals to York
Key players lost: Bailey Sawyer, Hamza Hanifi
Key players returning: Zac Manoogian, Landon Sjoberg, Deng Jany, Kyle Champagne, Abeir Manyiel
Key matchups: Greely, Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Marshwood, Biddeford, York, Kennebunk
Outlook: This year’s Blazes, will, as LeGage says, “look to play at a fast pace, and will rely on pressure defense.” The team turned in a great season in 2016-17, and return with the majority of that outfit’s core, including top scorer Zac Manoogian, one of the League’s all-around best. Expect another impressive run from this batch of guys.

Boys Hockey (a co-op with Windham)
Coach: Greg Leclair
Last year’s record: 6-12-0
Key players lost: Matt Kelly, Chris Lekousi, Dylan Francoeur, David Redmond, Anthony Morrison, Tanner Smith
Key players returning: Logan Heckman (sr., D); Keegan Pock (sr., F); Cam Morrison (sr., D); Derek Corbett (jr., F); Sean White (jr., G); Tommy Lekousi (jr., F)
Key newcomers: Travis Brown (fr., F); Austen White (fr., F); Cam Joyce (fr., F); Holden Anderson (fr., F)
Key matchups: Dec 13. and Jan. 17 vs. Bonny Eagle/Massabesic/OOB, Dec. 20 and Feb. 17 vs. G-NG/Poland/Oak Hill/Leavitt, Dec. 30 and Feb. 3 vs. Lawrence/Skowhegan/MCI
Outlook: “We’re young, plain and simple,” Leclair says, “and that youth will present a challenge that we’ll need to overcome as the season progresses. Nine freshman and sophomores will fill out a roster that includes just four seniors. Junior goaltender Sean White will need to be outstanding as we work through the inevitable growing pains we’ll experience during the season.” Among W/W’s (colloquially, “The Dubs”) reasons for optimism, though, is a strong freshman class, several of whom stand to juice the outfit’s attack, both now and in years to come.

Boys Indoor Track
Coach: Claton Conrad
Last year’s record: Fourth at Southwesterns, second at States
Key athletes lost: Josh Lombardo, Brandt Herbert, Brandon Whitlock
Key athletes returning: Dominic Creenan, Mahamed Sharif, Devin Cyr, Liam Cooledge, Jack Pecararo, Dante Lingley
Key newcomers: Matt Weymouth, Cam Halloway, Jack Stone, Sabri Lomomi, Tony Okuki, Jacob Thornton, Waleed Abid, Jaylen White
Outlook: “Looking forward to working with a large, young team,” Conrad says simply.

Girls Indoor Track
Coach: Angie Lally
Last year’s record: Fourth at SMAAs, fourth at States
Key athletes lost: Kiersten Hilton, Sophia Williams, Kelly Dyer, Kelsey Cavanaugh
Key athletes returning: Nyagoa Bayak, Sam Gummoe, Hope Higgins, Zoe Popovic, Sandy Cao, Eliza Bureau, Sopa Mongu
Key newcomers: Chadda Chhoeun, Carolyn Dibiase, Sheila Lopez, Bev Mangel, Vanesza Nunez, Tracey Otis
Outlook: The Lady Blazes are a bit green this winter; as Lally says, “The team this year has a lot of young track athletes. It will be fun to see what they know and how they improve.” That being said, at least one member of the squad can be consistently counted on to turn in big points on performances that are a blast to watch: Bayak has been of the best – if not the single best – high jumper in the State, these past couple years, and is liable to continue posting new personal bests as her junior season unfolds. She likewise excels in the Long and Triple Jumps.

Swimming & Diving
Coaches: Dana Barrows (head), Kirsten Johansen (asst.), Jen Zwart (diving)
Key athletes returning: Cam Reece, Brad Wallace, Jakob Lynham, Paul Wallace, Kallie Cyr, Madison Damon, Camryn LaPierre, Emma Sperry, Phoebe Adame, Caroline Mooney
Key newcomers: Gabe Berry, Morgan Cooledge, Luci Sweet
Outlook: The Blazes’ primary goal this winter is the same goal most swim squads have: “getting as many athletes as we can to qualify for the championship season,” as Barrows says. On the boys’ side of things, Westbrook returns “a set of super sophomores in Cam Reece and Brad Wallace.” Moreover, they have “a strong presence on the diving board in Jakob Lynham and Paul Wallace.” Berry only joined the team a scant few weeks ago; he’s made excellent progress since then, however, and could prove a real asset. Among the girls, Cyr, Damon, LaPierre and Sperry are all experienced, skilled seniors, while Adame and Mooney should also regularly contribute. Meanwhile, Cooledge and Sweet lead a strong freshman class. “This year we have a great group of young adults who are looking to set goals and achieve them by year’s end,” says Barrows. “The group is one of the most unified I’ve coached in years. I believe with hard work and this great chemistry they have a chance to achieve something special.”

Wrestling
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 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.”

Girls basketball coach Todd Day and cheerleading coach Amber DiRenzo could not be reached.

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

Dominic Creenan will undoubtedly prove a force in his events, including the long jump, this winter.

Nyagoa Bayak returns to the jumps for the Lady Blazes this winter.

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