Preview: Fryeburg Academy winter sports

Senior Kalie Eastman

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Head Coach: Coreen Eccleston

Assistant Coach: Stacy McConkey

JV Coach: Ariel McConkey

Top returning players: Seniors Zoe Bodwell (guard) and Kalie Eastman (forward); junior Tina LeBlanc (forward); sophomores Kaylee Emery (guard) and Merys Carty (guard).

Top newcomers: Sophomores Sierra Lyman (guard) and Madeline Darling (forward).

Team strengths: Some of the Raiders’ strengths this season include togetherness, speed, hustle, athleticism and strong leadership.

Key questions marks: “We are a young team with only a couple returnees who saw a good amount of playing time,” Coach Coreen Eccleston said. “Decision-making on offense and discipline will be important.”

Sophomore Sierra Lyman

What have been three major points of emphasis during the preseason: Coach Eccleston has been emphasizing communication, composure on offense/taking care of the ball, and dominating the boards.

What will the team need to do to start the season on a positive note: “We need to develop a passion for hard work and keep our heads high during momentum changes. Our attitudes need to be that of resiliency with a ‘one day at a time’ mentality,” the coach said.

From what you have seen thus far, what do you like the most about this year’s group: “This group of girls is pretty special. They know our situation, they know we lost some key players, they know we are young, and yet they’ve embraced these facts and have come to the realization that they have nothing to lose and are using it to fuel our fire,” Coach Eccleston said. “These girls are willing to do what it takes to see success this year and have their eyes set on the goals we’ve created for ourselves this season.”

Finally, finish this line, To be successful this season, the team needs to… Out-hustle our opponents on every play.

“That means strong, consistent defensive pressure that forces more turnovers than we commit, pulling down more rebounds than our opponents, and perfecting our transition offense. When we excel defensively and fight for those hustle plays, it provides motivation and gives us the confidence we need to execute and make plays offensively,” Coach Eccleston added.

Opening night: The Raiders open the regular season on the road this Friday against Poland. JV at 5 p.m. Varsity at 6:30 p.m. The Raiders opening home game is Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. against Cape Elizabeth.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Head Coach: Sedge Saunders

Assistant Coach: Charlie Tryder

Junior Oscar Saunders

JV Coach: The Raiders won’t have their “trusted and valued coach,” Ryan Wallace this year.

“Ryan had to step away because of his busy life as a detective in North Conway and father of two, but we hope he will be back some day,” Coach Saunder said. “We are very fortunate to have Sean Watson as the new JV coach. He has already been a huge help, and we are grateful to have his experience and knowledge on the sideline. Charlie Tryder is back as the associate head coach, and the program is always stronger with Coach Tryder around.”

The Roster: The Raiders will have seven seniors on the team, four of whom started last year — Joey Lebrun, 6-foot-1 forward; Cody Gullikson, 6-foot forward; Scott Parker, 5-foot-11 guard/forward; and Ryan Hewes, 5-foot-9 guard.

“All of these guys give us valuable experience and versatility,” Coach Saunders said.

Adam Canfield is a 6-foot-2 forward, who has given Coach Saunders good minutes in the preseason and “is a great kid.”

Cobey Johnson is a 6-foot-2 forward, who was a key component for the FA football team and is a physical presence. Justin Daniels, a 5-foot-10 guard is coming off an elbow injury in football and “is one of the classiest kids I know,” the coach added.

Raider juniors include Tucker Buzzell, a 6-foot forward, who does a little of everything; Caleb Bowles, a 5-foot-10 guard, who was having a great football season until he was injured; Nate Knapp, a 5-foot-9 guard, who is back after a tough knee injury sidelined him all of last season; Reece Kneissler, a 5-foot-11 forward, “who gives us some much need toughness”; and Oscar Saunders, a 5-foot-10 guard, who brings a lot of experience.

Other members include sophomore Calvin Southwick, a 5-foot-10 guard, who had a great football season and will help the Raiders as he develops; and freshman Eli Mahan, a 6-foot-3 center, who is “a man-child and will be a beast…sooner rather than later,” the coach predicted.

Outlook: “We have a lot of experience and we have good kids. If they stay hungry and work hard to improve every day this team will compete with anyone in the league,” Coach Saunders said. “We hope to make our opponent uncomfortable and force them to adjust to the pace that we want to play at. We play in the toughest conference in the state, so we have to be ready every time we step on the hardwood. I look forward to coaching this group because they are a great group of student/athletes. They will represent Fryeburg Academy with the utmost respect.”

Opening night: The Raiders open the season at home this Friday, Dec. 8 against Poland. JV at 5 p.m. Varsity at 6:30 p.m. The Raiders then travel to Cape Elizabeth on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

Head Coach: Kevin McDonald

Assistant Coaches: Eric Hall and Jim Cummings

The Roster: Coach McDonald says the Raiders lost “huge talent” on the boys’ side but will be okay with the return of Jared Chisari, Osage Crie, Max Kummer and Isaiah Lenotte. The Raiders look for Tony Santarelli and Jayden Ming to contribute, as well.

On the girls’ side, Coach McDonald feels his squad has lots of potential, but will have to see how athletes respond.

“If the girls buy into the program, we will do very well,” he said.

Gwen Boros, Olivia Pelkie, Casey Kneissler, Alanceiah Waiters, Grace and Caroline Condon and Jessie Jensen should all contribute. Many newcomers will figure in the scoring as well.

It’s just too early to tell how the athletes will develop, the coach said.

“This season we have been in fitness phase. If nothing else we will be one of the top teams for fitness. The athletes have worked very hard this last week and will continue to do so as we move forward,” Coach McDonald reported. “This group of athletes is very impressive, focused, hard working and eager to learn. From a coach’s standpoint, we could not ask for more.”

To be successful, Coach McDonald feels his teams need to maintain their focus, stay injury free and have the athletes buy into the program.

“If that happens, we will be fine,” he said. “The coaching staff is very excited about this team. We are young with huge potential. Where the young athlete will fit in is yet to be decided.”

Opening night: The Raiders open the indoor season on Friday, Jan. 5 at 3:30 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine field house in Gorham. The competition includes York, Poland, Yarmouth, Wells, North Yarmouth Academy, St. Dom’s and Traip Academy.

Editor’s note: Next week, previews for wrestling. Upcoming, previews for alpine skiing and Nordic skiing.

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