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Putnam's pitch on target

Sport: Baseball  Posted: March 29th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Putnam's pitch on target
By Ernie Clark
Saturday, March 29, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

Longtime baseball coach Murray Putnam shouts out drills to his players during an early morning practice at Southern Aroostook High School in Dyer Brook Tuesday. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett) 032908_MurrayPutnam1.jpg
Southern Aroostook baseball coach Murray Putnam instructs players, including Cody Robinson (left), during a morning practice Tuesday in Dyer Brook. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

DYER BROOK, Maine - During preseason practice for high school baseball pitchers and catchers this week, Dakota Sleeper heard the same lessons Southern Aroostook Community School players have absorbed for decades.

And as the promising pitcher and shortstop listened to Murray Putnam speak, Sleeper was fully aware of how such lessons already had enhanced his game.

"He’s a great motivator," said Sleeper. "Last year I was a freshman, and he pretty much walked me through all the mechanics of pitching. He gained a couple of miles per hour on my fastball and taught me a curveball.

"He teaches old school, and I love it."

Sleeper’s sentiments are sure to ring familiar to hundreds of earlier Southern Aroostook players, for in an era when coaching longevity is a threatened concept, the 61-year-old Putnam begins his 40th year as a varsity baseball coach still true to his game and his core beliefs.

"He started so long ago, he’s sort of his own institution," said Jason Tarr, a school principal in Houlton who played for Putnam on two state championship teams during the mid-1980s. "He built the program and had a lot of success, and he’s certainly been a mentor to a lot of people, myself included."

Such enduring relationships are founded in the fundamentals of the coach-player relationship that have enabled Putnam to build and maintain one of Eastern Maine’s most consistently competitive small-school baseball programs.

"The biggest thing I learned from Murray was discipline," said Tim Prescott, who played for Putnam at Southern Aroostook during the mid-1970s and has been the varsity boys basketball coach at Presque Isle for more than two decades. "I always think he looked at discipline as a positive. I don’t think like he thought about what discipline does to kids, but what discipline does for kids."

That discipline has helped the dean of the state’s schoolboy baseball coaching fraternity and his teams earn 10 Eastern Maine championships, five state titles and 423 career victories since he first stepped onto the diamond at Oakfield Community High School in 1968.

"He was strict, and he had high expectations," recalled Tarr. "But we also knew he was going to be fair and that if we did what he expected of us we probably were going to be playing for championships."

Honesty is the best policy

While the program’s most recent state title came in 1999, the Warriors have not faltered, overcoming the declining enrollment trend common in northern Maine to compile a 74-24 record over the last six seasons.

Chalk it up to a focus on the basics of baseball and life.

"The vast majority of youngsters reflect in a positive way on being dealt with flat-out honestly," said Putnam, who also is his school’s assistant principal, teaches a history class, and for the last 35 years has served as Southern Aroostook’s athletic administrator.

"There’s a lot to be said for being flat-out honest," said Putnam. "What I’m going to tell you, you might not like to hear, but it is the truth as I know it and the truth based on these criteria because I already know a [baseball] scenario and I know how the scenario will play out over and over again."

That honesty has led to a fierce loyalty between Putnam and his players. Ask Putnam his greatest coaching success, and he’ll cite the successful educators and state troopers and bankers and railroad workers and ministers who have worn the Warriors’ purple and white.

"Most of them have possessed a very good and positive work ethic," he said. "I think for the most part that through their efforts and contributions to the varsity baseball program here at Southern Aroostook that a huge part of the benefit for them has been that most have realized the rewards of hard work."

And to a man, his players past and present have appreciated an honesty that has precluded Putnam playing favorites. Whether it be during a game or practice, or during team-building preseason trips south, he is not one to tell a player merely what he wants to hear but what he sees as the reality of a given situation.

"He’s passionate, he’s consistent and it didn’t matter who you were, what your last name was or which town you were from," said Jon Porter, who played on state championship teams under Putnam in 1988 and 1989 and is now Southern Aroostook’s principal. "It was a matter of him being consistent. He expected you to show up on time, to play as hard as you could and do the little things so you didn’t beat yourself mentally. He expected physical errors and understood that mistakes happen, but he focused on not making those mental mistakes."

From rural roots

Putnam grew up on a potato and dairy farm 10 miles south of Houlton with 10 brothers and sisters, many of whom shared a passion for athletics.

His mother was an elementary school teacher, several others in his family also became educators and so did Putnam after graduating from Ricker Classical Institute and Ricker College in Houlton.

"I really wasn’t sure what I might do most of the way through college," he said. "It’s the kind of thing that just grew on me. I didn’t feel any sense of obligation to do it, but I did feel a sense of whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability."

Putnam began teaching and coaching in 1968 in nearby Oakfield, a community where baseball long has been important.

"The Oakfield area, in particular in the post-World War II era, was renowned for summer ball and town team ball like what you’d see in the rest of rural Maine at the time," he said. "A number of the folks I met when I first came here out of college had experienced that, and a number of those folks had children and in some cases nephews and in some cases even third-generation children who could identify with what baseball meant in a rural setting."

Putnam instituted a Pony League program for younger players in the area, and also quickly found success at the high school level. By 1970, Oakfield ended a 16-year title drought by winning the Katahdin Valley League title.

Three years later, the landscape changed, as Oakfield, Island Falls, Smyrna, Merrill, Dyer Brook and Crystal merged into the Southern Aroostook Community School District as part of the state’s school consolidation efforts of the era. Southern Aroostook Community School opened in April 1976 to finally bring all those students together in the same building, and while the school district continued to grow, so did the baseball program.

The Warriors broke through to win back-to-back Eastern Maine championships in 1977 and 1978, and at the same time community members worked to provide the baseball program a permanent home by building a new diamond at the new school.

"We built it with local help. There was no godsend, no huge money drop from anywhere, but a whole lot of folks generously gave of their time," Putnam said. "We managed to build a good facility, and I had the good fortune after the first year we used it when the board of trustees elected to name it. That was quite an honor."

Welcome to the Murray W. Putnam Baseball Field.

Tradition of excellence

Many top-notch players have competed on Putnam Field throughout the last 30 years, as Southern Aroostook has gone on to win eight more Eastern Maine titles as well as state championships in 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1999.

But don’t expect Putnam — a 2002 inductee into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame — to pick a favorite.

"When someone asks me to name my best catcher or shortstop, I respond to that by saying they’re all my catchers or they’re all my shortstops, because I believe you don’t say things that could be divisive or alienate any youngster," he said. "I don’t compare eras. I’ve had the good fortune to coach three generations, and they are all uniquely partly the victim and partly the product of the era they’ve lived in."

But make no mistake about it, the postseason is a defining time of year.

"To me, it has long been, and I think the vast majority of youngsters I’ve had the good fortune to deal with would share this, special to play in the postseason," Putnam said. "When you get into the postseason, that’s another entity and a whole lot of things can happen there because no matter what it says on paper, it isn’t played on paper, it’s played on the arena of play."

Perhaps that was no more evident than in 1987, just one year after high school baseball converted from a league format to Heal points for organizing its playoffs and Southern Aroostook had joined a newly added Class D.

The state final was a rematch between Southern Aroostook and North Yarmouth Academy, which had edged the Warriors 5-3 in 1986.

"I had the nucleus of the same club from the year before, and so did they," said Putnam. "I knew we wouldn’t rip the cover off the ball against [NYA pitcher Eric Fenton, who later played hockey at the University of Maine], so I was willing to be a risk taker to the extent that after one walk, we laid down two bunts.

"They were well placed, which isn’t guaranteed, but they misplayed both of them, and we had one solid hit. We scored three runs in that inning. That was all we got, but that was enough. We held them."

That 3-2 win was a bit out of the ordinary for a program once nicknamed the Lumber Company, but it represented Putnam at his strategic best.

"If it’s obvious that the only way you’re going to generate offense is to try something different than you had before, I’ll do that," he said. "Am I one who’ll get on the diamond and run helter-skelter? No. You just have to focus on the task at hand, and too many people don’t do that."

The changing arena

As Putnam adapted to that particular baseball situation, he also has adjusted to many other changes throughout his career — like giving up throwing batting practice in 1999, a task he did ambidextrously.

He has also had to work with a smaller student population. When Southern Aroostook first opened, it had about 230 students in grades 9-12. Today, that number is about 130.

"There are negatives to that," he said, "but that said, it’s probably superseded by the fact that if a youngster truly wants to put forth an effort and take part, there’s probably a uniform here for him. I think that’s one of the unique features of small school systems, certainly in rural Maine and I might suggest in rural America."

There’s also the more complicated family structures of recent times that can place additional pressures on adolescents who might loom slightly larger in life in baseball uniforms but ultimately are still just kids.

"Every one of the youngsters who came through the door here today, and I submit in every other school system, they came to school from some dwelling that doesn’t by definition make it a home," he said, "and in many cases that values system is shot to smithereens."

Yet Putnam firmly believes the values coaches share with their players in practice and games can provide an avenue to success throughout the school day.

"I think we could show very objective evidence that during the time that youngsters are involved in co-curricular activities, their comportment, behavior in school and certainly what is reflected in an academic sense is higher," he said. "I’m not saying it’s 100 percent, but I’ve seen numerous cases."

Putnam expects approximately 20 student-athletes to turn out Monday for the first day of full-scale practices.

And while the focus of his initial pep talk will include virtually nothing about winning and losing, it likely will include everything about what enables the winning and losing to take care of itself.

"In the first place, never, not one time, have I ever verbally or otherwise harangued youngsters about ‘you need to win,’ meaning you’ve got to achieve some kind of regional and-or state championship and if you don’t you ought to go put a gun to your head or jump off a bridge. Never has that been part of my comportment," he said.

"But I have, as I did with the [pitchers and catchers], said there are a number of things that we can do, and among our goals should be to be better off than you think you are right now, to be quicker, to be stronger and to think more of that seldom-used four-letter word called team."

Long hired at Algonquin

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Long hired at Algonquin
By Josh Centor/Daily News correspondent
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Mar 28, 2008 @ 12:02 AM

Bill Long was named head coach of the Algonquin football team last week, becoming the third person to lead the program in the last four years.

Long, who replaces Mike Vulcano, has spent the past four seasons as an assistant at St. John's, helping the Pioneers to three Super Bowl championships.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic about this tremendous opportunity," said Long, who played college football at Norwich University. "The whole community is a class act from start to finish and it's an honor and privilege to coach at Algonquin."

It's the first head football coaching position for Long, who has also been an assistant at Marlborough. Long has been the head wrestling coach at St. John's for the past three seasons.

Algonquin athletic director Fran Whitten couldn't be more excited about the hire and believes Long will be the face of Tomahawk football for many years.

"I think he fits all the needs of the program. He's been a head wrestling coach and has worked with a great football coach at St. John's in John Andreoli," Whitten said. "He's run the offensive and defensive side of the ball and I don't question his knowledge of football at all."

Most pressing for Whitten and the Tomahawks is for someone to come in ready to win with an experienced senior class.

"As a program, we need some consistency, but it's only one year for the seniors and they needed someone to hit the ground running. Bill can handle the needs of the senior class, but will also be able to establish the ethics and values we're looking for in a longterm program," Whitten said.

Long understands the desire of the seniors and is prepared to give them everything he's got.

"The pieces are there to do some great things and I just want to do right by the kids," Long said. "This is their third coach and that's not what they had hoped for. There's a healing process that needs to happen and we're going to go from there."

Algonquin's football team has had many more losses than wins in recent years (4-7 last season), but Long believes his new squad can join the school's other programs as Central Massachusetts powers.

"We're not far from being a strong team where excellence permeates throughout the program from the freshman team to the varsity team," Long said. "We want to do things with class and integrity and hopefully that will add up to some great accomplishments."

Long has decided to relinquish his wrestling responsibilities at St. John's, choosing instead to devote all of his energy to the Algonquin football team.

"I want to put the time in at Algonquin. Coaching wrestling would have been stretching it too much," Long said.

Long met with his players for the first time Tuesday, and was excited to see 70 young men show up to meet him.

"The kids were great and we're all going in hoping for the best," Long said.

Bentleyís title hope, perfect season over

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Bentley’s title hope, perfect season over



Winona St. 86, Bentley 75
John Smith scored 22 points as Winona State earned a place in the NCAA Division 2 championship game for the third straight year, using a second-half surge for an 86-75 victory over previously unbeaten Bentley last night in Springfield.

It was the second straight year the Warriors ended Bentley’s unbeaten season in the Elite Eight. Winona State will play Augusta State in tomorrow’s championship game.

Winona State, which won the 2006 NCAA title and lost to Barton in the 2007 title game, will take a 31-game winning streak into the final.

Bentley (34-1), which had been the last remaining unbeaten Division 2 team, was bidding to become the first Division 2 men’s national champion from New England since Massachusetts-Lowell in 1988.

Jonte Flowers had 20 points for the Warriors, Quincy Henderson had 17 and David Johnson 16.

The Falcons were led by Nate Fritsch with 18 points. Lew Finnegan had 17 and Tom Dowling 15. Bentley junior Mike Sikonski of Holden had two points and two rebounds.

Augusta St. 56, Alaska 50
A.J. Bowman scored 18 points and Garret Siler added 17 as Augusta State defeated Alaska Anchorage, 56-50, to advance to the NCAA Division 2 men’s basketball championship game for the first time.

The Jaguars held Alaska Anchorage to 11 points in the first half, tying a 45-year-old tournament record for the lowest score in a half. Oglethorpe scored 11 in the first half against Philadelphia University in 1963.

Girls lacrosse capsules

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Girls lacrosse capsules


Coach: Heather Harford (third year)

Last season: 15-5

Key players: Shannon Hartford, jr.; Kelly Burke, jr.; Kaela Barta, sr.; Katherine Falzareno, sr.; April Surette, jr.

Contributors: Alyssa Rosenthal, jr.; Emily Messelaar, jr.; Emma Cannon, so.; Emily Carlson, sr.

Strengths: Athleticism. A fine-tuned transition game will be bolstered by the team's quickness and athleticism.

Concerns: Patience. Hartford would like to see her team get into its settled offense by occasionally passing on transition opportunities.

First game: Wilmington at Georgetown, March 31 (3 p.m.)

Coach's outlook: "It's going to be very competitive. The girls lacrosse programs in the Cape Ann League have been crunched down from three divisions to two, so we'll be facing tougher teams in Masconomet and North Andover."


Coach: Catherine Batchelder (second year)

Last season: 6-9

Key players: Laura Fallon, jr.; Emily Vartabedian, sr.; Marissa Games, sr.; Avery Cullinan, jr.

Contributors: Chloe Hundertmark, so.; Amy Reynolds, so.; Morgan Fitzgerald, so.; Haley Johnson, fr.

Strengths: Work ethic. Newburyport has senior leadership, athleticism, speed and a strong collective will.

Concerns: Youth. The Clippers could start several freshman. The team's success could depend on the adjustment from youth league to high school.

First game: Ipswich at Newburyport, March 31 (3:45 p.m.)

Coach's outlook: "The team has many new players who add a new dynamic we were missing last year. The girls are working very hard in preseason, and we are ahead of where we were at this time last year."


Coach: Stacey Beaulieu (second year)

Last season: 8-9

Key players: Sarah Peterson, sr.; Michelle Godfrey, sr.; Kristie Davis, sr.; Amanda Desjardins, sr.

Contributors: Karly Kennedy, sr.; Colleen Gargan, sr.; Tiffany Stanton, sr.; Tarra Wallace, sr.

Strengths: Defense. Beaulieu likes her back four, which should prove to keep opposing teams' scores in the single-digits.

Concerns: Leadership. With six seniors gone, Triton lost some valuable experience.

First game: Triton at Masconomet Regional, March 31 (5 p.m.)

Coach's outlook: "It should be a tough but fun year. We're facing Masco and North Andover on top of an already tough lineup of Ipswich, Georgetown and Manchester. Making the tourney will be difficult, but it's certainly a goal we'll be striving for."


Coach: Bob Pierce

Last season: 13-7

Key players: Lyndsay Beaton, sr.; Sarah Galligan, sr.; Laura Fallavollita, sr.; Alex Kowalewski, sr.; Colleen McGoldrick, sr.; Calley Yokum, sr.

Contributors: Kayla Jewett, jr.; Brianna Yokum, so.; Autumn Gadd, jr.; Kayla Melville, jr.; Sarah Evers, jr.; Zoe McKenzie, jr.

Strengths: Athleticism. With great speed and quickness, the Sachems midfield should be a force.

Concerns: Goaltending. Pentucket graduated two outstanding goalies last season. With a green Heather Thomas in goal, the Sachem defense will need to help.

First game: Pentucket at Wilmington, April 3 (3:45 p.m.)

Coach's outlook: "Offensively we should be very strong. It would be reasonable to say we'll eclipse last season's output of 265 goals scored."
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Stonehillís Simonds, Stupinski earn national honors

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Stonehill’s Simonds, Stupinski earn national honors
The teammates earn honorable mention recognition on the NCAA Div. 2 State Farm Coaches All-America team.

By Jim Fenton
Posted Mar 28, 2008 @ 02:09 AM

Stonehill College women’s basketball teammates Kelsey Simonds and Erika Stupinski had something in common this season.

Simonds, a Middleboro resident, and Stupinski returned to the Skyhawks after injuries spoiled the 2006-07 season for them.

Now, Simonds and Stupinski have something else in common — they have both earned honorable mention recognition on the NCAA Div. 2 State Farm Coaches All-America team.

Simonds, a former Cardinal Spellman High standout, and Stupinski helped lead Stonehill to a 27-5 record and a spot in the semifinal round of the NCAA Northeast Regional.

After missing last season with a broken foot, Simonds, a junior center, led the Skyhawks in scoring (17.0), rebounding (8.0) and blocked shots (2.3).

The former Enterprise player of the year was named the Northeast-10 Conference rookie of the year in 2005-06, then broke her foot in a conference tournament game that season. She suffered the same injury in training camp prior to the 2006-07 season.

As a freshman, Simonds averaged 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds with seven double-doubles. With two seasons remaining, Simonds has 831 points, 464 rebounds and 125 blocked shots.

Stupinski, a senior point guard, played only eight games a year ago before being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

She led the Skyhawks this season with 7.9 assists per game and contributed 9.5 points and 2.5 steals.

Stonehill won the NE-10 regular-season championship, going 19-3, and the tournament title, then lost to Franklin Pierce in the NCAA tourney.

The Skyhawks had not won the conference title outright since 1995 and won their first tourney championship since 1997.

The national Div. 2 player of the year is Franklin Pierce sophomore forward Johannah Leedham, who averaged 22.7 points and had 30 points in the game that eliminated Stonehill.

She was joined on the All-America first team by another NE-10 player, Southern Connecticut State forward Kate Lynch.

Stonehillís Simonds, Stupinski earn national honors

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Stonehill’s Simonds, Stupinski earn national honors
The teammates earn honorable mention recognition on the NCAA Div. 2 State Farm Coaches All-America team.

By Jim Fenton
Posted Mar 28, 2008 @ 02:09 AM

Stonehill College women’s basketball teammates Kelsey Simonds and Erika Stupinski had something in common this season.

Simonds, a Middleboro resident, and Stupinski returned to the Skyhawks after injuries spoiled the 2006-07 season for them.

Now, Simonds and Stupinski have something else in common — they have both earned honorable mention recognition on the NCAA Div. 2 State Farm Coaches All-America team.

Simonds, a former Cardinal Spellman High standout, and Stupinski helped lead Stonehill to a 27-5 record and a spot in the semifinal round of the NCAA Northeast Regional.

After missing last season with a broken foot, Simonds, a junior center, led the Skyhawks in scoring (17.0), rebounding (8.0) and blocked shots (2.3).

The former Enterprise player of the year was named the Northeast-10 Conference rookie of the year in 2005-06, then broke her foot in a conference tournament game that season. She suffered the same injury in training camp prior to the 2006-07 season.

As a freshman, Simonds averaged 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds with seven double-doubles. With two seasons remaining, Simonds has 831 points, 464 rebounds and 125 blocked shots.

Stupinski, a senior point guard, played only eight games a year ago before being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

She led the Skyhawks this season with 7.9 assists per game and contributed 9.5 points and 2.5 steals.

Stonehill won the NE-10 regular-season championship, going 19-3, and the tournament title, then lost to Franklin Pierce in the NCAA tourney.

The Skyhawks had not won the conference title outright since 1995 and won their first tourney championship since 1997.

The national Div. 2 player of the year is Franklin Pierce sophomore forward Johannah Leedham, who averaged 22.7 points and had 30 points in the game that eliminated Stonehill.

She was joined on the All-America first team by another NE-10 player, Southern Connecticut State forward Kate Lynch.

MVC Baseball Preview: Hillies hungry after long, cold winter

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

MVC Baseball Preview: Hillies hungry after long, cold winter
By Hector Longo
Staff Writer

HAVERHILL — Trips into opposing gyms or rinks got so annoying, Steve Lesiczka just stopped going.

"Really, I love to go to games," said Lesiczka, a Haverhill High senior. "All that losing, it just got to be too much."

As the spring season approaches, Lesiczka and his baseball teammates find themselves in a perfect position to do a little "annoying" of their own.

Stacked with nine returning starters and all three top pitchers back, Haverhill baseball has a chance to restore some pride.

Forget the 1-10 football season, the 3-17 campaign on the hardwood and the 6-11-3 struggles on ice.

Haverhill baseball is back, ready to be a legitimate Merrimack Valley Conference and possible Division 1 North contender.

"We're definitely excited," added Lesiczka. "If we play to our potential, we can turn the losing around very quickly."

With a few exceptions, it's been a tough year for the boys wearing Brown and Gold.

"Just walking around our own school, people have been all over us," said University of Vermont-bound pitcher Leif Sorenson, a hockey player during the winter. "We've all taken our share of the hits. You try to ignore what the other kids are saying, but it's tough. Kids can be brutal."

Sorenson, a side-arming righty, is one of the prime reasons for the optimism.

He had a 4-1 record with a 1.53 ERA a year ago. He anchors a three-man starting rotation that rivals Tewksbury for the league's best.

Classmate Sean Hayden (4-4, 47 Ks in 471/3 innings) and junior Taylor Robinson (6-0, 1.99 ERA) round out the talented trio.

The players know their first priority is to shake the attitude that currently hovers over the Shoe City.

"It was tough in hockey, because we were looking to qualify for the States," said Sorenson. "We had the players like we've won with in the past. But we just couldn't find a way to win.

"Maybe we have to learn to win. Winning is contagious. And losing is too. But I think with baseball we'll be fine."

The Hillies come in off two straight 13-8 seasons and last spring's 14-7 campaign. Right now, coach Chip Dunn is focused on fighting overconfidence more than anything else.

"No team in our league just gives you games," said Dunn. "You have to go out and prove it. You have to do it on the field."

If Dunn's message isn't sinking in, all the players have to do is harken back to the past couple seasons.

"Losing just wasn't fun," said Sorenson. "I was especially upset with hockey. But maybe we can just use it, and all the rest of the problems, as a rallying cry."


Why the struggles?

Haverhill High's Leif Sorenson is a two-sport athlete who is heading to the University of Vermont to pitch next year.

Haverhill's recent struggles in athletic circles, including the winter boys teams' .247 winning percentage (20-64-3), trouble him.

Sorenson says there are athletes in the school, and they just aren't competing.

"A lot of kids just aren't trying out," said Sorenson. "I don't know if they can't afford it ($350 user fee) or they just seem like they don't want to play. There are athletes in school who aren't playing sports.

In the Zone: This Devil has earned her due

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

In the Zone: This Devil has earned her due

By Russ Charpentier
March 28, 2008
Taryn vanEsselstyn of Chatham wants to attend college in the South, where she can pursue her various interests. “I love the beach. I love to surf. Ceramics. Art. I just started playing guitar. I love to read. When I was younger, I took a lot of musical theater and drama classes, and I may get back into that.”

CHATHAM — It's called growing up.

Taryn vanEsselstyn stands as Chatham's all-time girls basketball scorer with 1,169 career points. She may fly under the radar on much of the Cape because she plays for the Blue Devils, a small Mayflower League team, but she made her mark in the recent Cape Cod and Islands All-Star game.

A senior third baseman, vanEsselstyn is preparing for softball, her final season at Chatham High, which opens with a game at Harwich on Wednesday.

The outgoing, 5-foot-11, three-sport student-athlete (she also plays soccer) does not limit herself to athletics.

She's into many organizations and helped create the school's Animal Welfare Club, which at a recent fundraiser collected $3,500 for use by the town's animal control officer. She also writes and draws for Chatham High's literary magazine and is president of the Young Women's Club, which brings in professionals from the community to speak to students.

While vanEsselstyn has Division III colleges such as Simmons and Salem State seeking her for her basketball ability, she's also been accepted at Coastal Carolina and Miami's Barry University, schools where she likely would play intramural ball. She's still waiting on Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., her No. 1 choice. She planning on a possible future in animal training and behavior, and after living nearly 18 years in Chatham, looking forward to traveling.

But then there is vanEsselstyn's artistic skills, especially in pottery. That's also something she wants to pursue.

She is definitely a talented young women with a bright future.

But life wasn't always this rosy for vanEsselstyn in her first couple of years at Chatham High.

"I got my first boyfriend and got caught up in his scene, which conflicted with athletics," she said. "Everyone started noticing a difference in me. I got in trouble one time and that made me step back. My grades started to slip. I had no motivation for anything. Call it my 'I don't care' era.

"I guess I got kind of crazy with the social scene my sophomore year. I grew up. I learned about myself and who I wanted to be. I stopped trying to impress people and started thinking about myself, and not to succumb to peer pressure. I stopped being a stupid young girl."

Everyone noticed her maturity. Consider what those who know vanEsselstyn are saying about her as she enters the last couple months of high school.

"Creative, smart and personable," said athletic director Scott Thomas.

"A great kid, a real sweetheart," said her basketball coach, Joe Nickerson. "Energetic. A free spirit."

Nickerson said that when vanEsselstyn was younger, he introduced some discipline into that free spirit. The two talked often, vanEsselstyn said, and the structure and understanding eventually paid off.

The younger vanEsselstyn's real battle was with softball coach Brian Baker. As a freshman, vanEsselstyn was a Mayflower League all-star catcher. In her sophomore year, she was moved to third base.

"I was a brat about that at first," she said. But now she gets along well with Baker, has him for a teacher in two classes and he is one of her biggest fans.

"She was disgruntled with a lot of things in her life," Baker said. "Nothing not typical of that age. She found that if she worked with people, things go easier.

"She's an absolute joy to be around," Baker added. "One of the nicest kids you'll meet. The change is astounding. I can't talk enough of how she's changed."

And, Baker said, vanEsselstyn can keep a practice lively. "She's hilarious. She can instantly crack up a practice. She knows when to do it."

VanEsselstyn talks a mile a minute, and showed up at an interview — in the middle of the school day — in pajama bottoms and sweatshirt. "Sorry, it's pajama day," she said with a laugh, setting up a lively, one-hour give-and-take.

While playing softball in the spring and soccer in the fall, she said basketball is her favorite sport.

She helped lead Chatham into the basketball tournament all four years. Being one of the dominant players in the recent All-Star game was an exclamation point on her high school hoops career as she scored 20 points, including eight in a row in the second quarter, and hauled in nine rebounds.

"At first, I didn't feel comfortable there," vanEsselstyn said. "I wasn't feeling well. I was awful in the first quarter. It was the worst basketball I've ever played. I was embarrassed. I watched from the bench for a while, and came out in the second quarter and thought, 'Why am I worried?'"

She loves the game but it is not going to rule her life. She played AAU ball since seventh grade, but it sounds as if she feels its time to move onward.

"I don't want basketball to determine where I'm going to be," she said. "I don't see myself staying up north. For 10 years I've wanted to go South.

"I love the beach. I love to surf. Ceramics. Art. I just started playing guitar. I love to read. When I was younger, I took a lot of musical theater and drama classes, and I may get back into that."

VanEsselstyn is doing her school's community internship at Barn Hill Pottery in Chatham. "It's hands-on and I've learned a lot. I love making mosaics."

With one more season of games to play, and a couple of months of school before graduation, vanEsselstyn is ready to embrace the future. There have been some bumps, but the road ahead is filled with potential.

Staff writer Russ Charpentier can be reached at rcharpentier@capecodonline.com.

Marblehead softball team hopes experience pays off

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Marblehead softball team hopes experience pays off

By Joyce Erekson / The Daily Item

Marblehead's Courtney Colantuno winds up during Thursday's practice. ITEM PHOTO / REBA M. SALDANHA

MARBLEHEAD -- The good news for the Marblehead High softball team is that just about everyone is back. The bad news for the rest of the Northeastern Conference is that the Marblehead High softball team has just about everyone back.

The Magicians are coming off a banner season that saw them win the NEC South and post the best record (16-4) in the conference overall. Pitcher Courtney Colantuno, the 2007 Item Player of the Year, is back on the mound and she's flanked by seven other returning starters.

"We should be fine," coach John Gold said. " The kids are older, more mature, and they know what to expect."

Last year, Marblehead had a bye in the first round of the Division 2 North tournament, beat NEC rival Saugus in the first round, 2-1, and lost to Central Catholic in the quarterfinals, 9-3.

Colantuno, who will be heading to Bowdoin College next fall, has a supporting cast that includes Mandy James, an all-star center fielder and tri-captain who also plays soccer and hockey. Another conference all star, Ashley White, returns at third base and junior Sam Norman, who hit .400 last year, is back in left field. She can also play second base.

The Magicians should also pack some power with the bats with Colantuno hitting third and shortstop Katherine Fallon in the clean-up spot.

"She (Fallon) is a very good ballplayer," Gold said.

Senior Laura Kanarski returns at first base. She's also a three-sport athletes (soccer, basketball and softball).

"She's a very quiet kid, unassuming, but she just gets the job done," Gold said.

Silvie Cohen, who started in the outfield as a freshman, returns with a year of experience under her belt. Junior Liz Whitehill, who played second base last year, is working out behind the plate, as is junior Hannah Pelkey, who caught for the junior varsity last year.

Junior Grace Quigley, an outfielder or second baseman, and Stephanie Lyons, a sophomore shortstop/outfielder, will also figure into the mix this year.

John Gold

The Magicians open their season April 9 with a non-league game against Manchester-Essex. They start conference play with Danvers.

He's the keeper of the stats for Ipswich

Sport:   Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

He's the keeper of the stats for Ipswich
For 44 years, John Thomas has ignored his disability and archived high school sports numbers

By Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  |  March 27, 2008

It was fall 1964, John Thomas recalled. And around Ipswich, it's hard to question the man's memory.

Thomas was getting adjusted at Ipswich High, and the school was adjusting to him.

These days, Thomas would be called a special-needs student, since he was born with an ailment that affected his joints and muscles and put him in a wheelchair when he was a child.

"The teachers, the staff, they worried about me all the time," said the longtime Ipswich sports statistician. "Having somebody in a wheelchair. [It was] a culture shock to have somebody come to class in a wheelchair. There was no such thing as special needs. I was mainstreamed all the way."

So, in 1964, Thomas was all set for the first day of biology, and in strolled Jack Welch.

Welch was a fresh face, raised in Newburyport, trained by the Navy, educated at the University of Maine, and now employed for the first time out of college by Ipswich High as a teacher and coach. No one knew then he would become the greatest coach in the history of Ipswich football, which is an easy call 44 years and 224 wins later.

The pair just clicked.

"When he came, he expected everybody to participate," Thomas said. Everybody, including Thomas.

Welch made Thomas the football correspondent, and had him take down all the statistics and highlights and call them in to the local papers. Thomas was on the sideline every game. Welch made sure of it himself, picking Thomas up before they'd even drawn the lines on the field and dropping him home after everyone had cleared out.

Not too long after he graduated in 1968, Thomas began a 20-year stint as a clerk in the athletic department. If you ask anybody who has gone through that office, they'll tell you he is the one-man encyclopedia for Ipswich High School sports.

Thomas, who will turn 60 in July, lives in a small community run by the Ipswich Housing Authority. He doesn't have a lot of space, but packs it with everything Ipswich - old newspaper clippings, rosters, photos, stats, miniature helmets with Welch's career victory total painted on the side, even his own ring from the Tigers' Super Bowl run in 2006.

"He knows everything, every little detail, every score," athletic director Tom Gallagher said. "Without him, I don't know where we'd be, honestly, because he is Ipswich High School sports."

And yet he's so much more.

"I consider him a friend of mine," said Welch, 74, who retired in 2000. "Not only a friend but also a kind of guy whom I've always admired. I get a lot of my inspiration from him. . . . He's the kind of kid who gets through life based upon his courage."

Until about five or six years ago, Thomas didn't even know what his disability was. The way he saw it, he was born that way and there was nothing he could do to change it.

"I never looked it up," he said. "A lot of people don't."

The only reason he knows now is because five or six years ago, his brother, Mike, looked it up, because his doctor needed to know his family's medical history.

Mike Thomas researched the disease online. Arthrogryposis is what they called it. The cause stems from insufficient room in the womb at birth. The result is lack of bone development and muscle mass. It typically affects the joints.

John Thomas spent about 15 years in and out of hospitals. When he was at Lakeville State Hospital, a long-term-care facility that closed in 1992, his mother, Theresa, couldn't stand to have him there anymore.

She and her friend, Theresa Pickul, tried to figure out a way to get him better care. They wrote a letter to the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston, back when it was the Joseph Patrick Kennedy Hospital.

The letter was effective enough to get him in, and Thomas is still grateful. "Unbelievable pediatric hospital," Thomas said. "Everybody I ever had there was royal to me. Absolutely royal."

That's how Thomas describes many people - "royal." Especially people from Ipswich.

"He still calls people 'my classmate,' " Gallagher said. "Everyone he went to school with he still considers a close personal friend."

Mostly because they were. Dave Drown, the voice of Tigers football the last five years, goes all the way back to junior high school with Thomas. He played football, baseball, basketball, and track, so, of course, Thomas charted his every move.

"He was always the loudest fan at the pep rallies," Drown said. "He has a spirit that's rivaled by none, really."

Drown would go to Thomas's house and help get him ready for school. He still visits.

"There's a great tradition at Ipswich High School, and John has helped the endurance of that tradition because of his dedication. And he enjoys it so much, that's what makes him so good at it."

Thomas keeps a slim Mac computer on his lap nowadays - a gift from an Ipswich alumnus - with a printer and a scanner by his side. Ipswich faithful burn DVDs of games so he can watch them while he works on all kinds of reports.

Thomas has managed to build a strong relationship with Welch since that first day in biology class 44 years ago. The two still talk about twice a week, about life more than anything else. Even though he moved back to Newburyport, Welch travels to Ipswich once a week and brings lunch to Thomas. And he calls every weekend, never fails.

"If anybody's been an inspiration to me over the years, it's John," Welch said. "John's the kind of guy when you go visit him, that when you think about you may be going through problems, then you go and see him and see his situation, you realize how lucky you are and how lucky that you have been blessed."

It's been two years since Thomas has been on the football sideline. He said he will try to get to a game in the fall, but it's complicated because his caregivers usually have him settled for the night by the time the games start, and also because it could cost $100 to $150 just to get a van to take him to a game.

But he wants to go. And people want to see him, including Drown.

Ipswich is in the process of building a new press box for its football field. Drown's voice will be booming over the public-address system. But the one thing holding up the construction is accessibility for the handicapped.

It's like the press box is waiting on Thomas. "Soon as we get that up," Drown said, "he'll be in the press box for sure."

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

Paul has thrived in Kittery: Traip hoop coach earns Western Maine coaching honor

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Paul has thrived in Kittery: Traip hoop coach earns Western Maine coaching honor

Article Date: Friday, March 28, 2008

Coach Jeremy Paul was recently named Western Maine Class C Coach of the Year. Members of the Kittery community held a party in honor of his acheivement at the Recreation Center Thursday.
(EJ Hersom/Staff photographer)

KITTERY, Maine — There are probably thousands of high school basketball coaches who would love to have what Traip Academy coach Jeremy Paul has — a deep-rooted presence in a community, which gives one the ability to coach a team after knowing its players for most of their lives.

Paul has that, and has thrived with it. This year, he was named 2008 Maine Association of Basketball Coaches' Western Class C Coach of the Year for the first time in his five-year career as head coach of the Rangers. His 11 years total with the program has been a labor of love, one which paid off with tremendous success on the court this season.

"I've known coach since second or third grade," said Traip senior guard Jesse Scardina. "I grew up with him and played basketball with him every single year. He coached my brothers. This honor is well deserved for a while now."

Paul said he was "absolutely shocked" by the honor when he found out about it at a coaches' meeting on March 10.

"I about passed out," he said. "It's a pretty big deal, in a way, because it comes from the other coaches. It's nice to be recognized. I usually associate that with teams that wind up winning the whole thing. We did have a good year, and to be recognized for that is absolutely an honor."

Traip had a wildly successful season, despite losing four starters from the previous year's team. The Rangers went 17-2 and lost to eventual state champion Winthrop, 59-46, in the Western Maine Class C semifinals. The setback was the Rangers' only loss in Class C all season — their only other loss came to Class B Cape Elizabeth.

"And they went to the state Class B finals," Paul said about Cape Elizabeth. "I'm very happy with what we did this year. We beat York twice and beat Wells twice (both of Class B). With the programs they've had in the past, there really isn't much to complain about at the end of the year."

Paul was feted at a surprise gathering Thursday afternoon at the Kittery Community Center, where he works as assistant director of the Recreation Department. On hand for the party were more than 20 people, including his players and numerous well-wishers.

"He's been around a long time in Kittery, and he's worked his way up from (coaching) the freshman team," said Mike Roberge, former Traip boys basketball coach and now the assistant principal and athletic director at the school. "Through his work at the Rec Department, he knows all the kids. He probably knows more kids than anyone in our (athletic) program, because he's dealt with them, up through the rec basketball program on weekends that he's involved with. He's done a tremendous job with that."

Paul said his team's success in the season just ended was a direct result of hard work, and teamwork.

"They made it pretty easy," Paul said. "I didn't have to do a lot of yelling or screaming. They'd played together for a while, and they worked with us for a while too. To see them work for 11 years, all the way up, this year was the culmination of that work."

That sentiment was echoed by his players.

"He made it easy to enjoy basketball this year," said senior guard Tyler Metevier. "He has a desire to win and love for the game. Not just for the game, but for us, too. His love kind of brushed off on us. That helped us a lot. He deserves this honor."

Metevier said that with Paul's encouragement, the team not only developed its basketball skills, but its chemistry too.

"You can't find a group of 12 guys who wanted to be with each other, day-in and day-out, like us," Metevier said. "He helps us there, too."

And, Paul said, it was nice to see the local newspapers and television stations take notice of what Traip was up to this year.

"Channel 8 came to our gym three or four times this year," Paul said. "That kind of (blew) my mind, we haven't seen them in what, how many years here?"

Harjula enjoys coaching, playing on the diamond

Sport: Baseball  Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Harjula enjoys coaching, playing on the diamond
The Courier-Gazette
By Mark Haskell

Greg Harjula, a 2001 graduate of Rockland District High School, is now the associate head coach of the Lasell College baseball team. The team is in its first season as a club team, and hopes to obtain Division III varsity status in 2009.

    NEWTON, Mass. — Many athletes hope that once their high school playing days are over, that they can continue to thrive at their sport of choice on one form or another.
    For Greg Harjula, a 2001 graduate of Rockland District High School, that sport is baseball. And not only does he continue to thrive, he is now helping bring the sport to a small Massachusetts college.

    Harjula, a three-sport athlete for the Tigers and a three-time Courier-Gazette baseball all star, now is the associate head coach at Lasell College in Newton. Harjula described his position “head of the assistant coaches,” and he accepted the position in August. Harjula also is the physical education teacher at Randolph Community Middle School.

    The Lazers are introducing baseball for the first time this season as a club sport, with plans for the team to obtain varsity status for the 2008-09 season. They will compete at the Division III level in the Great Northeast Atlantic Conference against the likes of Emerson College, Suffolk University and St. Joseph’s College of Maine.

    While Harjula may seem a bit young to coach at the college level at age 24, he is becoming a seasoned veteran at the coaching level and has continued to climb the coaching ladder. The previous season he was the varsity coach at Randolph High School, having coached the jayvee team in 2006.

    “The game of baseball is a lot different at the college level, which is one of the reasons I decided to go there,” said Harjula. “It’s a lot more in depth and there is a lot more strategy involved. But, it always comes back to just throwing the ball, catching the ball and hitting the ball.

    “When I was [coaching] at the jayvee level, the biggest thing was just the fundamentals. Throwing the ball, catching the ball and just making contact with the ball. At the varsity level you can work on hitting to the opposite field and defensive plays and things like that. At the college level, you have to do everything. Defensive plays for infielders, outfielders, pitchers and catchers.”

    Harjula’s responsibilities include working with hitters and infielders, which is where he thrived as a Tiger from 1997 to 2001. He also was a four-year starter for Eastern Nazarene College and, at the time of graduation, held the school record for most games played and most consecutive games played, was third all time in hits and fifth in runs batted in. Harjula also plays for the South Boston Saints of the Yawkey Baseball League in the summer. Last season, he compiled a .298 batting average with 17 hits and eight RBIs in 19 games.
    The biggest difference for Harjula in coaching at the college level has been the responsibility of recruiting for next season, which he shares with head coach Jim Dolan. Harjula said that given the fact it is the Lazers’ inaugural campaign, it has not necessarily been a hard sell.

    “It’s a good academic school, which helps us with recruiting,” said Harjula. “I was actually surprised with how many kids were interested. It gives these kids a chance to be a part of something that no other incoming kid can say they were a part of. That in itself is a huge sell.”

    Dolan also coached at the high school level last season and Harjula said that being a club sport this year has helped them both tremendously.

    Since Lasell has not been a baseball school, it does not have its own field. It has shared a field with neighboring Brandeis University since the fall. It has access to the field six nights a week, a field that Harjula calls one of the best Division III baseball fields in New England.

    “They keep it in great shape,” said Harjula of the field. “It’s a huge opportunity for us, because that is another recruiting tool for us. We can tell all the kids we play all our home games and practice at Brandeis University.”

    One drawback is that the students that Harjula are coaching did not come to Lasell College with the intent of playing baseball. His players all played varsity baseball in high school, but the first season will be more getting the players conditioned and acclimated to the college game. Harjula has been doing heavy recruiting for next year, but hopes to have some of the players from this year around for next season as well.

    “If there are five kids that can be here next year that know how we run practice and know our philosophy, I think that will be a huge help,” said Harjula. “Even if they are backups; but they know what to expect and how we run things, they can be leaders on this team.”

Harjula was also a four-year player at Eastern Nazarene College and held the school record for most games played and consecutive games played at the time of his graduation in 2006.

    While he has clearly moved on to bigger and better things, Harjula has not forgotten about his hometown school, and credits SAD 5 with helping him become the athlete and coach he has become today.

    “I had some great coaches,” he said. “Joe Keller, Richie Oliver and Buddy Wood for my senior year. Those three coaches gave me the foundation for my baseball skills that allowed me to play in college and got me exposed to the college game and interested in coaching at that level. I can never thank them enough. The impact that coaches can have on somebody’s life is awesome, and that is one thing I want to be able to give back to the kids that they have to me.”

Blodgett reflects

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 28th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Blodgett reflects
Blethen Maine Newspapers

ORONO -- Maine basketball legend Cindy Blodgett steered her team through her first season as head coach at the University of Maine this year. The Black Bears finished with a 7-23 record and the words 'young' and 'inexperienced' used regularly to describe the group on the court.

Those words will now be left in the 2007-08 season, said Blodgett, who sat down for a Q&A session to reflect on the season and look forward to next year.

"We no longer will talk about youth and inexperience," Blodgett said. "It's now about accountability. How do we come back next year? Are we able to learn from the mistakes we made this season?"

Q: How would you rate the team's progress through the course of the season?

A: I really try to fight basing our progress and growth on seven wins. Coming in here I knew the first year was going to be difficult. A new coaching staff, a new philosophy. They're inheriting me. I'm inheriting them. I think we've built a foundation. They understand what my expectations are and what I can expect from them. It will make it that much easier going into next season.

Q: What will you do differently as a team next season?

A: There's a laundry list when you win seven games. We've got to get in great shape. We have to work tirelessly to become better basketball players. That means we have to get into the gym and we've got to play. You would expect that with seven wins.

Q: Do you look back and wish you had done anything differently?

A: I'm pretty methodical. I'm pretty thoughtful in terms of my approach. Did I coach a perfect season? Absolutely not. I certainly have areas to grow. I think all first-year coaches go through the same things. Do I look in the mirror every single day and say "Oh maybe I should've done this. Maybe I should've changed the defenses earlier?" Yeah. But that's coaching. You live it every day.

Q: You previously said you hope the team can compete for an America East championship in three years. Is that still true?

A: Yeah, I'm hoping Year No. 3 we can really see the fruits of our labor from the two previous years. But you're also looking at two years. And a lot of it is, how quickly can our kids develop? How quickly can our incoming freshmen adjust and make that transition? So it's not a two-year plan. It's not two years and go into the third year and you're winning it.

Q: What kind of players are your incoming recruits?

A: When I was recruiting this summer I was looking for players I think can fill some of our gaps. We definitely have gotten an increase in speed. We should be faster, and hopefully play a little more up-tempo style. Now I say that, but I'm not saying these kids are all going to come right in and play right away. But they should help us.

Q: Can you run down what each one of them brings?

A: Brittany Williams is a point guard from Rochester, N.Y. She's a very, very good defensive player. I say that because that's what I saw this summer. That's what really stuck out. That and leadership skills. She clearly was in charge of her team. She can score. It's not her first priority, but I think from the defensive end, we can talk about offense all we want, but we gave up a boatload of points all season. So she's going to help us immediately on that end of the court.

Jasmine Rush from Houston Texas. She's 5-8 lefty. She's a combo guard. Speed. Quickness. Legitimate 3-point range. She's a scorer. She's also very, very quick to the basket, so she will give us that element of speed coming off the wings. She should be able to create for herself which will fill another hole for us.

Sam Wheeler is coming from New Hampshire. She's a really, really hard worker. She's a fifth generation Black Bear. Manch Wheeler is her grandfather. He played football here and was a pro football player. It's really, really important for her to be a Black Bear.

Sam Baranowski, she's from New Jersey. A post player, and she's very fast, a very, very good athlete. She will speed it up for us. I can see us getting out on the break and having more opportunities with her just running down the gut. She's a very, very hard worker.

Q: What can you share about the four players who are not returning to the program? (Point guard Emily Rousseau, center Sandra Vaitkute, guard Brittany Bowen and forward Magdala Johnson left the program in the last few weeks)

A: I won't really comment on the kids as to why. I just think it's okay if these young people have privacy. It's very common that this happens. It's pretty typical with new coaching staffs. It's unfortunate but the element that people don't really understand is through the recruiting process you spend so much time recruiting these players, that when they come on campus they know what your expectations are or they wouldn't choose to come play for you. When you have a new staff in any program you have a lot of jockeying for position. Players are trying to figure out, is this really where I want to be? That kind of thing.

On the other side I look at them and say, "Would that be a player I would pick out if I was sitting in the gym recruiting?" Kids are going to be here, kids are going to leave. They won't be the first, they won't be the last. That's typical with programs around the country.

Q: Will you look to grab any other late signings through the summer?

A: We're always looking. If there's someone out there we really feel like could really improve us we'll absolutely take a real strong look. That being said we also understand the value of a scholarship. We're not recruiting kids to come up for a year and decide if they like it or not, or two years. We're recruiting players that we're committed to over a four-year period and we're looking for that in return. You want to be sure when you offer a young person a scholarship. If we find someone we believe in, someone we think could really help us out, we're not gun shy. We'll pull the trigger. It would have to be someone we're pretty sure about.

Q: Are you left with enough players for next year?

A: Yeah. We're going to have 11 players with the four recruits. We have 15 scholarships and we're going to have 11 kids who will be on scholarship. I'd love to bring in another one but I'm not compelled to. We could play with 10.

Q: Will you tweak your game plan on the court at all next season?

A: I think even with the players who were coming in, the increase in speed will make our offense look different. Our break offense will look entirely different. We have two or three sets that are equal opportunity sets, continuity sets where everyone can get a shot, a quality shot. We also have a lot of on-ball screens where the players have to make a play. It's sort of forcing them to make a play. We'd like to press more. Change up our presses a little bit.

Q: How did things work out with your staff?

A: It's so funny. We sort of learned about each other on the fly too. We have a solid group. We're solid because they're all really good people. When you have a season where you're not as successful as you want to it really makes you look at all the people involved. You see the best and worst of people through adversity. I can look at the coaches, and say this is a solid group even through difficult times. Same thing with the team.

Q: Are there any Division I prospects in the high school system in Maine right now you will recruit?

A: There's definitely a couple of younger kids. Being at the (high school) tournament this year -- I tried to get to as many games as I could outside our own games -- I think there is some younger talent in Maine. We'll have to see how they progress and develop over the course of their high school careers. I'd really like to keep the very best Maine players here in Maine if it's a really good fit. You've got to make sure it's a good fit for them as well.

Q: What do you like about Maine kids?

A: The one thing I really like about Maine kids is generally they have a really strong work ethic. Playing for your home state brings a certain level of pride, not that kids from out of state don't have that -- but I think if there's a Maine kid I really feel like has a strong work ethic and is equal to another kid I'm looking at out of state, there's no question I'd probably lean towards the Maine kid. To me that just makes sense.

Q: Have you watched games in the NCAA Tournament as a team?

A: We all are watching (on our own.) I like to share tidbits with them. Oklahoma State last night, they played against Florida State. Two years ago they were 0-16 in their conference. Now they're going to the Sweet 16 two years later. It's a good story for me to share with our players. I'm not saying in two years we're going to be in the Sweet 16. But I'm also saying, you had a team full of players that had tremendous will to want to change that program. That didn't happen overnight.

Q: Are you playing anywhere?

A: Sometimes I'll play shooting games with the players before or after practice. I don't mind. A couple of weeks ago the kids were playing and only had three, so I went down and played two-on-two. It's good because they get to see me in a different light. I try not to coach them if I play with them. That's the last thing I'd want, a coach to be playing and coaching me.

Q: In general, when you look back do you feel satisfied?

A: We've made some progress and we're moving in the right direction. I feel like the picture may be starting to become clearer. It's still going to take a good deal of time.

HC gets 23 gridders 2008 HC football signings

Sport:   Posted: March 27th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

HC gets 23 gridders 2008 HC football signings

Holy Cross football coach Tom Gilmore announced his 2008 incoming class yesterday. Twenty-three athletes will join the Crusaders for the 2008 season.

“We are very excited about the quality of our incoming class,” Gilmore said. “This is a smaller class, because we have a large number of returning players … but that allowed us to be more selective, and bring in high-quality student-athletes.”

Holy Cross returns 16 of the 24 starters from its 2007 squad, which finished 7-4, 4-2 in the Patriot League.

It will play its annual spring game on April 19 and open the 2008 season against UMass on Sept. 6.

Name    Pos.    Ht.    Wt.    Hometown
Brandon Bamberg    TE/DE    6-5    210    Bamberg, S.C.
Matt Bellomo    RB/WR    6-1    190    Holliston, Mass.
Matt Bosnjak    WR    6-0    180    Sewell, N.J.
Francis Camara    RB    5-9    190    Reading, Pa.
Chandler Fenner    WR    6-0    185    Virginia Beach, Va.
Colby Husby    DB    6-0    195    Argyle, Texas
Andrew Jameson    OL    6-4    295    Brockton, Mass.
Zach Kauth    WR    6-5    190    Vandalia, Ohio
Cav Koch    DB    5-10    170    Dallas, Texas
C.J. Martin    LB    5-11    225    Plano, Texas
Charles McCall    WR    5-10    185    Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Ryan McGinn    DL    6-3    235    Philadelphia, Pa.
Paul McKelvey    WR    6-3    185    Waite Hill, Ohio
Eric Oldiges    DL    6-3    265    Taylor Mill, Ky.
Ricky Otis    LB    6-1    210    Cleves, Ohio
Corey Page    P    6-0    180    Tampa, Fla.
Alex Schneider    TE    6-5    230    Inver Grover Heights, Minn.
Kyle Seddon    OL    6-4    300    Southington, Conn.
Clay Swigert    DB    6-0    190    Louisville, Ohio
Jimmy Thomas    LB    6-3    200    Severn, Md.
Mark Tolzien    QB    6-1    170    Rolling Meadows, Ill.
Kevin Watson    QB    6-3    195    Skillman, N.J.
Sean Whited    OL    6-2    265    Canton, Ohi

Royal leader: Bouchard takes over as Georgetown lacrosse coach

Sport:   Posted: March 27th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Royal leader: Bouchard takes over as Georgetown lacrosse coach
By Evan Mugford
Staff writer

Georgetown High lacrosse coach Matt Bouchard, right, works with his team during practice earlier this week.
Bryan Eaton / Staff photo
GEORGETOWN — Despite a better-than-average season last year, the Georgetown boys lacrosse team has reason to believe that this season could be an even larger step in the right direction.

The main reason for such high hopes is the introduction of new coach Matt Bouchard, a graduate of Merrimack College and a legitimate high school journeyman whose coaching stops have seen him at Salem High and Masconomet.

A Salem, Mass. native and Georgetown football coach for the past two seasons, Bouchard is well aware of Royal pride and jumped at the chance to coach the school's talented lacrosse program.

Bouchard began playing lacrosse a year before his freshman year at Salem High. It wasn't long before he found a new passion. He jumped at the opportunity to replace the architect of the boys lacrosse, Paul Hartford, who left the team after his son, Tim Hartford, graduated last spring.

"Once I realized the position was open," said Bouchard, "it didn't take me long to put my name in, go through the interview process, and eventually, I was lucky enough to get the job."

Other than coaching two of Georgetown's most rigorous sports, Bouchard also runs a strength and conditioning program for the school since he became the football coach.

"In my opinion, no matter what sport I've been coaching," said Bouchard, "the one thing that can help get athletes to the next level is getting into the weight room. Even a small program can compete with the right training and effort.

"Basically it's a program that's open to the whole school, athletes and non-athletes, and our goal is to build and improve the potential of Georgetown's athletes," explained Bouchard.

Getting bigger and stronger is only a section of the program that has been pushing Georgetown athletes for the last two years. Nutrition and preparation for competitions are also integral parts of Bouchard's routine.

"We talk about nutrition throughout the year," said Bouchard, "because it's not just about getting into the weight room twice a week. It's about filling your body with the right amount of healthy food to maintain their strength and awareness.

"The strength program is here to compliment every program in the school. It's a year-round endeavor," explained Bouchard. "We want the kids to be stronger at the end of the season than they were at the beginning of the season. And with the remarkable lack of injuries the school has sustained, it's evident the program is working."

As the new lacrosse figure-head, Bouchard knows what needs to be done in order for his team to excel.

"I'm always going to take advantage of our team's strengths and have a system in place where if tweaking certain aspects needs to be done, then we'll accomplish it as successfully as possible," stated Bouchard. "This year we're really talented in the midfield position, so I'm really looking for those guys to establish our offense through fluid transition. So we want to force the defense into an unsettled situation and try to generate some offense from there on out."

Whether the team has immediate success or not, Bouchard knows there are other aspects that weigh heavier than athletic skill and prominence.

"One of the best parts about being a coach is having a part in the lives of young athletes," said Bouchard. "A great coach walks the line between being a friend and a coach. But being a mentor to how they live and train is what my main goal certainly is.

"My standard is that I really don't care if you're an All-American, you need to do it right in the classroom too," explained Bouchard. "Every college coach I've ever talked to, the first question is always the same: What type of person are they? That's followed by: How's their character? Then: Can they get it done in the classroom? They don't even talk abut whether the kid can play. I build my program around those concepts."

With the season opener just days away, Bouchard is content with his team's abilities and lineup.

"We have a lot of senior depth," stated Bouchard, "and we're going to set ourselves apart from other teams this year because of our seniors, and the intangibles they've gathered through experience. They're dynamic, they have talent, and they understand the game."
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