Matt Cook returns to the hardcourt
A familiar name has taken over the Freeport High School boys basketball program as the Falcons look to rebound from a winless 2010/11 campaign, while the girls look to make a statement as the Western Maine Conference season openers nears.
In indoor track, coach Brian Berkemeyer hopes to build off a successful cross country season.
Former Wiscasset High school boys coach Matt Cook takes over for Nick Jewett, who resigned after two years.
The Falcons went 0-18 in Western Maine Conference play last season, and Cook, who coached the Wolverines for seven seasons, feels his team can take big strides this season.
Kyle Strozewski, Adam Higgins and Zach Grant graduated, but Cook returns seniors Josh Soley ( forward), Mitch Loeman (guard), Jose Rosquete (G) and Spencer Bernier, along with juniors Abrin Berkemeyer (F) and Landon Easler (G), and sophomores Chandler Birmingham (G) and Matt Shulties (F).
Athletic senior Evan Hench (G) is among the five newcomers. Juniors Connor Dietrich (F), Joe Cushman (F) and Jeremy Ketch (F), and freshman Ramsey Dodge (F) complete the 13-player roster.
Cook stepped away from coaching two years ago to spend more time with his family, but decided to return.
“The two years off were good for me and my family, but as soon as I stepped into the Freeport gym, I was excited to be coaching again,” said Cook, who has 11 years of high school coaching experience. “I have a great group of guys here, just like I had at Wiscasset.
“The keys for us will be to take pride in defending and take care of the ball. We’re not sure of our identity as of yet, but we have athletes who can run. Our goal is to keep improving every day, both in practice and in games.”
The Falcons host Cape Elizabeth in their home opener on Dec. 13 (7 p. m.). After a road trip to Lake Region on Dec. 17, Freeport has four straight games at home, including rivals Yarmouth (Jan. 4) and Falmouth (Jan. 6).
A very pregnant Jen Chon guided the Falcons to a 6-12 season in her first varsity campaign, with Freeport showing glimpses of solid play.
This season, Chon, who gave birth to a healthy baby boy shortly after the hoops season ended, is looking for more, with her Falcons hoping for a playoff appearance.
“I think we’re going to surprise some teams this season,” said Chon, who lost starters Katee Poulin and Allyson Fuehrer, along with Erin Hall to graduation.
Seniors Alex Mitch (guard) and Morgan Brown (forward), juniors Leigh Wyman (G), Aubrey Pennell (G), Jocelyn Davee (G) and Hannah Chase (G/F), and sophomores Ashley Richardson (G) and Livy Dimich (G) return to the fold, along with key sophomore Nina Davenport (F), who returned to the school after a season playing at Catherine McAuley High School.
“Our guards are fast, while our forwards are tall and can score,” said Chon. “ Nina is a potential First Team All-WMC player this season and will certainly help us create more on the offensive end.”
Other newcomers for the Falcons are juniors Naomi Otis (F) and Macy Stowell (G), sophomore Vanessa Lee (F) and freshman Mackenzie Ackley (F).
“To be successful this year, we must raise our offensive field goal percentage and play stronger on the defensive end,” added Chon, who feels Lake Region, York and Falmouth will be the top teams in the WMC. “Aubrey (Pennell) will be a key for us at the point, distributing the ball to our top scorers, who should be Leigh (led the WMC in steals last year), Nina and Morgan (top shot blocker last season).
“We are meshing fast, and just trying to figure out what defensive system will work best for us. I think we can contend with a lot of teams this year, so the goal is to get to that next level and return to the Civic Center floor, especially after many of these girls saw success during the soccer season by making the playoffs and winning a game.”
The Falcons are slated to open at home Friday against North Yarmouth Academy at 7 p.m., followed by four consecutive games on the road, including at Lake Region (Dec. 17) and York (Dec. 22). After the holidays, Freeport hosts rival Yarmouth on Jan. 4 before visiting Falmouth on Jan. 6.
Brian Berkemeyer looked out at his Falcons as they loosened up at Bowdoin College’s Farley Field House prior to a practice. He saw 40 athletes laughing and joking around with each other.
“This program is getting bigger and bigger every year,” said Berkemeyer, whose Falcons open on Jan. 6 in a WMC meet at Gorham. “ We have a lot of seniors here, and they all can run. This group listens and has been pushing each other to get better. Our saying goes ‘indoor track is a family, not a date.’ These kids are very close and are becoming a family.”
Graduation took Kelly Edwards, Brianna Roy, Miles Boucher, Charlie Lehmer and Nate Pfeffer.
Among the boys, seniors Zach Greene (200/400), Taylor Saucier (800), Rob Civiletti, Thomas Dodge and Will Larkins are joined by classmate newcomers Alex Campbell, Gabe Currier, Jared Knighton, Luke LaMagna, Nick Sweet and Sawyer Williams.
“A lot of our new kids are athletic, so now it’s about finding the event that best suits them,” said Berkemeyer, who is assisted by Josh Zolla and Brendan Schwab.
Juniors are Ian McGhie, Victor Skorpova and Vinnie Zolla, while sophomores Braden Marstaller, Luke Spaulding and Harrison Stivers, who finished second in the junior 400 (54.59) and fourth in the junior 200 (25.71) in last year’s WMC meet, round out the Falcon returners.
Newcomers include sophomores Lee Brown, Mark Donahue, Austin Williams and Zac Strozewski, and freshmen Connor Cameron, Matt Francis, Tyler Frey and Brandon Larkins.
On the girls side, senior Abby Roney leads the way. Last year, Roney took sixth in the WMC’s in the junior 55 hurdles in 10.51.
Other returners are juniors Jordan Roy and Ciera Wentworth (sprints), and sophomores Olivia Bubar, Tess Gallagher, Heather Margerison and Gabby Tilton.
Falcon newcomers are senior Katie Turner, sophomores Sydney Ambrose, Lexi Dietrich, Emily Morang and Megan Pfeffer, and freshmen Katie O’Neil, Alyssa Richardson (mile/two mile) and Margo Ruby.
“I expect the usual big teams — Falmouth, York — to be the top teams again this year, since their numbers are so large,” said Berkemeyer. “We will be able to fill a lot of the events, but we are missing throwers and pole vaulters, so those will be key points we won’t get.
“My goal is to get as many to quality for the state meet, just like every year.”