ByRhiannon McQuaide – Contributor
When the snow starts melting and the days begin feeling longer, you know it’s time for spring athletics. After spending the majority of preseason practicing indoors, University of Southern Maine’s spring sports teams are excited to finally get outside for practices and games.
The Men’s Baseball Team, coached by Ed Flaherty, hopes to win another LEC Championship after bringing one home in 2021. With leadership from Coach Flaherty, who reached his 1100th career win earlier this season, as well as standout returners Arlo Pike and Bryce Afthim, the Huskies will be a strong contender in the Little East Conference. Pike, a senior first baseman from Buxton, Maine, is the biggest offensive threat for USM. Last season, Pike batted .345 with 7 home runs and 34 RBI’s. Returning pitcher Bryce Afthim, a junior, will also be an impact player for the Huskies. In 2022, he had an earned-run-average of 7 in 61 innings, with 55 strike-outs.
The Huskies play at home on April 1 against UMass Dartmouth (noon & 3 p.m.).
The softball team, led by Coach Sarah Jamo, went 13-3 in conference games last season and was the Little East Conference runner-up. With help from strong returners and promising newcomers, they look to capture their first LEC Championship in 25 years. Returners include Rona Scott, a senior with a batting average of .364, and juniors Lauren Merrill (pitcher/utility) and Belle Snyder (pitcher).
They play at home on April 1 against Western Connecticut (noon & 2 p.m.).
Players to watch on the Men’s Tennis team include Ethan Rudnicki, Zach Howe, Zach Desmarais, and Cole Ouellette. These four, along with the rest of the team, hope to finish with a better record than last year. “We could have finished higher last year had it not been for injuries and sickness,” says senior tennis player, Ryan Geary. “Being ranked 6th on the preseason poll really put the guys into action. Practices are intense, comprehensive and competitive. I’ve never been on a team that wants it more than these guys do. We are ready to make some serious noise in the LEC.”
The men’s tennis team has a home match on April 8 against Bridgewater State (12 p.m.).
Track & Field
Head Coach Rob Whitten anticipates a successful season for his athletes. Last year, the women’s team placed first at the Little East Conference Championship, while the men’s team took home second behind UMass Dartmouth. “As always the goal is to position ourselves to contend for an LEC conference team championship and I feel like we’ve got groups ready to do that. Beyond that, our continued goal would be to qualify more individuals for the DIII New England and be in the top 10 there,” says Whitten.
Many returners enter the outdoor season just a week after the conclusion of an outstanding indoor season. “We certainly had some great individual and team moments during the indoor season,” Whitten says. Some of the returners include juniors Ben Drummey (pole vault), Ethan Shain (100m, 4×100 relay), and Olivia Jalbert (high jump, long jump, javelin), as well as sophomores Anna Reny (400m hurdles), Trevor Grenier (400 hurdles), and Zoe Barnes (discus). Drummey placed first in the pole vault at the NCAA Division III Championship– an accomplishment Coach Whitten strives for all of his athletes to achieve.
The men’s and women’s track and field teams will head to Bates College on April 1 for their first meet of the season.
Huskies lacrosse coach Sam Manders anticipates a successful season for his team if they can “play 60 minutes of good lacrosse” each game and limit physical and mental errors. They collected back to back wins over spring break against Norwich and Husson, and will head to Massachusetts Maritime Academy to play their first conference game on April 1.
The team will be led by seniors Nick James, Chris Xpistos Sourgiadakis, and Schuyler Wetmore, as well as sophomore Tucker Nussinow.
The next home game for the Huskies is on April 8th against Keene State (1 p.m.).
Graduate students Rachel Shanks and Payton Winslow return for their final season of college lacrosse. The two graduate students will provide experience and leadership to the young team (8 freshmen, 6 sophomores) and hope to guide them to their first Little East Conference Championship since 2010. Shanks currently leads the team with 14 goals while Winslow has contributed strong defense. Other impact players for the Huskies include junior Kaiya Gatchell, sophomores Emily Cloutier and Anna Byers, and freshmen Maddie Kinney and Cierra Hill. Junior goalie Cece Racine will be a major asset to the team in net for the third year in a row. Last year, she was a 3-time LEC Goalie of the Week and currently holds the program record for lowest goals against average.
The Huskies play at home on March 29 against Wesley College (4 p.m.) and again on April 8th against Eastern Connecticut (3:30 p.m.).