Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Matt DiFilippo firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERVILLE -- When Thomas College men's cross country coach Kerry Smart brings a potential recruit on campus, Will Janakis wants to talk to the high school kid.
THOMAS COLLEGE FALL SPORTS PREVIEWS
Coach: Andrea Thebarge
Last season: 7-10, lost in NAC quarterfinals
Players to watch: F Brittany Premo (Jr.), B Lauren Hachey (Sr.), G Sofia Sourgiadakis (Sr.), G Jasmine Bishop (Sr.), M Brooklyn Curry (So.), F Michelle Greene (So.), M Jaclyn Hartwell (Jr.), M Erin Nelligan (So.)
Outlook: The Terriers were picked to finish sixth in the North Atlantic Conference in a poll of the league’s coaches. Premo (11 goals) is the only returning player who scored more than three goals last season, so Thomas will look to develop other offensive threats. Sourgiadakis (2.27 GAA) and Bishop (2.60 GAA) were both solid in the cage last fall. There are also 11 freshmen on this year’s roster.
Coach: Chris Parsons
Last season: 15-3-2, NAC champions
Players to watch: GK Mikkail Crockwell (Sr.), F Michael Hand (Sr.), D Paul Rechichi (Sr.), F Dakota Duplissie (Jr.), F/M Kenny Cano (Jr.), M Marcus Johnson (Jr.), M Joshua Phelps (So.), M Tre Ming (So.)
Outlook: Thomas won the NAC last year and has an excellent chance to do so again. The few balls that get through the defense usually don’t get past Crockwell, who had a 0.66 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage last year. Hand scored 12 goals in 13 games last year, and has scored two in two games this season. Oddly enough, the Terriers have only five regular season home games, and none until Sept. 27.
Coach: Deb Biche
Last season: 4-11-1, did not make NAC playoffs
Players to watch: D/M Jenn Day (Jr.), GK Kate Thibodeau (Sr.), F Elizabeth Goodall (Sr.), F Kajsa Kaufeldt (So.), D Toral Nelson (Jr.), M/F Kristi Hilton (Jr.), F Mary Grace Morris (Jr.)
Outlook: The Terriers return a lot of players who saw major minutes last year, but were still picked to finish eighth in the NAC. They scored 15 goals and allowed 42 in 16 games last year, so both areas could be improved upon. Thibodeau had an .813 save percentage last year, while Day and Kauifeldt tied for the team lead with five goals.
MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Coach: Kerry Smart
Last season: 6th at NAC championships
Runners to watch: Will Janakis (Jr.), Nick Kopf (Fr.), Evan Boudreau (Jr.), Dylan McNally (Jr.), Aron MacLean (So.)
Outlook: The Terriers were picked by the league’s coaches to drop to seventh in the NAC this fall, but there’s good reason to believe they’ll make a move in the other direction. Kopf finished in 17 minutes, 6 seconds in the opening meet and will challenge all season for the No. 1 spot. At that meet, the Terriers had a spread of 17:06 for Kopf to 19:17 for MacLean as their No. 5 runner. Last year at the same meet, the spread was 18:05 to 21:57.
WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Coach: Kerry Smart
Last season: 10th at NAC championships
Runners to watch: Crystal Peatfield (Fr.), Jericca Stackpole (Jr.), Samantha Felbaum (Jr.), Bea Parenteau (So.)
Outlook: The Terriers had only four runners at their opening meet on Friday, and will struggle with numbers all year. Peatfield had a promising showing at the meet, finishing 38th overall with a time of 23:02. The Terriers will look to add numbers in the future, much like the men’s team has.
"My big selling point," Janakis said, "is, I show them the school, and I say, 'This is how it is. We've got this great, small community, if you want to be a part of a team, not just a member. And we work together.' "
Right now, Janakis is the guy to sell the team. As a sophomore last fall, he made second-team all-North Atlantic Conference, making him the first Thomas men's runner to earn a spot on the team since the school joined the NAC in 2003.
It wasn't a straight line to get to this point. A South Berwick native, Janakis went from a injury-plagued high school career at Marshwood High School, to an under-motivated runner at Thomas. He's come around, and is now the program's best ambassador.
"He started our Facebook page," Smart said. "He was the one on me asking me if I talked to this guy or that guy. He drummed up excitement on campus. Some of the guys who hadn't run before, I think joined the team partly because Will talked about how good things were going to be this year. He got excited, and then got me even more excited."
When Thomas started cross country as a club team, one of the first runners was Keith Pike, another Marshwood graduate. That connection and the criminal justice program at Thomas helped lead Janakis to Waterville after a tough senior year at Marshwood.
"Senior year, I didn't PR in anything, really," Janakis said. "It was just one of those really disappointing things. It took me a year just to get it back, mentally."
Smart is the first to admit she's an old-school coach. She and Janakis also freely admit that they butted heads over Smart's style when Janakis was a freshman.
"(The) first year, we worked out, 'Did I know what I was doing?' and 'Did he trust me?' " Smart said.
"When you're used to doing something for four years, and you come to someone new, it was kind of difficult," Janakis said. "We didn't have that communication. We had something kind of special happen last year. Rather than fighting each other, we kind of worked together."
That season culminated with Janakis finishing 15th overall at the NAC championship meet, with a time of 29 minutes, 2 seconds. It also made him realize that he could do more this fall.
"Going into last season, I had surgery on my jaw," Janakis said. "So technically, I had a broken jaw until the beginning of October. I was on a liquid diet. Training-wise, I came into last season having run the five days previous. This year, I'm coming off of three months of training. So 29:02 was good. I ran 29:02, but I was probably in about 28:30 shape. So I'm hoping this year to get just under 28."
The jaw surgery was the worst injury Janakis has had at Thomas -- he ate about a lifetime's worth of SpaghettiOs and eventually resorted to stealing a hot dog from the grill at a barbecue. He's fine now, and the training this summer is already paying off.
In a poll of the conference coaches, Thomas was picked for seventh place. Janakis thinks that's a little low, but then, he knows firsthand why there's a reason to be excited about Thomas cross country.
"We've always been that underdog team," he said. "Last year, we were voted ninth in the conference. We finished sixth, and we were (18) points out of third. I think this year, a lot of teams don't expect anything of us. We want to go into meets this year, and rather than trying to have five guys finish, we want to win them. We want to be top three in the conference."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243