The Star-Herald

Fort Fairfield girls looking for more growth, experience this season

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — After a split last season, the Fort Fairfield girls varsity basketball team hopes to gain more experience for new members this season.

The Tigers had a record of 8-8 last season. In the Aroostook County playoff semifinals, the No. 4 ranked Tigers faced off against the No.1 ranked Presque Isle Wildcats, falling short with a 57-41 loss. 

The Tigers are led by Coach Larry Gardner, who is heading into his 24th year of coaching. Right now, Gardner said he is trying to get his players as much experience as he can before the season begins, but that has come with its fair share of challenges.

Fort Fairfield has been a strong defensive team, but this year, Gardner said he wants to focus on improving the team’s physical and mental toughness, in order to become more well rounded. To achieve that goal will involve working on a little bit of everything.

Members of the 2021-2022 Tigers are seniors Camryn Ala, Sarah McShea, Eva Callioras; juniors Jayde McKenney, Kassidy Gorneault, Emma Kilcollins; sophomores Laney Devine, Lydia Gorneault, Phoebe Solomon, Brittany Bragg; and freshman Brianna Osterblom, Mattey Devine and Cady Stairs. 

Potential starters include senior Guard Ala, who has been a starter for the last three years, and has consistently proven herself as a 3-point shooter and ball handler. Senior Forward Callioras is another starter contender who saw significant minutes last season, and is a physical player and strong defender. 

Another potential starter is sophomore Guard Solomon. Solomon is a strong player who saw considerable time last season, and Gardner has high expectations for her in the upcoming season, as well as for returning junior Guard Gorneault. 

These potential starters will need to work hard to fill the void left behind by last year’s seniors — Breanna Levasseur, Hunter Perkins, Kourtney West and Kennedy Bencivenga.  

“After losing our seniors, we are going to be a little inexperienced,” Gardner said.

Looking at the competition, Gardner notes that the Hodgdon and Fort Kent teams will be tough contenders in the coming season. “They are very well coached, and Hodgdon (freshman) Anna Oliver is a very strong player that we need to look out for,” Gardner said. 

Complications with COVID-19 have proven a challenge to the Tigers. The virus prevented the Tigers from doing any preliminary work over the summer, and quarantines have been keeping several players out of practice. “At the moment, we are trying to have enough kids to hold a practice,” Gardner said. “We can have roughly 6-7 players per practice, but it’s going to be another couple of days before we have everyone back.”

Despite those challenges, Fort Fairfield remains optimistic, and is not letting the masking conditions hurt their season. “The girls are pretty ‘used’ to it at this point. It’s hard holding practices while there are several kids in quarantine, but it is what it is, and we are slowly getting back to playing,” Gardner said.

Fort Fairfield remains in Class C, and will be facing opponents such as Fort Kent, as well as strong Class D squads in Southern Aroostook and Wisdom.

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