CASTINE — Can the Maine Maritime Academy Mariner football team capture the Admiral’s Cup for a sixth consecutive year?
That’s one of the challenges that will face this year’s edition of the Mariners when they open the season on Saturday, Sept. 12, at Becker College.
Maine Maritime Academy will be represented in no fewer than five sports this fall, fielding teams in men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, golf and cross-country in addition to football.
Last year’s Mariners compiled a stellar 7-3 record, establishing new school records in 23 categories, before falling to Plymouth State University 46-16 for the New England Football Conference championship.
Mariner coach Chris McKenney was named Bogan Division coach of the year, and MMA placed three players on the All-New England Team and 11 players earned division all-star status.
This year’s Mariner offense will return nine players from last year’s campaign.
Running the offense will be junior quarterback Tyler Angell, who had 1,223 yards of total offense, eight rushing touchdowns and eight more through the air.
All-New England fullback Jim Bower returns after a junior year that saw him score a conference record 25 touchdowns and rush for 1,698 yards at 6.3 yards per carry.
Junior Todd Murphy and sophomore Nick Bourassa at halfbacks round out the backfield.
Experience is the watchword in the offensive line with seniors Travis Berube, Mike Vangelist, Erick Shortell and Travis Shaw back from a rushing attack that was second in the nation.
Supporting them will be juniors Mike Durrell, Mike Secord and Dan Weamer and sophomores Andrew McCann and Zach Rowe.
Back at wide receiver is senior Alex Coulombe, who had 419 yards receiving and four touchdowns last season.
The Mariner defense returns seven starters, led by senior linebacker and captain Travis Fergola, who had 93 tackles and an interception a year ago, and senior and captain Mike Riley, with 59 tackles, at cornerback.
Safety Connor Callahan, with 58 tackles, and division all-star linebackers Wade Mondoux, with 115 tackles, and Joel Chadbourne, with 84 tackles, add to the defensive strength.
Also expected to contribute are sophomore linebacker Chris Brawn, Trevor McCort, Frankie Sawyer, Andrew St. Michael, Mark Stambach and Dennis Michalos.
Coloumbe, who averaged 35.7 yard a punt last year, and sophomore Michael Brennan will handle kicking chores, and Bourassa, who was division kick returner of the year, will pick up where he left off, averaging 26.5 yards per return and 689 total yards a year ago.
Third-year coach Travers Evans will guide both the men’s and women’s soccer teams again this season.
The Mariner men, who open Sept. 5 at home against the University of New England, will include two North Atlantic Conference all-stars in forward Nate Tipton, the team’s leading scorer, and midfielder Nick El-Hajj.
Defensively, the Mariners will be led by junior Jeff Butland as goalkeeper, and five veterans in the backfield: seniors Isaiah Roberts and Derrek Belanger, junior Travis Jones and sophomores Tyler Tenney and Dylan Burr, who hails from Bar Harbor.
Joining El-Hajj in the midfield will be juniors Dan Hassett, Pat Somma, Mike Syler and Greg Smith, sophomore Jakub Rucinski and freshmen Abdullah Alkhayyat, Jesse Rongo and Alex Pedersen.
At forward, along with Tipton, will be seniors Jeff Normand and Omar Chaar, along with newcomers Ben Russell and Richie Munster.
On the women’s side, the Lady Mariners will be looking to make their 10th consecutive NAC tournament appearance.
The squad will be led by three players who were named NAC all-stars a year ago.
Senior Diana Manatt-Rogers, already a three-time all-conference selection, will lead the offensive attack.
Also returning in the front are sophomores Emma Damon of Bar Harbor and Emily Brogden, along with freshmen Callie Thompson and Christina Evans.
Katie Hutchinson, a two-time all-conference selection, will led the midfield, along with senior four-year starter Kelsi Eiane.
Also returning are senior Sarah Paquette and junior Amy Lane, and freshmen Alexis Bennett, Kari Jones and Autumn Jones will compete for time right away.
All-conference sweeper Megan Russell and two-year starter Kim Watts will anchor the backfield, along with two-year starter Jess Stahl.
Also expected to contribute are sophomore Dana Innis, senior Sam Rheaume and freshmen Ashley Marcellino and Caissie Nevala.
Two-year starter Lacey Jackson will be back in goal for the Lady Mariners.
Both MMA soccer teams will host the University of New England in the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the women playing at noon and the men at 2 p.m.
Senior Amy Young, last year’s NAC Player of the Year, will lead a volleyball team that looks to defend as NAC champion and return to the NCAA Division III tournament.
Young, a middle hitter, led the Lady Mariners last season in nearly all offensive categories and emerged as the NAC tournament’s most valuable player.
“We will count on Amy’s volleyball abilities and leadership to bring this squad together,” said coach Katrina Dagan.
Other key players will include senior Katherine McMillan, juniors Stephanie DeHaven, Jaymie Frederick and Ashley Tilton, who missed last season due to surgery.
Three returning sophomore starters will also play key roles.
Lauren Sakahara broke the MMA single season dig record with 507 and was a second team NAC all-star.
Heather Moore recorded 555 assists, and led the team, along with Kayley Rodriguez, with 54 aces.
Also expected to contribute are sophomores K.C. Anderson of Sullivan and Ashley Blanchette, and freshmen Jenna King, Chelsea Ward, Katherine Flaherty and Jennifer Dixon.
MMA will kick off the season with a three-team match at home in Castine on Saturday, Sept. 5, against Lesley University and the University of Maine – Machias starting at 11 a.m.
Steve Connor will be back as coach of the Mariner men’s and women’s cross-country teams.
The men’s team finished third in the NAC championships last year and this year’s 11-man roster former Ellsworth High School standout Alec Phippen.
The cross-country teams will open on Sept. 12 at the University of New England Invitational.
Senior Mike Smith of Ellsworth and sophomore Eric Beals of Mount Desert are among the eight players on coach Bob Flanders’ Mariner golf team, which will open the season at the Castine Golf Club on Sunday, Sept. 6, at noon against Thomas College.