One of the best players in the decorated history of the Camden Hills girls basketball program has come home.
Meg Cressler, who had a great career for the Windjammers and led them to a Class B state championship in 2000, has joined high school mentor Jay Carlsen’s coaching staff as an assistant.
Cressler, who resides in Hope and works for Jaret and Cohn Real Estate in Camden, was the head coach at Belfast the last three seasons before stepping down from that post after last winter.
The Windjammers got their season off on an impressive foot Friday night, thumping Mount View 64-32 at Thorndike.
Fellow Camden Hills alum Samantha Wiley, who played on the ’Jammers’ 2004 regional championship squad, is also on Carlsen’s staff and is coaching the freshman team.
And if that’s not enough, junior varsity coach Doreen Roberts was Cressler’s middle school coach.
“I think the most important thing she [Cressler] brings to the team is her sense of the team, because she played on some outstanding teams back when she was in school,” Carlsen said.
Cressler is the school’s all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, with 1,376 career points.
“Megan’s a one-of-a-kind person, as far as what she has meant to the program here at Camden Hills,” Carlsen said.
Cressler’s high school playing resume also includes an EM tourney MVP selection and BDN All-Maine first-team honors as a senior in 2000, when she led the Windjammers to a 60-51 win over Gorham in the state championship game. She’s enjoying herself so far.
“I worked with the kids in the summer a little bit just to fill things out, and it seemed like a good fit,” Cressler said. “[We] definitely have some very young talent but it’s the type of team that you never really know what you’re going to expect on any given night. They have all the talent and the hustle to win some big games this year and get a good spot in the tournament.”
Prior to earning her degree in communications from the University of Southern Maine in 2004, Cressler helped lead coach Gary Fifield’s Huskies to Little East conference titles and NCAA Division III tournament appearances all four years of college.
Cressler’s excited to return to her old stomping grounds.
“It’s the same faces, a lot of the faculty is the same,” she said. “It’s a nice feeling to be welcomed back and see familiar faces and be able to try to accomplish a goal.”
The Windjammers endured a tough season last year, compiling a 4-14 record and missing the EM Class B playoffs. But with seniors Maddie Smeaton, the team’s leading scorer last season, Gab Duke, Kara Lagage, Allie Holmes and Kylie Carlsen, the coach’s daughter, leading the way, Camden Hills is hoping for a return to the postseason this season.
“One of the goals of these kids is to make it to the tournament and to win a gold ball, as it should be,” Cressler said. “It’s wonderful for me to be able to be a part of that process after winning it in 2000.”
Carlsen is happy to see his former standouts passing down their knowledge to the Windjammers of today.
“It’s nice to look out and see the girls that play for me that want to be back, being involved with the program,” he said. “They’re passionate about teaching and coaching younger players. It’s just great.”
Lainez coaching at Brewer
Danielle Lainez, a former high school track and field standout in Maine, is on the coaching staff at Brewer this winter as a volunteer assistant.
Lainez spent her first three campaigns at Brewer while she competed for Bangor as a senior.
She’s a former Eastern Maine Indoor Track League record holder in the pole vault at 10 feet even while she also held the Class A standard at 10 feet, 6 inches. Rachel Bergman of Orono broke the EMITL record, clearing 10-1 in 2005, while Bethany Dumas of Cony holds the Class A standard at 12-7½.
Lainez was also a standout in the hurdles and triple jump.
She helped lead Brewer to an EMITL championship in 2003 and paced Bangor to similar success, including a Class A runner-up finish, that same season.
MTCCCA teams announced
The Maine Track and Cross Country Coaches Association has released its cross country all-star teams, and a few Eastern Maine runners made the cut.
Hampden Academy senior Darik Frye headlines the boys first team. He helped lead the Broncos to a KVAC Class B title while winning the individual title at that same meet.
Frye also earned a berth in New Englands.
Other first-teamers included Class A state champion Will Geoghegan of Brunswick, who narrowly missed qualifying for the Footlocker National Championships, scheduled for San Diego on Saturday.
He finished 11th in regionals, and the top 10 runners qualified.
Kelton Cullenberg of Mt. Blue of Farmington, Liam Cassidy of Brunswick and Luke Fontaine of Cony of Augusta were the other Eastern Maine runners on the first team.
Bangor senior Sam Nisbett, who also had an exceptional season and qualified for New Englands, was an honorable mention.
On the girls side, Footlocker qualifiers Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk and Emily Durgin of Cheverus in Portland stand out. The sophomores will compete in San Diego this weekend.
Kathleen McMahon of Brunswick was the lone Eastern Mainer to make the first team.
Dacie Manion of Old Town, the Eastern Maine Class B individual champion, was tabbed for honorable mention, along with Eastern A champ Melody Lam of Mt. Blue and Mount Ararat of Topsham’s Kate Spies.