Former Camden-Rockport High School girls basketball standout Meg Cressler was named head coach of the Camden Hills girls basketball team Thursday, replacing Marty Messer, who was not rehired after compiling a 48-28 record in his four seasons.
Messer said he was surprised and “pretty disappointed” when he found out he wasn’t returning.
Camden Hills athletic director Steve Alex explained that “we decided that we wanted to go in a new direction.”
Messer is still the softball coach at the school and his wife, Meredith, is the girls soccer coach.
“If I was ineffective as a coach in basketball, why am I still coaching softball?” Messer said.
He said he found out that several parents complained to Alex about him but he was never informed what they complained about.
“I assume it was about playing time. I made the mistake of keeping 15 players on our varsity roster, including swing players [varsity and junior varsity], and all but one of our games was decided in the fourth quarter so I couldn’t play many girls,” said Messer.
But Messer said Cressler will do a “great job” and said he will support her and he wishes her the best of luck. She will be coaching his daughter Charlotte, who was one of his team’s leading scorers as a freshman last season.
Alex said Cressler was one of three applicants and that he was pleased to have her on board.
“She’s an outstanding person and was a great player at Camden-Rockport before having a great career at the University of Southern Maine. And she received rave reviews when she coached at Belfast High School,” said Alex. “She will give us the leadership we need for the program.”
Cressler is excited about getting the job at her alma mater.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with the five towns (Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton and Lincolnville). I’m just excited to be coaching again,” said the 32-year-old Cressler.
Cressler led the Windjammers to their only state Class B schoolgirl basketball championship in 2000. She won the Bangor Daily News’ Owen Osborne Award for being chosen the Eastern Maine Class B tourney’s Most Valuable Player and she was a first-team BDN All-State selection.
She had spent three years coaching the Belfast High School girls, guiding them to a 27-27 record from 2007 to 2009, after coaching at the Lincolnville Central School. She eventually became an assistant at Camden Hills under Jay Carlsen.
She left coaching three years ago after the arrival of her daughter, Isla Hannibal. Her husband, Mark Hannibal, is the boys lacrosse coach at Camden Hills.
After starring at Camden-Rockport, where she scored more than 1,000 points, she went on to play at USM where she also scored over 1,000 points and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame last fall.
Cressler said one of her primary focuses will be on “developing leadership” on her team.
“You need more than talent to get you by when it’s very competitive down the stretch into the playoffs,” said Cressler. “I’d also like to get the community on board. I’d like to get more people to come to our games. When I played, it was so much fun playing in front of a full gym. I’ve been to a few games the past few years and it was a little sparse.”
She also wants to create a presence and uniformity beginning in youth basketball so when the girls get to high school, “they’re ready to go.”
“They’ll know the expectations and will be familiar with what we do offensively and defensively,” said Cressler.
Cressler said she would like to have a “fast, aggressive, attack-style” type of team but she also knows she will cater her philosophy to the players’ strengths and weaknesses.
“I’m not tied to one style of play but it will definitely be an aggressive style,” she said.
Messer said Cressler will inherit a good team. Three seniors graduated but just one started.
His daughter and fellow guard Madelyn Bowman, who was a sophomore, were the leading scorers and 6-foot-2 center Rachel Pease, who was a junior, was a first team All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference selection after leading the conference in rebounds and blocked shots.
Cressler works for Cates Real Estate in Rockland.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Camden Hills High School girls basketball coach Meg Cressler. It has since been fixed.