Cheverus Stags Fall Sports Preview

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FOOTBALL

Coach: Mike Vance (second year)

2016 record: 5-5 (Lost, 9-7, to Windham in Class A North semifinal) 

Top returning players: Finn Cawley (Senior), Max Coffin (Senior), Perrin Conant (Senior), Nate Dunn (Senior),.Connor Galardo (Senior), Bob Holzhacker (Senior), Zeb Leavitt (Senior), Griffin Watson (Senior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 1 @ Windham, Sept. 23 @ Thornton Academy, Sept. 30 PORTLAND, Oct. 20 @ Oxford Hills

Coach’s comment: “We have good kids again this year. Defensively, we have seven starters back. Offensively, we have five. I really believe that this could be one of the most competitive years we’ve seen. There isn’t a standout team and there are no weak teams either. We need to avoid injury, maximize our assets and play mature football. It should be exciting.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus was very competitive in its first season under Vance, but the Stags fell just short against Windham in the semifinals. This fall, Class A North is truly wide-open and despite having to replace some top players, Cheverus has just as good a shot as anyone else to be the last team standing.

Replacing last year’s quarterback and Fall Male Athlete of the Year Jack Casale won’t be easy, but Conant has seen time under center and is more than capable of making the offense go. He was 5-of-11 for 86 yards and a touchdown in limited action last season. Coffin (47 carries, 306 yards, 1 TD last fall) and Watson (43 carries, 203 yards, 4 TDs in 2016) have experience at running back and will rely on Cawley at fullback to help open holes. The Stags are solid on the line, as Galardo, Holzhacker and Leavitt will spring the running backs and protect their quarterback. Through the air, Conant can rely on Watson (11 catches, 241 yards, 1 TD a year ago), Dunn, sophomore Sean Tompkins and junior Vic Morrone, who will look to help replace the big play ability of the departed Dom Casale.

There will be plenty of attention paid on Cheverus’ defense this fall, as John Wolfgram, the state’s most legendary coach and leader of the Stags from 2006-15, returns to the program as a coordinator. He has plenty of talent to mold. On the line, Galardo, Holzhacker (2 sacks last season) and Leavitt will look to hold the opposition at bay. Dunn (48 tackles and 3 sacks in 2016) and junior Teigan Lindstedt will be top linebackers. The secondary includes Cawley, Coffin and Watson (36.5 tackles last year). Good luck moving the ball consistently on this unit.

Cheverus has a chance to avenge its playoff loss right out of the gate and there won’t be many easy games over the course of the season. There hasn’t been much preseason buzz around the Stags, but their upside is undeniable. Don’t be the least bit surprised if Cheverus improves dramatically between now and late October and makes it 10 straight playoff appearances. This could be the season the Stags return to the big stage.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Matt Andreasen (second year)

2016 record: 4-10 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Luc Dionne (Senior), Hunter Johnson (Senior), Chris St. John (Senior), Owen Burke (Junior), Nolan Doherty (Junior), Tommy Gordon (Junior), Tanner LaFlamme (Junior), Jack Mullen (Junior), Michael Nason (Junior), James Shimansky (Junior), Harrison Bell (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 5 @ Falmouth, Sept. 14 @ Portland, Sept. 28 @ Deering, Oct. 3 SOUTH PORTLAND, Oct. 5 @ Scarborough, Oct. 12 @ Gorham

Coach’s comment: “We were organized during the summer and a number of our players took advantage of the opportunity to play and compete together throughout June and July. We’re optimistic heading into the season, as we return 16 players. We hope that experience will help us compete. We’re still chasing a number of teams in front of us, but we’re confident that when we play hard, play together and play organized, we can compete with anybody. The league seems to be pretty wide open this fall, so every school should feel optimistic as we approach September. We just hope to be competitive with the ‘big boys’ and be playing our best by the end of the season. At that point, anything can happen.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus fell short of a playoff berth last fall for the first time since 1993, but that was an aberration. This autumn, the Stags are more seasoned, Andreasen, who took over on the eve of the season a year ago, now has his program in place and there is hunger for Cheverus to return to its accustomed prominence.

Dionne is a top returner on offense. The SMAA second-team all-star scored nine goals (nearly half the team’s total) and had five assists in 2016 and will pace a squad that seeks to build on last year’s 20-goals-in-14-games production. Junior Ian Haines is a new striker to watch. Also figuring into the scoring mix will be Doherty, Mullen, Nason and Shimansky. Johnson and sophomore Will Mullen provide depth in the midfield. Defensively, Cheverus will look to Burke, Gordon, LaFlamme and St. John to limit the opponents’ opportunities and Bell is back in goal. He made nice strides as a freshman, producing a pair of shutouts in nine starts. Evan Bergeron, Luca Colinet, Ethan Hammond, Ethan Johnson and Kevin Ly also have varsity experience.

This will be a season of growth for the Stags. Playing in a deep and balanced league means that wins will be tough to come by, but Cheverus will find a way to get the job done. Look for the Stags to be a cohesive unit throughout and to get back to the postseason where they could once again be in a position to give higher seeded squads nightmares.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Craig Roberts (fifth year, 24-29-7 overall record)

2016 record: 10-4-2 (Lost, 3-1, to Windham in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Katie Boynton (Senior), Mackenzie Johnston (Senior), Michaela Jordan (Senior), Emma Gallant (Sophomore), Lauren Jordan (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 6 PORTLAND, Sept. 15 FALMOUTH, Sept. 29 DEERING, Oct. 7 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “We hope to be a team to contend with during the playoffs, but the girls will need to demonstrate the resiliency and single-mindedness they showed last year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus enjoyed a tremendous season in 2016, riding a blend of experience with some very talented newcomers to double its win total from the year before. While the Stags fell short in the playoffs, they laid the foundation for even more success this autumn.

After starring as freshmen, Gallant and Lauren Jordan return to pace the offense as sophomores. Gallant, a first-team league all-star and SMAA Rookie of the Year in 2016, who is also one of the state’s premier track and field sprinters, scored 12 times and added five assists last season. If she gets any daylight behind the defense, it’s lights out for the goalie. Defenses can’t focus too much on Gallant, however, because Jordan is a deadly finisher as well, tallying eight goals and six assists as a freshman. Johnston, a captain and midfielder, can also put the ball in the net. Freshman Lily Paszyc could be this year’s phenom and help pace the offense. The defense is anchored by Michaela Jordan, a second-team all-star last season and a captain. She’ll get help from new freshmen Neve Cawley and Tellie Stamanis and junior Zoe Mazur, who transferred from Maine Girls’ Academy. Boynton returns in goal and Cawley is also expected to see time.

Cheverus won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this fall, but it won’t need to. The talent is in place for another successful campaign. Look for this group to show steady improvement. By October, the Stags might not just match or better last year’s win total, they could also advance deeper in the playoffs.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Sally Cloutier (second year)

2016 record: 11-5 (Lost, 4-1, to Marshwood in Class A South quarterfinal)

Top returning players: Hannah Abbott (Senior), Kat Kane (Senior), Anna Smith (Senior), Bella Booth (Junior), Sophia Pompeo (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 7 MASSABESIC, Sept. 13 SOUTH PORTLAND, Sept. 19 FALMOUTH, Sept. 29 WESTBROOK, Oct. 3 @ Marshwood, Oct. 5 SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “We’re looking good so far. We return a ton. We only lost two starters. We’ll use more strategy this year. We have a lot of top players, so we know we won’t go under the radar. We want to have fun and win games and hopefully go further than last year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus had a very strong season in 2016 in Cloutier’s first year at the helm and after graduating just two players, appears well equipped to make a deep run this time around.

The Stags boast premier talent in the University of Maine-bound Abbott (who will control the middle of the field) and the speedy and undeniable Pompeo. Both were named to the SMAA all-star team and were selected all-state. Pompeo will be joined as a top scoring threat by her freshman sister, Lucia Pompeo, who is expected to step right in and make a major impact, and Booth. It won’t be easy to keep Cheverus off the scoreboard. The Stags will be solid on the other side of the field as well, as Smith and freshman Paige DeGeorge are top defenders in front of Kane (an honorable mention all-star in 2016), who is back for another season as one of the league’s top goalies.

Cheverus exceeded expectations last fall, but this time around, the Stags are viewed as one of the favorites. For good reason. Cheverus has top-line production and depth and there is every reason to believe that this group can match or exceed last year’s win total and make a deep postseason run. Perhaps to its second regional final in three years. Or even beyond.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Bill Fenton (first year)

2016 record: 9-6 (Lost, 3-0, to Gorham in Class A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Emily Haley (Senior), Julia Pomerleau (Senior), Madison Geiger (Junior), Mary Jerome (Junior), Zoe Watts (Junior)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 5 @ Biddeford, Sept. 14 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 19 @ South Portland, Sept. 26 @ Deering, Sept. 28 @ Yarmouth

Coach’s comment: “I have some very talented girls this season. The kids are awesome and they’re really excited. Volleyball is such a great sport. We want to make the playoffs again. We just have to figure it out first.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus is coming off its first winning season, one capped by its first ever home playoff match. The Stags, who enter their sixth year as a varsity program, welcome a new coach in Fenton, who coaches the school’s girls’ lacrosse team and has experience coaching club volleyball and starting the South Portland varsity program. He has some talent to work with.

Up front, look for Haley, Jerome and Pomerleau to do their share of damage. Geiger and Watts are both defensive stalwarts. Freshman Genevieve Booth will also see time in the back. Other girls will also look to make their mark and provide depth.

Cheverus has some tough matches on the schedule, but the Stags are talented enough to hold their own with virtually everyone they face. Look for steady improvement from this squad, another postseason berth and if all goes well, a first-ever playoff victory.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coach: Liana Rubinoff (second year)

2016 results:
(Boys) DNQ for Class A state meet (12th @ regionals)
(Girls) 11th @ Class A state meet 

Top returning runners:
(Boys) Will Shibles (Senior), Ryan Breece (Junior), Phineas Underwood (Junior)
(Girls) Delphi Bourassa (Senior), Ashley Turner (Senior), Hannah Galeucia (Junior), Rosie Train (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “My goal for the boys this season is to secure a state qualifying spot. It has been a few years since the boys have had depth and I have high hopes this year for my leading pack. I’m honored to have the opportunity to coach this very talented group of girls. As a former Cheverus runner and a member of the first girls’ team to win a state championship for cross country at Cheverus, it feels amazing to see the program experience a rebirth. This team could be a formidable force not only in the SMAA, but in the state if they are dedicated and attach themselves to a common goal.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Cheverus cross country teams are seeking to move up the ladder this fall.

The boys missed out on qualifying for states for the second year in a row, but this time around, could get back to the big stage. Underwood (57th) and Breece (73rd) both scored at last year’s regional meet and look to be a bigger factor this autumn. Shibles has experience, sophomores Michael Luna and Jackson Wilson will be in key roles and freshmen Will Herman and Daniel Mahoney could soon be household names. Expect the Stags to be competitive throughout and to make some noise in late October.

On the girls’ side, Cheverus is primed to be a force in the regular season and to move into the top 10 at states. The Stags only had six runners on the roster in 2016, but this autumn boast 15, meaning the squad will be deep as well as talented. Leading the way will be Train, who came in 15th at last year’s Class A state meet. Turner (34th), Galeucia (46th) and Bourassa (47th) also scored last season. Add to that mix new junior Daniella Niedermeyer and freshman Mackenzie Turner and Cheverus will boast a strong pack. Several strong teams stand in the Stags’ way, but this group will make a nice leap up the standings when all is said and done.

GOLF

Coach: A.J. Simokaitis (second year)

2016 results: 8-2 (6th @ Class A state match)

Top returners: Conner MacDonald (Senior), Jeremy Baker (Junior), Tom Higgins (Junior), John Welch (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “We are very much looking forward to the season ahead. Being such a short season with matches condensed into a few weeks, it’s all about momentum and being able to focus and carry that momentum through. We want to be playing our best golf as we head into qualifiers and ultimately the state championship. We had a very strong regular season last year and struggled a bit when it counted at states. With a large portion of the team returning, we look to use those lessons and the experience gained as motivation this year. ”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus has been one of the league’s top programs for many seasons and there’s every reason to believe that the 2017 squad will continue that tradition.

Higgins was a first-team league all-star in 2016 who shot an 85 at the team state meet and tied for 10th with a score of 80 at the individual state meet. MacDonald made the second-team and had a round of 83 at states. Baker also did well on the big stage, shooting a team-best 82 at Natanis and coming in 17th as an individual with a round of 84. Welch tied for 31st with a score of 92 as an individual last season. Freshman Nick Giancotti shows great promise and will made an immediate impact.

While the Stags will have their hands full in the Northern Division with the likes of Falmouth, Portland and Scarborough, they should again win the vast majority of their matches. This group will look to do even better at states than a year ago. It’s quite likely that Cheverus will make its mark in October.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached atmhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Senior Finn Cawley is one of many key returning players for a Cheverus football team bound and determined to make a deeper postseason run this fall.

Senior Max Coffin will be a top running threat for the Stags.

Senior Griffin Watson is back at running back and defensive back.

Senior Luc Dionne’s scoring touch will help Cheverus’ boys ‘soccer team return to playoff contention this fall.

Junior Tanner LaFlamme returns as a top defender.

Sophomore Emma Gallant was an all-star as a freshman for Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team. She has blazing speed (she’s also a champion sprinter in track) and has the ability to put the ball in the net. She’ll look to help the Stags to another strong campaign in 2017.

Sophomore Lauren Jordan is also coming off a stellar freshman season and will do damage up front.

Senior captain Mackenzie Johnston is a standout in the middle of the field.

Senior Michaela Jordan will again be a top defender for Cheverus.

Senior Katie Boynton returns in goal for the Stags.

Standout Sophia Pompeo is back for her junior season. She’ll score a lot of goals for Cheverus’ field hockey team.

Junior Bella Booth can also put the ball in the cage with regularity.

Senior Kat Kane returns as one of the league’s top goalies.

Junior Rosie Train is the top returning runner for Cheverus’ girls’ cross country team.

Senior Ashley Turner is another returning scorer for the Stags.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001.
Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net.
I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.