Cheverus Stags Spring Sports Preview

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Cheverus’ Emily Turner had no peer in outdoor track last spring. As a senior, Turner looks to dominate again.

File photos.

More photos below.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mac McKew (ninth year, 90-53 overall record, one state championship)

2016 record: 10-7 (Lost, 5-4, in 8 innings, to Deering in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Jared Brooks (Senior), Jack Casale (Senior), Logan McCarthy (Senior), Cam Dube (Junior), Griffin Watson (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 2 @ Thornton Academy, May 5 WINDHAM, May 11 @ South Portland, May 13 DEERING, May 20 @ Portland, May 25 SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “Our success this year will be dependent on, as always, senior leadership, avoiding injuries to key players, taking advantage of our pitching depth, especially with the new pitch count rules, and playing sound defense, taking care of the baseball. We always expect to be in the hunt.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus has posted a winning record and made the playoffs eight years running and the Stags figure to continue those streaks, and perhaps enjoy a deeper postseason run, this spring. The squad is rich in pitching and has veteran leadership, a recipe for success.

Brooks, who has been limited to just one inning on the mound in high school, is set to break loose this season. He’ll be at first base when he’s not pitching and will also be in the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Brooks (an SMAA second-team all-star in 2016 after hitting .341) will play at Stonehill College next year. Casale has had a dazzling senior year, turning heads as the football quarterback in the fall, then being arguably the finest schoolboy basketball player in the state this winter. Casale (a first-team league all-star last spring) puts a punctuation on his high school career on the diamond, where he’ll be a top pitcher (2-2 with a 1.52 earned run average in 2016) and hitter (a team-leading .396 average last spring). He’ll lead off and when he isn’t pitching, will fill key roles in the infield and outfield. Sophomore Justin Ray is another arm to watch. He saw just two innings of varsity pitching as a freshman, but is ready to ascend to a bigger role. Dube, a lefthander, can be effective in relief (2.74 ERA last spring). He also showed hitting ability in limited action in 2016 (.364 average). McCarthy returns behind the plate for a fourth season. Last year, McCarthy hit .283 and led the Stags in runs batted in. He’ll hit in the middle of the order and is a top defensive player. Watson will play at shortstop. He hit .286 last season and should be a top hitter for this squad. Senior Dom Casale (centerfield) and junior Maxx St. John (outfield), a transfer from North Carolina, who is the brother of former Cheverus catcher Jake Watson, will step in and play key roles this season. The rest of the roster features seniors Rylan Benedict (outfield/pitcher), Brady Freeman (infield), Ben Hanna (catcher, utility) Chandler Hartigan (infield), Nik Hase (pitcher) and Bobby Slattery (pinch-runner), juniors Conner MacDonald (infield/pitcher) and Tyler Turner (pitcher) and sophomore Jack Mullen (pitcher).

The Stags boast a lot of depth, fine athletes and the ability to excel at all aspects of the game. In a year devoid of a heavy favorite in the conference (defending Class A South champion Falmouth will likely be the team to beat in June), Cheverus has what it takes to match up with everyone and boast an impressive record. If the Stags can earn a high seed, they’ll be in position to make a lengthy postseason run. This is a squad that could be turning heads deep into June.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Theresa Hendrix (first year)

2016 record: 0-16 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Izzy Probert (Senior), Ally Tillotson (Senior), Katie Boynton (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 21 @ MGA/Falmouth, April 24 PORTLAND, May 1 @ Deering, May 10 MGA/FALMOUTH

Coach’s comment: “This is going to be an exciting year for us, as we become a collaborative team with North Yarmouth Academy. There are four players from NYA who have already molded right into the group and bring a level of competitiveness, heart and teamwork to the game. This year’s team contains eight seniors who provide great leadership and work effort. Their experience over the past three years and how much passion they have in the team this year, are going to help shape the program for success. Our underclassman are fierce competitors, who want nothing more than to have a successful year on the field combined with immense team chemistry. It will be fun to watch them compete.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: A new era dawns for the Cheverus softball program as this spring, North Yarmouth Academy comes aboard to produce a cooperative team and a former Stags legend and three-time Spring Female Athlete of the Year takes over as coach. Hendrix wasn’t only a standout at Cheverus, she went on to play at St. Joseph’s College as well. After serving as an assistant for the resurgent Portland program, Hendrix comes back to her alma mater to take over a team looking to claw its way back into contention.

Cheverus senior Brooke Dawson, NYA junior Jordan Ackerman and Cheverus freshman Caroline Taylor will serve as pitchers. Tillotson, a first-team all-star for the Stags a year ago after batting .512 with 12 runs batted in, will be a top hitting threat. She’ll also catch and play in the infield. Boynton and Probert, who played for Cheverus last season, also have experience. NYA sophomore Sydney Plummer (first base) and Cheverus freshman Alex Hammond (catcher/infield) will join Tillotson to help produce offense. Suzanna Butterfield and Emily Demers round out NYA’s contribution to the team. They’ll provide depth.

The Stags will have their share of winnable games this season and Hendrix will mold them into a contender in no time. Look for this group to earn some victories, gain some confidence and set the stage for future success.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Bill Bodwell (fifth year, 40-19 overall record)

2016 record: 9-5 (Lost, 10-9, to Brunswick in Class A North semifinals)

Top returning players:  Kieran Conley (Senior), George Conzelman (Senior), Sean Walsh (Senior), Finn Cawley (Junior), Max Coffin (Junior), Patrick Griffin (Junior), Jason Halvorsen (Junior), Mike Hatch (Junior), Kevin Ly (Junior), Jesse Pierce (Junior), Colby Anton (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 21 THORNTON ACADEMY, April 25 @ Deering, April 29 @ Kennebunk, May 2 SOUTH PORTLAND, May 5 GORHAM, May 15 @ Scarborough, May 26 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “We have a lot coming back. We have experience on offense, defense and we have a senior goalie. It’s an easy group to coach. The guys know what to do, which is fun for me. The guys are very excited. We expect to be competitive this year and have a good playoff run. We want to have a successful regular season and earn a good seed.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus came agonizingly close to winning a regional title a year ago and this spring, behind a talented, experienced core, the Stags could be primed to leapfrog Brunswick and make a run at the program’s first state championship.

Conley was an honorable mention league all-star in 2016. He’ll be a key cog in the midfield, along with Coffin. Sophomore Ian Haines and freshman Billy Ly will take most of the team’s faceoffs. On offense, look for Anton, Hatch and Pierce to lead the way, with Cawley and Coffin doing their share of scoring as well. Defensively, Cheverus features long-poles Griffin and Halvorsen, as well as veterans Conley, Conzelman and Ly in front of Walsh, who enters his third season as the starting goalie. He’s come up big in big spots on many occasions.

The Stags’ talent is plain to see, but they face a grueling schedule which will be tough to navigate. Regardless of Cheverus’ final record, it will be battle-tested by the time the playoffs start. If the Stags put all the pieces together, they’ll have the potential to not only be the best team in their region for the first time in four years, but they’ll be championship caliber as well.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Bill Fenton (first year)

2016 record: 3-10 (Lost, 13-4, to eventual state champion Messalonskee in Class A North quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Alayna Briggs (Senior), Mackenzie Johnston (Junior), Bella Booth (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 WINDHAM, April 29 MESSALONSKEE, May 11 MASSABESIC, May 13 @ Waynflete, May 16 MARSHWOOD, May 23 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “This team has been awesome for me as a new coach. We have really good talent. We’ll spread around the scoring. The girls look out for each other. We play a tough schedule, but I think we’ll hold our own. We want to make the playoffs. I’m excited.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus made it seven straight playoff trips a year ago and this spring, the Stags have a new look as they’ll be led by Fenton, who coached at South Portland for seven years. He’ll be assisted by his daughter, Bethany McCauley, and Talia Bent. They inherit a team that should be in the hunt in Class A North in the weeks to come.

Briggs and Johnston were honorable mention all-stars in 2016 and will lead the effort this time around. Briggs anchors the defense along with senior Kaylin Malmquist, best known for her basketball prowess, who is new to the team this season. Johnston will be a top midfielder along with Booth, who saw key minutes as a freshman. Senior Brooke McElman, another basketball player, will pace the offense from her attack position. Freshman Maeve McGarrity will likely be the goalie, although that position was still up in the air at press time. Several other athletes will take advantage of their opportunities in the weeks to come, making the Stags a team very difficult to defend.

Look for Cheverus to improve on last year’s record and show steady growth. By the time the playoffs begin, the Stags could be a team that nobody wants to face.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Steve Virgilio (seventh year w/boys’ team; fifth year w/girls’ team, one state championship)

2016 results:

(Boys) 24th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 3rd @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Joe Jalbert (Senior), Steve Larkin (Senior), Mike O’Brien (Senior), John Stokes (Senior), Christian Gilliam (Junior), Paul Lussier (Junior), Owen Burke (Sophomore)

(Girls) Katelyn Gendron (Senior), Emily Turner (Senior), Hannah Abbott (Junior), Ashley Turner (Junior), Evelyn Hanley (Sophomore), Sophia Pompeo (Sophomore), Rosie Train (Sophomore), Emma White (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “This boys’ team has some top competitors, but does not have the numbers or depth that some of the recent teams have had. However, its leaders more than make up for it with the passion, courage and will to prepare, improve and succeed. It’s not the most talented team I’ve ever coached and will not win a state title, but it is one of the ‘top’ teams I’ve ever coached and its leaders will battle and challenge themselves every day until the end. I can’t ask for anything more than that.
“This girls’ team is the most talented, deepest and largest team I’ve ever coached. There have always been talented athletes on our teams and they’ve had good will, opportunity and success. This team simply has more opportunities. Every team I coach is special to me. This one may have an opportunity to be very special to more people than ever before, including alumni of those past teams, the Cheverus school community and Maine track and field.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus has a lot to look forward to in track and field this spring.

The boys’ team had its run of seven straight top four state meet finishes come to an end last year and while the Stags aren’t viewed as the team to beat this spring, they will boast some promising athletes who will be in the thick of things. Gilliam is the lone returning state meet scorer, placing sixth in the javelin last season. He’ll look to move up. Stokes is another thrower to watch. O’Brien is coming off a stellar indoor season which saw him place second in the state in the triple jump with a new school record leap of 42 feet, 11 inches. He’ll be a serious threat in the jumps, pole vault, 300 hurdles and 400 outdoors as well. Lussier is a veteran jumper and senior Taylor Grassi returns to the team after a year off. He was fifth in the high jump as a sophomore and hopes to duplicate or exceed that success. On the track, Larkin is a top distance runner and Jalbert and Lussier will contend in the sprints. Sophomore Nolan Doherty bolsters the distance contingent and Burke and freshman Sean Tompkins will be top scorers in the sprints. Look for Cheverus to be in the thick of things all season and to move up at the state meet.

On the girls’ side, the team is coming off its best state meet performance to date and could be even better this spring. For starters, the return of scoring machine Emily Turner sets the table for greatness. A year ago, Turner won Class A titles in the 100, 200, 400 and 4×400 relay. She holds four school records and has the Maine benchmark in the 400 (56.57 seconds). She’ll look to bow out with multiple crowns this season. Gendron is another senior sprinter who will also participate in the hurdles. Freshman Emma Gallant, who won indoor titles in the 200 and 400, hopes to repeat her brilliance outdoors. Junior Caroline Ford and freshman Julia Ryan add depth in the sprints. Hanley is a hurdler on the rise. In the middle distance, look for Pompeo, Train and Ashley Turner to turn heads. Freshman Daniella Niedermeyer is primed to be a factor in the distance races. On the field side, White is an elite jumper (she was fourth in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump last season). White will also sprint and hurdle. Abbott will score in the throws (she placed fifth in the discus and seventh in the shot put a year ago) and Gendron throws the javelin. Cheverus will be chasing Scarborough for top honors in the league and at states and if all goes well, the Stags will have no peer.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Ben Putnam (first year)

2016 record: 3-10 (Lost, 5-0, to South Portland in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Matt McCormick (Senior), James Nguyen (Senior), Vipul Periwal (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “I think Matt, Jimmy, and (freshman) Aidan (Treutel) provide us with a good foundation and if we continue to work hard across the board, I expect us to be competitive in the league and improve upon last year’s record..”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus has a new look this spring, as for the first time since 2004, someone other than Wayne St. Peter will serve as coach. St. Peter is taking the year off and the Stags will turn to Putnam, a former assistant with the perennially strong Cape Elizabeth program, to lead them as they seek a playoff berth for 17th consecutive season.

McCormick, Nguyen and Periwal project to play singles. They have experience and will make up a strong nucleus. The doubles teams will be made up of some combination of junior David Amoroso, sophomore Cameron Harris and freshmen Max Hillgraf and Treutel. That group will hope to make an immediate impact.

Portland and Thornton Academy are viewed as favorites, but the rest of the league is up for grabs, meaning Cheverus will be a force in the weeks to come. Look for this year’s squad to exceed the win total of a year ago and to be a threat when the postseason arrives.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Jason Barriault (third year)

2016 record: 9-5 (Lost, 5-0, to Scarborough in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Leanna Farr (Senior), Alexis Parsons (Senior), Ellianna Budri (Junior), Alexis Paszyc (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “We’ve been fairly competitive in our league the last few years, with a winning record and playoff berth each season. Although we graduated two of our singles players last year, we have the depth to maintain a quality varsity lineup. We have multiple athletes who should come together to form two valuable doubles teams. Our goal this year is to improve our regular season record and become more competitive in the postseason.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus has posted winning records and has made the playoffs seven years running. There’s every reason to believe those streaks will continue this spring.

Budri and Parsons have experience and will play singles, along with sophomore Anastasia Kapothanasis, who was injured last year. Farr and Paszyc are seasoned at doubles. They’ll be joined by freshman Kristina Matkevich. Some other players will also seek their opportunity.

The Stags have some challenging teams on their schedule, but should be able to compete with everyone. This team won’t be content just making the playoffs again. Cheverus hopes to make some noise in the postseason and has the potential for a special season.

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

Senior Jared Brooks has swung a mighty bat for the Stags. This spring, he’ll be a force on the mound as well.

Jack Casale has enjoyed a terrific senior year and he’ll look to cap it by standing out on the diamond again.

Logan McCarthy returns behind the plate to anchor Cheverus’ defense.

Junior Finn Cawley will be a top offensive threat for the Cheverus boys’ lacrosse team.

Junior Max Coffin will help control the midfield and features a potent shot.

Senior Kieran Conley was a league all-star in 2016.

Junior Jesse Pierce is another top scoring threat for the Stags.

Sean Walsh is back in goal for the Stags as an outstanding last line of defense.

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