Cheverus Stags Winter Sports Preview

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After an eventful winter a year ago, Cheverus is ready to steal more headlines in 2010-11. Boys’ basketball is once again defending a state title and this year’s squad might be even more talented than last year’s juggernaut. The girls’ program has come of age and is now a premier power, ready to make a legitimate run at the top spot. Girls’ hockey won states a year ago and looks to be in the mix again. Boys’ hockey is hoping to get to the playoffs. Both track teams feature standout athletes. Swimming, skiing and wrestling boast talented kids as well.

BOYS BASKETBALL

COACH: Bob Brown (10th year)

2009-10 Record: 21-1 (Beat Edward Little, 55-50, to win Class A state title)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Griffin Brady (Senior), Nick Burns (Senior), Peter Gwilym (Senior), Connor O’Neil (Senior), Joe Savino (Senior), Louie DiStasio (Junior), Cam Olson (Junior), Matt Cimino (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec, 14 @ Westbrook, Dec. 21 @ Portland, Jan. 4 @ Windham, Jan. 11 @ Thornton Academy, Jan. 13 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 15 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 21 (H) PORTLAND, Jan. 22 (H) DEERING, Jan. 28 @ South Portland, Feb. 8 @ Deering, Feb. 11 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “We started slow, giving the (state champion) football kids a week off. We’re nowhere near ready. We have to figure out who belongs where and everyone’s role. No question we have talent. The question is how well people fit the roles of the team. I have a lot of guys who can score. We have good size from top to bottom. We might be even deeper this year. It’s a very different team. We should be in the top four. I would say we’ll be good. I’m not sure how good.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus is coming off what was likely the most eventful season in program history a year ago. Amid the eligibility soap opera of standout point guard Indiana Faithfull, the Stags won their first 17 games, dropped their finale, then, after Faithfull was reinstated just hours before the start of the tournament, Cheverus marched to its second Gold Ball in three seasons. Those Stags did it all, leading the league in team offense and team defense. While it suffered some major losses in the offseason (Cheverus graduated Faithfull and Kyle Randall and lost standout Alex Furness, who transferred to Wells), this winter promises more tranquility and quite likely, more glory as this particular squad has the potential to be one of the deepest and most balanced we’ve seen in some time. Friday night, the Stags opened by dominating Noble, 102-29. They led, 33-3, after one quarter and 51-9 at the half. Savino and O’Neil (a captain) will look to fill Faithfull’s shoes at point guard. On the wing, look for DiStasio (10.1 points and 1.5 steals per game in 2009-10), who becomes more and more of a breakout star by the day, to bury his share of 3-pointers (he drained 34 a year ago, good for fourth in the league). DiStasio was an SMAA second-team all-star and the league’s Rookie of the Year a year ago. He had 12 points on Opening Night. Inside, Brady (a captain, who had 5.2 rebounds per contest a year ago) and Cimino (who’s poised to become a household name) will tickle the twine with regularity. If that’s not enough, mix in Olson (who had a game-high 14 points Friday night), the unflappable Gwilym (Cheverus’ Fall Male Athlete of the Year after leading the Stags to a football championship), Burns (10 points against Noble), junior James Kapothanasis (12 points Friday) and a trio of newcomers, junior Shawn Grover (who stands 6-foot-7 and had 13 points versus Noble) and sophomores Michael Flaherty (a transfer from Deering) and Malcolm Smith (10 points in the opener). All the pieces are in place for another title run. If this group stays healthy, focused and committed to team play, we could be in for the ultimate example of the “Brownie Ballet,” a smothering matchup zone defense that leads to easy transition hoops, combined with an unrivaled ball movement offense that produces win after win and culminates with another title celebration. Cheverus (which has won 15 games or more nine years running) is once again the team to beat. Look out, SMAA, the Stags are back. Eastern Class A, you’ve been warned as well.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

COACH: Richie Ashley (fourth year)

2009-10 Record: 13-6 (Lost, 45-38, to Biddeford in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy (Junior), Brooke Flaherty (Sophomore), Mikayla Mayberry (Sophomore), Victoria Nappi (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 22 (H) MCAULEY, Jan. 11 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, Jan. 15 @ Scarborough, Jan. 22 @ Deering, Feb. 1 @ Gorham, Feb. 5 (H) SANFORD, Feb. 8 @ McAuley

COACH’S COMMENT: “Alexandra was second in the league in scoring last year. Our big girls inside will help out a lot. I like the way we’re playing. We had a good summer. We have a good group. It’s coming together. We’ll see how we jell. The girls are ready to go. It should be really fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus has made nice strides in each of Ashley’s first three seasons, winning more games each year, and now, might be primed to make a run at the top. After posting a winning record and making it to the Expo for the first time a year ago, the Stags return several key players and have three nice additions propelling them to the upper echelon of contenders. After finishing runner-up in both the Boston College and University of Southern Maine team camps over the summer, Cheverus is ready to make a run at the big prize this winter. The Stags will look to Palazzi-Leahy (18.7 ppg, 30 3-pointers made in 2009-10) to lead the offense. She was a first-team league all-star a year ago and had 12 points (including three 3s in a 67-34 win at Noble in the opener Friday night). Mayberry (a member of the league’s All-Rookie team last winter) will run the show from the point. Flaherty (another All-Rookie team selection a year ago who had 10 points Friday) is a returning starter down low, where she’ll look to team with Nappi to create havoc. Another threat inside is junior Morgan Cahill, who was a standout at Yarmouth the past two years. Sophomore Kylie Libby (11 points Friday), who transferred from Falmouth, will also see some key minutes and is diverse enough to play guard or forward. The third newcomer is senior Britni Mikulanecz, a defensive specialist (she made the SMAA All-Defensive team in 2009-10), who won a pair of state titles at Deering. She can also score (10 points in the opener) when needed. This group is well-coached and hungry. The only impediment the Stags face entering the year is a mental one. They’ve never beaten the two other top teams, Deering and McAuley, that they’re vying with for the top spot. Cheverus has enough talent to hang with anyone. If they can knock off the Lions or Rams during the regular season, there might be no stopping the Stags. Get a front row seat for this crew. They’ll be fun to watch and since they’re still relatively young, could be laying the foundation for future glory as well.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

COACH: Dan Lucas (second year)

2009-10 Record: 9-8-1 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Josh Courtois (Senior), Nick Lops (Senior), Max Boucher (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 16 (H) GORHAM, Dec. 18 (H) CAPE ELIZABETH, Jan. 15 (H) YORK, Jan. 17 @ Portland, Jan. 22 @ Gorham, Jan. 29 (H) DEERING, Feb. 5 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, Feb. 12 (H) FALMOUTH, Feb. 17 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Feb. 19 (H) PORTLAND, Feb. 21 @ Deering

COACH’S COMMENT: “We’ll have a young team. Max, Nic and Josh will lead the team. Several teams have more talent and experience than we do, but we’ll show up with a sense of urgency.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus has now missed the playoffs three years running, but the Stags got close last year as they posted their first winning record since 2005-06, the second of their back-to-back state title seasons. This year’s group has a chance to be in the mix throughout, especially if it takes advantage of a favorable early schedule. The Stags face a plethora of talented, traditional rivals down the stretch, so they’ll need to pile up wins earlier. The offense this year will be led by Lops. Courtois anchors the defensive unit in front of Boucher. There are several other players eager to make a name for themselves and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. Cheverus figures to be competitive from start to finish and if it gains early confidence and gets some bounces, it could make it back to the postseason.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

COACH: J.P. Lavoie (fourth year)

2009-10 Record: 21-0 (Beat Lewiston, 3-0, to win state championship)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Anna McDonough (Senior), Emily Sawchuck (Senior), Taylor Witham (Senior), Sarah LaQuerre (Junior), Katie Roy (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 30 (H) ST. DOM’S, Jan. 3 @ York, Jan. 8 @ Scarborough, Jan. 12 @ Greely, Jan. 17 @ Lewiston, Jan. 22 (H) YORK, Jan. 29 (H) FALMOUTH, Feb. 5 (H) WINSLOW

COACH’S COMMENT: “We;re rebuilding. We have a good returning group of players, but have quite a few holes to fill with new players. We feel we have a chance to make the playoffs with some hard work and a few lucky bounces.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Prior to a 3-1 setback to Scarborough Saturday, snapping a 24-game win streak, Cheverus hadn’t lost a game since February, 2009. A year ago, the Stags were sensational, steamrolling all 21 foes en route to a first state title. Nine seniors graduated, including 2009-10 Winter Athlete of the Year, goalie Saundrine Lanouette, but anyone thinking Cheverus isn’t still a team to be reckoned with will be disappointed and likely defeated in the weeks to come. The Stags won their first three outings, 5-3 over Portland, 6-0 against Biddeford and 4-0 over Gorham, proving that they can still produce plenty of offense and put the clamps on defensively and in goal. This year, the attack is anchored by Roy, who had three goals against the Bulldogs and two more against the Rams. While LaQuerre (a second-team regional all-star a year ago, who had three goals versus Biddeford and two against Gorham), McDonough and Sawchuck (Cheverus’ Fall Female Athlete of the Year for her field hockey excellence and a second-team regional all-star in 2009-10) are listed as defenders, they’ll do their share of damage as well. Deirdre Lambert and Julia Lambert have also made noise in the early going. The Stags have only given up a 1.5 goals per game as LaQuerre, McDonough and Sawchuck are equally adept on defense. Witham is ready to carry on the program’s legacy in goal. While things have changed and Cheverus isn’t the overwhelming favorite, there is still plenty of talent on the roster and hunger to succeed. The Stags will only get better and will be very, very dangerous by February, when they could enjoy another deep playoff run.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS COACH: Steve Virgilio (first year)

GIRLS COACH: Valerie Guillet (11th year)

2009-10 Results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 6th @ Class A state meet

(BOYS) Jack Terwilliger (Senior), Rapheal Tshamala (Senior), Joe Slattery (Junior), Jackson McMann (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Alex Dion (Senior), Caroline Summa (Senior), Lizzie Gwilym (Junior), Katie Shapiro (Junior)

TOP FOES: Bonny Eagle, Deering, Scarborough, Thornton Academy

COACH VIRGILIO’S COMMENT: “We’re young. Our preseason numbers are dominated by underclassmen, especially sophomores. Jack will anchor the team in the distance events and is the only returning state scorer from last season. There’s a lot of excitement and desire to compete among the young guys. The team will push each other all season and look to improve. The sprinting and hurdling contingents hope to make an impact. The team may see some new guys contributing in different events.”

COACH GUILLET’S COMMENT: “Having a team of only eight passionate girls is a bit disheartening because our chances of doing anything special at states as a team are pretty slim. I will focus on making each of the girls successful in their own unique way. For some, it means qualifying for states. For others, getting a little better than last year and for yet others, it means trying out new events. Whatever it is, we’ll work toward accomplishing it.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Cheverus track teams have a standout returner and several other athletes looking to make a mark.

The boys have been runners-up each of the past two years, but lost a lot to graduation. This year, the Stags will give their all under a new coach. Virgilio graduated from Cheverus, attended Holy Cross and has spent time with the program in the past. This team will ride Terwilliger as far as he can take them. A year ago, Terwilliger (a league all-star) was part of a state champion two-mile relay team, placed third in the two-mile and sixth in the mile. He’ll be one of the state’s premier distance runners this winter. Tshamala will look to score in the sprints. McCann could be a force in the sprints and hurdles. Slattery will contend in the sprints and jumps. Freshman twins Isaac and Elijah Yeboah could become immediate household names in the sprints, hurdles and jumps. The Stags should remain one of the better teams in the SMAA, but beyond Terwilliger will struggle to score a lot of points at the big meets. Regardless, they’ll produce a lot of excitement in the weeks to come.

On the girls’ side, Cheverus hoped to better last year’s best-to-date sixth-place showing, but with Fiona Hendry (runner-up in the mile last year) and Emily Durgin not competing, the Stags will settle for more modest goals. Summa is as talented as they come in the jumps and hurdles. She was a first-team all-star last winter after placing runner-up in the high jump and third in the long jump. She even scored in the 200 (seventh) at states. She won the high jump outdoors. Gwilym is a top distance threat and hopes to be heard from in February. Shapiro is the team’s lead thrower. She was an all-star last year in the junior shot put. Dion hopes to qualify in the 400 and long jump. Freshman Kiera Murray is the top newcomer. She had a solid cross country running season and will look to make an impact in the distance races. The Stags will hope Summa can score her share of points at the big meets and the rest of the team should produce other highlights as the season progresses.

SWIMMING

COACH: Kevin Haley (22nd year)

2009-10 Results:

(BOYS) 3rd @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 3rd @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS:

(BOYS) Stephen Ambrose (Senior), Pat Jerome (Senior), Lukas Temple (Junior), Michael Gordon (Sophomore), Connor Pothier (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Katherine Moreshead (Senior), Maria Cianchette (Junior), Nicole Chambers (Sophomore), Tessa Lindsley (Sophomore), Sam Savaun (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cape Elizabeth, Greely, Windham

COACH’S COMMENT: “The boys lost a lot of talent to graduation and the transfer of Cal Rohde hurt. We’re a young team with several new swimmers. Diving has improved greatly. The girls are very strong this year with great depth. We’ll be very competitive again.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Cheverus swim teams are coming off strong campaigns and are looking to be in the hunt this winter.

The boys will miss standout Cal Rohde, who won the 200 and 500 free at last year’s Class A state meet, then transferred. Ambrose (part of a seventh-place 200 free relay team) and Temple (a member of that relay squad as well as 15th in the 100 free) are the lone returning scorers from a year ago. This team has its share of sprinters in Ambrose, Jerome, Pothier and Temple. Gordon is the top diver. Freshman John Devine, who swims the 100 fly and 200 individual medley, will also be heard from. The Stags will get better as the season progresses and will be a factor in several events at the big meets.

On the girls’ side, Lindsley and Savaun, league all-stars in 2009-10, are the top returners. Lindsley placed fifth in both the 50 free and the 100 backstroke a year ago. She’ll also swim the IM. Savaun was fifth in the breaststroke and 10th in the 50 free at states. Moreshead is a top distance swimmer. She was ninth in the 500 free and 14th in the IM last winter. Chambers (10th in the IM and 13th in the 500 free) will also be heard from. Cianchette (ninth a year ago) is a threat on the diving board. Freshman Sarah Nappo looks to break through in the backstroke. This team has plenty of depth and promise and could be in the hunt for another top five finish when all is said and done.

ALPINE SKIING

COACH: Kim Pike (10th year)

2009-10 Results:

(BOYS) No score @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 6th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SKIERS

(BOYS) Ryan Hoffman (Junior), Spencer Reynolds (Junior)

(GIRLS) Katie Drake (Junior), Maddie Woods (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We don’t have any kids who are serious and train on weekends, so it’s a building year and we don’t expect a lot.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Alpine ski program has modest goals this winter. Pike returns as coach after a year away and is assisted by Mario Powell.

The boys are led by Hoffman (38th in the giant slalom a year ago at states) and Reynolds (44th in the slalom). They’ll look to have a solid regular season and perhaps move up in the postseason.

On the girls’ side, Drake is the top returner. She came in 27th a year ago in the GS. Woods also returns. The loss of slalom champion Maggie Corrigan and standout Emily Machesney will be difficult to overcome, but the team will shoot for strong performances throughout.

WRESTLING

COACH: Ben McCrillis (second year)

2009-10 Results: 15th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS: Matt Aitenzia (Sophomore), Ian Lawson (Sophomore), Iain Whitis (Sophomore)

COACH’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are about the same as last year. We’re looking to rebuild for dual meets and we look to be a very good tournament team. I believe Iain Whitis will be a state champion. We hope to have two or three kids qualify for states.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus’ small program looks to move forward this winter behind Whitis, who was the consolation round champion of the 103-pound weight class a year ago. He’s hoping to win it all this winter. Lawson (140) and Aitenzia (136) also return. Junior Helmar Smith will be competitive at 125-pounds. All three have a chance to join Whitis at states. The Stags will hold their own in several weight classes, look to make some noise in February and build for future success.

Junior Louie DiStasio is poised for a breakout season.

Senior Griffin Brady is another standout wearing purple and gold. He’ll be difficult to stop.

Cheverus senior Peter Gwilym, fresh off leading the Stags to the Class A football title, hopes to win another title on the hardwood.

Junior Alexandra Pallazzi-Leahy is one of the top shooters in the SMAA.

Sophomore center Katie Roy and her Cheverus teammates are defending a state championship this winter.

Senior Emly Sawchuck brings her talents to the ice this winter.

Sidebar Elements


Last winter, for the second time in three years, the Cheverus boys’ basketball team had no peer.

More photos below.

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