Cheverus Stags Winter Sports Preview

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Junior Mike Hatch and his boys’ hockey teammates are hoping for big things in 2016-17.

File photo.

More photos below.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Ryan Soucie (second year)

2015-16 record: 9-10 (Lost, 46-43, to Edward Little in Class AA North quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Jack Casale (Senior), Jesse Matthews (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 13 WINDHAM, Dec. 17 @ Bangor, Dec 20 @ Edward Little, Dec. 22 OXFORD HILLS, Jan. 6 DEERING, Jan. 18 @ South Portland, Jan. 20 PORTLAND, Jan. 27 @ Deering, Jan. 31 @ TA, Feb. 3 SOUTH PORTLAND, Feb. 8 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “I love this group. We have good chemistry. We’ve had a good summer and a good preseason and we’re anxious to play for real. We lost three starters from last year, so we have younger guys who need to step up. Jack and Jesse are constant. We need a third guy to get into double figures. We play a tough schedule. No nights off. We want to get into the playoffs. That’s a realistic goal. If we reach our potential, we’ll be in the mix come February.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Last winter, Cheverus got to the playoffs for the third year in a row and 15th time in 16 seasons, but the loss to Edward Little was a painful one. A setback that still lingers. The Stags graduated a couple of starters and also lost all-star Austin Boudreau, who transferred to Thornton Academy, but they still have talent in reserve and once this squad comes together, they should be one of the best in a deep and talented Class AA North.

Cheverus only produced the 11th-best offense (out of 15 league teams) a year ago and hopes for more production this time around. Jack Casale, the school’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year, will be looked upon to lead to way. Casale was sixth in the SMAA in scoring last season with 16.2 points per contest. Casale also finished eighth in rebounding (7.2) and made the all-conference second-team. At 6-foot-5, Casale can get the job from the outside or by slashing to the hoop. Matthews is another top returner. An honorable mention all-star a year ago, Matthews, who stands 6-5, averaged 12.0 points and 5.6 rebounds. He’ll be a force on the wing or in the post. Look for junior Tobias Ephron to handle the ball and shoot it. Junior Will Shibles will also see time at the point and he can shoot as well. Sophomores Matt Duchaine and Pat Foster are other guards to watch and junior Perrin Conant will be a backup who can play down low.

If the Stags can stay stingy on defense (fifth last season) and improve their offense, they’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with everyone on their daunting schedule. Defending champion Portland is still the favorite and Deering, Edward Little, Oxford Hills and even Windham will be imposing, but Cheverus is eager for the challenge. Look for the Stags to get back to Augusta and this time, play more than one game.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Steve Huntington (third year, 19-19 overall record)

2015-16 record: 10-9 (Lost, 50-43, to Deering in Class AA North quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Alayna Briggs (Senior), Brooke Dawson (Senior), Kaylin Malmquist (Senior), Brooke McElman (Senior), Ally Tillotson (Senior), Abby Cavallaro (Junior), Kat Kane (Junior), Emme Poulin (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 13 PORTLAND, Dec. 20 EDWARD LITTLE, Dec. 22 @ Oxford Hills, Jan. 3 DEERING, Jan. 5 @ Maine Girls’ Academy, Jan. 14 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 18 SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 27 TA, Jan. 28 @ South Portland, Feb. 4 @ Scarborough, Feb. 7 @ Gorham, Feb. 9 MGA

Coach’s comment: “We have some consistency this year and we’re excited about that. We have all five starters returning. We’ll go nine or 10 deep. We’re pretty much all guards, except Brooke. Our defense will be our catalyst. I think we’ll be right there all season. We hope for a deeper run this time around.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus got stronger as last season progressed and had favored Deering on the ropes in the quarterfinals before falling just short. The Stags didn’t graduate a single member of last year’s team and while Deirdre Sanborn and Grace Soucy have transferred, everyone else is back, suggesting Cheverus could be very formidable in the weeks to come.

Cavallaro was 12th in scoring in the SMAA a season ago (11.2 points per game) and led the league in steals (4.7) as she made the all-conference second-team. Cavallaro (who was also 11th in rebounds, 6.3 per game and fourth in assists, 3.9) will get the team running and can also knock down shots from the perimeter. Malmquist, a tri-captain, is a top ball-handler (she led the league in assists last winter with 4.8 per game), who can also rebound (12th last season with 6.1 per game). She’s a solid defender (ninth in steals last year, 2.3). Poulin (15th in scoring, 10.0 per game, 13th in steals, 2.1) and Dawson, a tri-captain, also will put the ball in the basket. McElman is a force in the post. Her height (5-feet-11) and athleticism pose matchup nightmares. Briggs, a tri-captain, is a solid defender, Tillotson knows how to win (she was part of a Class A champion at McAuley her freshman year) and Kane will be a key contributor as well.

Last winter, Cheverus was fourth in scoring offense, but only ranked 10th in defense. If the Stags can tighten up that side of the ball, look out, as they figure to get their points. Nothing will come easily, as the schedule is very tough, but Cheverus is ready to take the next step. The Stags have a great opportunity to finally beat rival Maine Girls’ Academy (formerly McAuley), post a winning record and get to the tournament for the 10th year in a row. This time, Cheverus is primed for a run at a Class AA North title. Don’t bet against this determined squad.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Dan Lucas (eighth year, 76-55-5 overall record)

2015-16 record: 9-10-1 (Lost, 4-1, to Scarborough in Class A South semifinals)

Top returning players: Ryan McSorley (Senior), Colby Benway (Junior), Marco Giancotti (Junior), Jason Halverson (Junior), Mike Hatch (Junior), Jesse Pierce (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 10 LEWISTON, Dec. 14 @ TA, Dec. 20 @ Biddeford, Dec. 22 ST. DOM’S, Dec. 27 @ Scarborough, Jan. 2 @ Portland, Jan. 24 @ Yarmouth, Jan. 26 PORTLAND, Jan. 28 @ Cape Elizabeth, Feb. 11 SCARBOROUGH, Feb. 14 @ Falmouth, Feb. 16 TA, Feb. 18 BIDDEFORD, Feb. 23 FALMOUTH

Coach’s comment: “We have a good goalie duo and a quality skating team. We’re solid on defense and up front. We’ll hang tough.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus overcame myriad challenges a year ago and won a playoff game in epic fashion before finally being dispatched by eventual regional champion Scarborough. While some key players graduated, most notably all-star Luke Trickey, the Stags do have the pieces in place to be very competitive again this winter.

The offense will be led by McSorley and Pierce. Giancotti and Hatch (a second-team Class A South all-star in 2015-16) are solid defenders, who will do their share of scoring (Hatch had the dramatic overtime winner in the quarterfinal round victory over Biddeford a season ago). Cheverus has the luxury of boasting two solid goalies, Benway and Halverson, who will again split time. Several other players will look to make their mark as well.

The Stags are in a very challenging region this winter, as Scarborough will once again be strong, Falmouth is poised to make a deep run, Biddeford is highly touted and Thornton Academy can’t be overlooked. Cheverus’ schedule doesn’t allow for many breathers, but those challenges will only make the Stags tougher as the season develops. Cheverus might not finish with the best record or top seed, but when the games mean the most, this squad has what it takes to prevail. Don’t be surprised if the Stags make another trip to Lewiston and even make a serious push for their first championship in 11 years.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Scott Rousseau (first year)

2015-16 record: 12-8 (Lost, 11-0, to Falmouth in South Region semifinals)

Top returning players: Eryca Leclerc (Senior), Lilly Wolff (Senior), Sophia Pompeo (Sophomore), Caitlyn Wolff (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 22 ST. DOM’S, Jan. 2 @ Portland, Jan. 7 @ York, Jan. 14 BIDDEFORD, Jan. 16 @ Scarborough, Jan. 19 CAPE ELIZABETH. Jan. 23 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 28 @ Cape Elizabeth, Feb. 4 FALMOUTH

Coach’s comment: “We hope to get through a tough early season schedule and improve quickly to make the playoffs and get home ice in the opening round.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After making the playoffs for the first time in three seasons last winter, Cheverus (which also includes players from Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach) is hopeful it will be competitive again this year under a new coach. Rousseau made a name for himself at Falmouth, where his boys’ teams were consistently battling for states titles. In his first high school girls’ varsity stint, Rousseau inherits a team full of talent. The Stags stumbled early in the season against York (4-1) and Falmouth (6-5, in overtime), but demonstrated their promise in their third outing, a 12-3 win over Portland/Deering.

This winter, the offense will be led by Pompeo, who was a second-team all-star in 2015-16, honorable mention Lilly Wolff and Caitlyn Wolff. Freshman Abby Lamontagne is a budding superstar. She erupted for four goals to help Cheverus force overtime against Falmouth. Leclerc will anchor the defense in front of first-year goalie, junior Anna Smith.

Cheverus has a very difficult schedule, but should steadily improve in the weeks to come. The goals will come. If the defense can limit the opposition, the Stags will win more than they lose and be a factor come February. This program will only get better in the years to come.

INDOOR TRACK

Coach: Steve Virgilio (seventh year w/boys’ team; fourth year w/girls’ team)

2015-16 results:

(Boys) 11th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 5th@ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Mike O’Brien (Senior), Bobby Slattery (Senior), John Stokes (Senior), Paul Lussier (Junior), Tom Gordon (Sophomore)

(Girls) Katelyn Gendron (Senior), Emily Turner (Senior), Hannah Abbott (Junior), Julia Pomerleau (Junior), Ashley Turner (Junior), Evelyn Hanley (Sophomore), Emma White (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “Despite small numbers, the girls will be one of the top teams in the SMAA and the state. More than half the roster should qualify for states and most will contribute and score in one or more events at that level. We’ll be led by our sprinters and the jumping events and hurdles will be also be strong and deep. The girls are in search of their first ever SMAA and state titles and will set their goal to prepare, compete and conduct themselves in a way that will allow them to make an honest and concerted effort toward achieving that challenge. The boys will have the same approach. It’s a small team, but there is a mix of returning and new athletes. Only two athletes have competed indoors at states and just one has scored. It will be a season for us to focus on individual development and progress.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The 2016-17 indoor track season will be competitive and perhaps historic for Cheverus.

The girls finished fifth in Class A a year ago and will make a run at the top spot this winter. Emily Turner, the school’s reigning Winter Female Athlete of the Year, is coming off a stellar indoor season which saw her win the 400, place second in the 200 and finish seventh in the long jump. Turner, who has committed to attend and run track at Boston University, already has six state titles (combined between indoor and outdoor track) and eight school records. She’ll be a points-scoring machine all by herself, but has plenty of help. Abbott, Cheverus’ Fall Female Athlete of the Year, finished fourth in the shot put last season and looks to move up. She’ll also sprint. Pomerleau (fifth in the high jump last year) and White (sixth in the high jump) are top returning jumpers. White also competes in the long jump, triple jump, hurdles and sprints. Ashley Turner is the other returning scorer (seventh in the mile last winter). She’ll be a top member of the distance contingent. Other athletes to watch include Gendron (sprints, jumps) and Hanley (sprints, hurdles, jumps), new sophomore Mary Kate Earley (sprints, hurdles) and freshmen sprinters Emma Gallant (the soccer standout), Alex Hammond and Julia Ryan. The Stags have placed as high as second at states, but this time around, they’re hoping to win it all. Don’t bet against them.

On the boys’ side, after an 11th-place finish a year, the team is relatively untested, but still shows promise. O’Brien (sixth in the triple jump) is the lone returning state meet scorer. He’ll look to move up and also hopes to score in the sprints. Slattery qualified for states in the 400 last season and looks to score this time around. Gordon (sprints, middle distance), Lussier (sprints, long jump) and Stokes (shot put) also have varsity experience. They’re joined by several newcomers, who could quickly make a mark. That group includes senior sprinter Joe Jalbert, senior distance runner Steven Larkin, junior shot putter Christian Gilliam, sophomore middle distance specialist Nolan Doherty and freshman sprinter and jumper Sean Tompkins, who set a record in the 400 in middle school. The Stags aren’t generating much preseason buzz, but as the year goes along, look for this team to make its mark and perhaps move up at states.

SWIMMING

Coach: Kevin Haley (28th year w/boys’ team; 16th year w/girls’ team, five state championships)

2015-16 results:

(Boys) Class A state champions (fourth in a row)

(Girls) 3rd @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Gus Anderson (Senior), Raymond Le (Senior), Shane Moore (Senior), Ben Tompkins (Senior), Phineas Underwood (Sophomore)

(Girls) Gabrielle Cholish (Senior), Lauren Girard (Senior), Abby Longstaff (Senior), Nina Greenwood (Senior), Caroline Arpin (Sophomore), Tholia Hallett (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “The boys got hit hard by graduation, but they’ll hold their own and finish in the top five. The girls should be strong and be in the top five at states.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus is poised for another very successful season in the pool.

The boys have had no peer in Class A the past four seasons, but capturing a fifth successive crown won’t come easily, as the program was hard-hit by graduation with the biggest departure being reigning Winter Male Athlete of the Year Michael O’Donovan, who won state titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle, as well as a couple of relays. Don’t write off the Stags too quickly, however. Top returners include Moore (the Class A champion in the 100 and third-place finisher in the 50 free) and Tompkins (fourth in both the 500 free and individual medley last year). Moore will also compete in the breaststroke this year and Tompkins could also score in the backstroke. Anderson (breaststroke and sprint freestyle), Le (IM) and Underwood (sprint freestyle) also have experience. Sophomore Jeremy Baker will play a bigger role this winter and freshman Chase Cameron and Quinton Hastings show great promise. A state title might be a long shot, but if all goes well, Cheverus will be in the hunt.

On the girls’ side, after a third-place showing at states, the Stags return the standout Longstaff, who won Class A titles in both the 50 free and the backstroke a year ago. She’ll also compete in the 100 butterfly. Arpin is the reigning breaststroke champion and she also came in third the IM last season. She’ll compete in the freestyle as well. Greenwood was runner-up in diving last season and hopes to take the top spot on the podium this time around. Hallett finished seventh in the backstroke and will compete in the fly and IM this year. Cholish (part of a champion medley relay team in 2015-16) and Girard (breaststroke) also have experience. Senior Carrie Hight returns to the team and adds depth in the sprint freestyle races. While Cheverus isn’t the favorite this season, it will be very much in the title mix come February.

ALPINE SKIING

Coach: Peter Black (first year)

2015-16 results:

(Boys) No score @ Class A state meet

(Girls) No score @ Class A state meet

Top skier:

(Boys) Schuyler Black (Senior)

Coach’s comment: “We’re rebuilding the program. We only have three skiers returning, so our goal is to involve and develop as many racers as we can. We hope to score at each race and to improve as the season goes on. We hope and expect to send at least three or four racers to shootouts.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus welcomes a new coach this year in Black, who inherits a team that is on the rise.

Schuyler Black had an excellent season in 2015-16, finishing fourth in Class A in the giant slalom and seventh in the slalom. He’ll be top five material again. Senior Matt McCarthy and junior Sydney Pfeffer also return. They’re joined by several newcomers who hope to make a mark.

The Stags will show steady improvement and build for future success.

WRESTLING

Coach: Jason Barriault (fifth year)

2015-16 results: 22nd @ Class A state meet

Top returners: Zeb Leavitt (Junior), Ryan Breece (Sophomore), Alex Caron (Sophomore), Teigan Lindstedt (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “We come into the season with a handful of athletes who competed last year and we have another group of athletic young men with no wrestling experience who are naturals to the sport. Our number one goal is to get better every day and provide our athletes with the best experience possible. We won one dual meet last year and are looking to increase that number to three to five this year. We’re able to cover more weight classes this year, so as long as everyone stays healthy and competes to their potential, we feel that’s a reasonable goal. We still have a very young team and we’re looking forward to building the program and becoming more competitive.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus returned to stand-alone varsity status a year ago and had its moments. This winter, the Stags hope to be even stronger.

Leavitt is a top returner at the heavyweight spot. Other veterans to watch include Breece (138 pounds), Caron (120) and Lindstedt (152). Freshman Alexi King (113) come make an immediate impact.

Cheverus will be able to compete with many of its foes this season. Don’t be surprised if a few individuals turn some heads in February and make a run at regional and state titles.

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

Senior Jack Casale is a top returning contributor for Cheverus’ boys’ basketball team, which will again contend in Class AA North.

Junior Jesse Matthews will be a matchup nightmare in the post.

Junior Abby Cavallaro will be a top scorer for Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team, which should be one of the best teams in Class AA North.

Senior Brooke Dawson is a captain and key player.

Senior Brooke McElman will be a force in the paint.

Junior Emme Poulin is a top scorer and a key defender.

Senior Ally Tillotson has played in a lot of big games in her career.

Junior Colby Benway has made some big saves in goal for the Cheverus boys’ hockey team.

Junior Jesse Pierce will help pace the Cheverus offense.

Senior Lilly Wolff will be a top scorer for Cheverus’ talented girls’ hockey team, which also includes players from Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach.

Sophomore Sophia Pompeo is an unstoppable force when she’s flying up the ice.

Sophomore Caitlyn Wolff is an emerging star.

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