Cheverus Stags Winter Sports Preview

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Sophomore Abby Lamontagne is part of a high-flying offense for a Cheverus girls’ hockey team that could be one of the best in the state this winter.

File photos.

More photos below.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Ryan Soucie (third year, 20-18 overall record)

2016-17 record: 11-8 (Lost, 53-50, in overtime, to Oxford Hills in Class AA North quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Tobias Ephron (Senior), Will Shibles (Senior), Matt Duchaine (Junior), Patrick Foster (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 8 WINDHAM, Dec. 12 @ South Portland, Dec. 15 @ Edward Little, Dec. 29 BANGOR, Jan. 5 @ Scarborough, Jan. 11 DEERING, Jan. 19 PORTLAND, Jan. 23 OXFORD HILLS, Feb. 2 @ Portland, Feb. 6 @ Deering, Feb. 8 SOUTH PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “It’s a good group with a good work ethic. Very coachable. We’re excited to get going for real. We’ve made strides and I hope we continue to make strides to be as competitive as I hope we’ll be. We have a lot of changeable parts and we want to be a transition team. It’s a tough region and we’re all chasing Portland. We’d like to host a quarterfinal. That’s a realistic goal.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Even though Cheverus lost standout Jack Casale to graduation and Jesse Matthews didn’t return to the school this year, the Stags still have enough pieces in place to contend in a very tough Class AA North.

Ephron and Shibles have experience and will play guard and serve as captains. Ephron can knock down shots while Shibles can create his own offense. Duchaine, an SMAA All-Rookie team selection a year ago, is another top scoring threat at guard. Foster, who also plays guard, brings grit and does what it takes to help a team win. Junior Owen Burke, who played some big minutes in last year’s tournament, will see more time this winter and can play guard or forward. Juniors Ryan Flaherty (a guard who is very athletic) and Richard Joyce (a post player who stands 6-foot-4) and sophomore guard Nick Galli also figure into the mix.

Cheverus has few breathers on its schedule, but will hold its own behind its athleticism and tenacity. Look for this squad to show steady improvement and be a factor in February. The Stags could be a very difficult out when it matters most.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Gary Fifield (first year)

2016-17 record: 11-8 (Lost, 46-44, to Bangor in Class AA North quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Abby Cavallaro (Senior), Michaela Jordan (Senior), Kat Kane (Senior), Emme Poulin (Senior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 12 @ South Portland, Jan. 5 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 9 GORHAM, Jan. 11 @ Deering, Jan. 23 @ Oxford Hills, Jan. 26 PORTLAND, Feb. 2 @ Maine Girls’ Academy, Feb. 6 DEERING, Feb. 8 SOUTH PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “The biggest adjustment is getting a team organized in such a short period of time. My goal is for us to get better every day.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: An interesting new era begins at Cheverus this winter as Fifield, the legendary former coach of the University of Southern Maine women’s program, takes over. Fifield won 660 games in his 27 seasons and five times coached the Huskies to the Division III Final Four. After taking last winter off, he’s eager to return to the sidelines.

“I was kind of lost last year to be honest,” Fifield said. “I hadn’t not been involved in coaching for 40-some-odd years. The connection with the kids and teaching the game is what I missed. It’s been fun getting back.”

Fifield inherits a squad that boasts some top-notch talent and could be primed to make a run to the top of Class AA. Cavallaro, who will be playing at the University of New England this time next year, was an SMAA second-team all-star last winter after averaging 12.2 points, 3.5 assists and 2.8 steals a game. She’ll handle the ball and be a top scorer (she’s deadly from 3-point range). Poulin, who recently committed to playing at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, is another sharpshooter (she averaged 10.9 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per contest). Sophomore Emily Huntington can also knock down shots. Junior Meg Kelly can play guard or forward. Jordan, Cheverus’ Fall Female Athlete of the Year, along with her sister, sophomore Lauren Jordan, will play forward, while Kane and senior Sam Taylor look to be formidable in the post.

One thing that’s for certain is that the Stags will show steady improvement behind the teaching of Fifield. Cheverus will play strong defense and will be fundamentally solid. If the Stags can find a way to generate consistent offense, look out, they might just be the team to beat. Not only in Class AA North, but in the state.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Dan Lucas (ninth year, 91-61-5 overall record)

2016-17 record: 15-6 (Lost, 3-2, to Falmouth in Class A South Final)

Top returning players: Colby Benway (Senior), Cam Dube (Senior), Marco Giancotti (Senior), Jason Halvorsen (Senior), Mike Hatch (Senior), Colby Anton (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 21 BIDDEFORD, Dec. 23 FALMOUTH, Jan. 1 PORTLAND/DEERING, Jan. 4 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 11 LEWISTON, Jan. 13 @ Portland/Deering, Jan. 24 @ Lewiston, Feb. 6 @ Falmouth, Feb. 10 @ Biddeford, Feb. 21 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “We’ll prepare, work and take it one game at a time and hope to get to the final game in Lewiston.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: A year ago, Cheverus made it seven straight trips to the postseason and reached the regional final for the second time in three years. This time around, the Stags are hoping to extend their season all the way to the final Saturday and this group has what it takes to taste glory.

Cheverus will again be able to rely on two solid, veteran goalkeepers, Benway and Halvorsen (a Class A all-star in 2016-17). The defense will be anchored by Giancotti and Hatch (an all-star last winter). Both will be involved with the offense as well. That unit will be paced by Anton and Dube. The Stags figure to score a lot of goals in the weeks to come.

Cheverus is again on the short list of Class A South favorites. The Stags haven’t been able to take the final step and get to the state final, but this could be the year they make the jump.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Scott Rousseau (second year)

2016-17 record: 9-10 (Lost, 2-1, to York in South Region quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Olivia Adams (Senior), Anna Smith (Senior), Sophia Pompeo (Junior), Caitlin Wolff (Junior), Abby Lamontagne (Sophomore), Hannah Woodford (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 9 @ Portland/Deering, Dec. 16 ST. DOM’S, Jan. 1 PORTLAND/DEERING, Jan. 3 CAPE ELIZABETH, Jan. 13 @ Lewiston, Jan. 27 @ Cape Elizabeth, Feb. 2 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “I have a great group of girls who work hard. We’ve done a little better than I expected. We have new players who have infused us with talent. We’re still young, but I’m pleasantly surprised with our returning players who have improved dramatically. We’ll have balanced scoring. We’ve developed a lot of confidence. We want to go deep in the playoffs. We have the potential.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus (which again features some players from Kennebunk) is poised to make a quantum leap this winter and is off to a sizzling start, having dominated Falmouth (6-0), Yarmouth/Freeport (11-0), Brunswick (10-3) and Scarborough (7-2) to start the season. The best is yet to come.

The Stags are going to light the lamp with regularity. Lamontagne, who produced over 40 points during a South Region first-team all-star season a year ago, scored seven times in the first four games and paces the top line with help from Pompeo (a second-team All-South selection last winter) and promising freshman Emma McCauley. Wolff (another reigning second-team all-star) and Woodford also return and will be on the second line along with freshman Lucia Pompeo. Adams will also be in the scoring mix. On defense, Cheverus has some questions to answer, but juniors Abby Enk, Zoe Mazur, Terrin McDonald and Sarah Noyes look to stop the opposition in its track. If they don’t, Smith is a tough last line of defense in goal.

The Stags have to find a way to solve Scarborough, as well as Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland and Falmouth, in their region and if they manage to get to the state final, it’s possible that juggernaut St. Dom’s will be standing in the way, but the fact that Cheverus can legitimately talk about competing on the biggest of stages shows how improved this squad is. The Stags will be a lot of fun to watch as they chase glory.

INDOOR TRACK

Coach: Steve Virgilio (eighth year w/boys’ team; fifth year w/girls’ team)

2016-17 results:

(Boys) 15th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 2nd@ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Paul Lussier (Senior), Alex Baur (Junior), Nolan Doherty (Junior), Matt Sarapas (Sophomore), Sean Tompkins (Sophomore)

(Girls) Ashley Turner (Senior), Evelyn Hanley (Junior), Emma White (Junior), Emma Gallant (Sophomore), Julia Ryan (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “Both teams have experience and new opportunities. The girls’ team has the potential to compete at the highest level in the state. The boys will look to raise their level of competitiveness in the league. There will be depth in the sprinting events and some special relay teams could be formed.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Cheverus indoor track teams will be in the thick of things all winter.

The girls’ squad was runner-up to Scarborough a year ago and believes it can make a run at the top spot this time around. The Stags will be led by the standout Gallant, who won the 200 and the 400 as a freshman. She also placed third in the 55 and will be one of the best (if not the best) sprinters around. She’ll be joined by Ryan, new senior Caroline Ford and freshman Victoria Bossong. Hanley will be a top hurdler, along with freshman Sophie Schuele. Turner, junior Bella Booth and freshman Mackenzie Turner will lead the distance contingent. White also scored a year ago, coming in second both the long jump and triple jump. She’ll be good for a lot of points again in field events, as well as in the sprints and hurdles. Cheverus has what it takes to be a powerhouse throughout the league season and could win its first state title if all goes well.

On the boys’ side, the Stags look to get back into the top 10 and have some promising building blocks on hand. Doherty (seventh in the mile a year ago) is the lone returning scorer. The sprints feature Baur, Lussier and Tompkins, along with new junior Finn McLain and sophomore Joe Baur. Freshman Jakub Jastrzebski hopes to step right in and make some noise in the hurdles. Sarapas and freshman Giovanni Fornaro are throwers to watch. Look for several athletes to emerge as top contenders in the league and to score some points at states. This Cheverus team will began climbing its way back up the ladder.

SWIMMING

Coach: Kevin Haley (29th year w/boys’ team; 17th year w/girls’ team, six state championships)

2016-17 results:

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

(Girls) 3rd @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Ben Adams (Senior), Phineas Underwood (Junior), Chase Cameron (Sophomore), Quinton Hastings (Sophomore)

(Girls) Caroline Arpin (Junior), Tholia Hallett (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “The boys are rebuilding after losing so much talent to graduation, but it’s going to be a good year. With our returning members and newcomers, we should be in the top five at states. The girls’ team is well-balanced. They will have strong dual meets and should be top five at states.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus might not bring home a championship this winter, but both Stags teams will remain formidable throughout.

The boys have won five straight Class A championships, but had to bid adieu to Shane Moore, who won the Class A 50 and 100 freestyle titles a year ago, as well as several other key contributors. Hastings and Underwood are top returners. Hastings will compete in the butterfly and backstroke, while Underwood is a sprinter. Cameron (backstroke, individual medley and distance freestyle) also has state meet scoring experience. He was fifth in the 500 free and sixth in the 100 free last season. Adams (breaststroke, distance freestyle), juniors Jeremy Baker (distance freestyle), Lawrence Bossong (breaststroke) and Alex Drago (sprint freestyle) and senior Anthony Balko (backstroke) also have experience. That group is joined by sophomore Jack Martin, a transfer from Portland High, who swims the backstroke, fly and distance freestyle, and freshmen John Hight (breaststroke, IM, distance freestyle) and Brim Peabody (IM, distance freestyle). This group will steadily improve in the weeks to come and while they’re not the favorite this winter, they’ll still turn heads on the big stage.

On the girls’ side, the Stags seek their sixth consecutive top five showing at states and have some promising pieces in place. Replacing 50 free and 100 backstroke state champion Abby Longstaff and reigning state champion diver Nina Greenwood will be a challenge, but Cheverus expects to compete behind Arpin (runner-up in the IM and fourth in the breaststroke a year ago) and Hallett (third in the backstroke and eighth in the breaststroke last February). Seniors Teagan Guenther (sprint freestyle) and Sophia Kruze (sprint freestyle, backstroke), junior Patsy Ciampi (distance) and sophomores Haley Caron (IM) and Rosie Train also have experience. Grace Shimansky and Abby Vaughan are veteran divers. Newcomers to watch include Claire Hanley, Miryam Keller and Maggie Poulin. This team will be tough to match up with in the regular season and at the big postseason meets.

ALPINE SKIING

Coach: Georgia Hegner (second year)

2016-17 results:

(Boys) No score @ Class A state meet

(Girls) No score @ Class A state meet

Coach’s comment: “We have 10 kids and it’s a great group. We have a few kids who have never raced before. We’ll work on developing a love racing.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Hegner, who has coached skiing for six years, takes over as head coach this winter. The Stags have a small team and will be looking for individual improvement as the season progresses. Junior Annesley Black looks to repeat her feat of winning the Class A girls’ slalom and giant slalom titles and could be a skier without peer this winter.

NORDIC SKIING

Coach: George Aponte-Clarke (first year)

2016-17 results:

(Boys) No score @ Class A state meet

(Girls) No score @ Class A state meet

Top skier:

(Boys) Michael Luna (Sophomore)

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus, along with Deering and Portland, is part of the Portland Nordic co-op squad. The Stags feature Luna, who looks to score some points as an individual.

WRESTLING

Coach: Jason Barriault (sixth year)

2016-17 results: tie-16th @ Class A state meet

Top returners: Zeb Leavitt (Senior), Ryan Breece (Junior), Teigan Lindstedt (Junior), Alexi King (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “We’re a young team that has a solid core group of experienced guys and a few newcomers surrounding them. Zeb hopes to repeat his success of last year. The goal for our other athletes is to get a couple guys through to states and win a few duals in the process. The vast majority of the team started wrestling in high school and has already showed a lot of growth and potential for success. Ultimately, we’ll continue to work hard every day and become better wrestlers, athletes and young adults. We want to provide a culture where the athletes fall in love with the grind that is wrestling and want to come back next year to continue the growth of the program.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Cheverus’ wrestling program is on the rise and this promises to be a successful campaign.

Leavitt won a state title in the heavyweight division last winter and has a great shot to repeat. He’s the only senior on the roster, so the rest of the team will look to show steady improvement. Breece (145 pounds), King (120) and Lindstedt (170) are other returners who could make some noise and junior George Mitchell (160) and freshman Greyden Lindstedt (170) are primed to step right in and make an impact as well.

Look for the Stags to be equipped to compete with many of their foes during the regular season and to improve on last year’s postseason showing with Leavitt stealing February headlines once again.

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

Tobias Ephron is a key returner for a Cheverus boys’ basketball team which hopes to make a deep playoff run.

Junior Matt Duchaine will hit his share of key baskets.

Senior Will Shibles will be in the middle of the Stags’ success.

Senior Abby Cavallaro is back to lead Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team to big things. She’ll score a lot of points before taking her game to the University of New England next year.

Senior Emme Poulin is also heading to play at the next level, at Assumption College. She’s another scorer to watch.

Senior Kat Kane will do a little of everything this winter for the Stags.

Junior Colby Anton will be a top scoring threat for Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team, which got to the Class A South Final a year ago.

Senior Jason Halvorsen is part of the Stags’ two-headed goalie approach. He’s played in a multitude of big games.

Senior Colby Benway will also see time between the pipes.

Mike Hatch has scored some big goals and will be a key defenseman for the Stags.

Senior Anna Smith will be the last line of defense in goal for the Cheverus girls.

Junior Nolan Doherty scored in the mile a year ago and is back to lead Cheverus’ boys’ indoor track team this winter.

Phineas Underwood returns to a Cheverus boys’ swim team seeking its sixth consecutive Class A state title.

Zeb Leavitt is the defending Class A champion at 285 pounds and he’s back to win another title this winter for the Cheverus wrestling team.

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