Cheverus Stags Winter Sports Preview

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BOYS’ BASKETBALL

COACH: Dan Costigan (third year, 16-22 overall record)

2013-14 record: 10-10 (Lost, 56-48, to Falmouth in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Zordan Holman (Senior), Derek Hammond (Junior), Austin Boudreau (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 5 WINDHAM, Dec. 9 @ Bonny Eagle, Dec. 12 @ Thornton Academy, Dec. 19 @ Deering, Dec. 30 PORTLAND, Jan. 5 @ Gorham, Jan. 16 @ South Portland, Jan. 23 MARSHWOOD, Jan. 27 @ Scarborough, Jan. 30 @ Portland, Feb. 3 DEERING, Feb. 5 SOUTH PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “We graduated three starters and our sixth man. Last year, we got better as the year went on. We hope to build on that and keep going in that direction. We have guys who have been around the program. Guys are filling roles, but they’re young. We don’t have much size, so we’ll have to rebound by committee. We have some good perimeter guys. It’ll be a fun year. There are a lot of teams who lost a lot. Someone will win 12 games out of the blue. Hopefully it’s the purple and gold.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus returned to contention last winter and this season, could be one of the elite teams in Western Class A. The Stags have some very good returners and if the supporting cast can quickly come of age, look out. Cheverus was very strong defensively last winter (placing second behind Portland in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association), but its offense only ranked 10th. Additional production this year would help the cause. The Stags return Holman down low. He was third in the league in rebounds last season (9.2 per game) and was named to the SMAA second-team. He’ll be a force on the glass and on defense. If he can increase his scoring production, look out. One source Cheverus can turn to for scoring is Boudreau, an SMAA All-Rookie team selection, who finished 10th in made 3-pointers as a freshman (35) and also hit 76.5 percent from the free throw line. He’ll be expected to knock down shots while also running the offense from his point guard position. Hammond should figure in the scoring mix too. In fact, this team is very perimeter oriented. Junior David Thete will also see time at the point, while senior Cam Chea, junior Jake Tomkinson (the hero of soccer’s unexpected run to the state title this fall), sophomore Jack Casale and freshman Jesse Matthews will also be heard from. Two years ago, the Stags had to deal with a coaching change. Last winter, their development was delayed by a trip to the football state game, which impacted several players. This winter, the team is in good shape to start and should only get better. Last year produced confidence and Cheverus figures to be in the hunt from start to finish in a very balanced league. If you’re looking for a regional dark-horse, the purple and gold could be the team.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

COACH: Steve Huntington (first year)

2013-14 record: 14-7 (Lost, 41-36, to Windham in Western A semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Laura Holman (Senior), Jillian Libby (Senior), Casey Simpson (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 5 @ Windham, Dec. 12 THORNTON ACADEMY, Dec. 19 DEERING, Dec. 23 MCAULEY, Dec. 30 PORTLAND, Jan. 5 GORHAM, Jan. 16 @ South Portland, Jan. 27 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 30 @ Deering, Feb. 3 SOUTH PORTLAND, Feb. 6 @ McAuley

COACH’S COMMENT: “It’s been going very well. I’ve been getting a lot of support. The kids are passionate about the game and about each other. We’re young, so everything has been new. We have six freshmen on the varsity team and a few will play. We’ll probably go nine deep. We have to get in basketball shape to play at the pace I want, but we also have to slow things down and teach. We are turning the corner. Graduation and transfers hurt, so we’ll be middle-of-the-pack, but I think we have the skill and the athletes to battle with the top teams.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Stags look very different from last winter, as several players have departed, longtime coach Richie Ashley stepped down and Steve Huntington takes over on the sidelines. Huntington played at Deering and Westbrook College/University of New England and previously coached at Deering and Scarborough and with the Maine Firecrackers AAU team. He inherits a Stags program with several question marks, but Cheverus can’t be overlooked. For starters, the Stags return Libby, who recently committed to play at Division I New Jersey Institute of Technology. Libby tied for eighth in the SMAA in assists (3.0) last season and will look to score more this winter. She can play guard or forward. Another versatile player is Holman, who can score inside and out and will also be formidable on the glass. Simpson will see time at point guard and in the frontcourt. She’s a scrappy defender who will help set the tone on that end of the floor. Freshman Emme Poulin will likely see most of the time at point guard. She’s a player who will only get better as the season progresses. Junior Anne Veroneau, who played on Waynflete’s Class C state champion as a freshman in 2012-13, will play a bigger role for the Stags this winter. She’s another tenacious defender who can knock down clutch shots. Graduation and the transfer of standout post player and last year’s second leading scorer Jess Willerson (to McAuley) set the program back, but don’t be surprised if Cheverus remains competitive every night and makes a run to the playoffs for the eighth year in a row. This could be a team no one wants to face come February.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

COACH: Dan Lucas (sixth year, 54-39-2 overall record)

2013-14 record: 9-9-1 (Lost, 4-3, to Noble/Wells in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: James Hannigan (Senior), James Kane (Senior), Matt O’Leary (Senior), Nic Noyes (Senior), Keegan Thomas (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 6 LEWISTON, Jan. 9 @ Bangor, Jan. 17 ST. DOM’S, Feb. 5 FALMOUTH, Feb. 7 @ Scarborough, Feb. 11 BIDDEFORD, Feb. 19 SCARBOROUGH

COACH’S COMMENT: “We’ll be a strong skating team with an improved defense. With a strong schedule this year, our goal is to improve steadily and meet our goal ending up in Lewiston at season’s end.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus remains a competitive program and this winter, the Stags could be the top threat to Falmouth’s bid for a three-peat. The top returner is Hannigan, a second-team all-star in 2013-14. He’ll pace the offense, with help from Noyes and Thomas. Defensively, Kane and O’Leary are experienced and will help the adjustment for senior Kyle Severance and freshman Colby Benway, who replace all-star Jason Blier in goal. While two-time defending state champion Falmouth is the clear favorite in the region for good reason, there’s no reason to think that Cheverus couldn’t be in the running for the second spot. The team features promise on offense and the ability to shut things down on defense. There’s good leadership, experience and hunger too. If the new players can step into their roles, the Stags should be able to post a winning record and get back to the playoffs where this time, they’ll be equipped to make a deep run.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

COACH: Amy McNally (third year, 12-24-2 overall record)

2013-14 record: 6-11-1 (no playoffs)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Taylor Courtois (Junior), Sophia Giancotti (Junior), Jill Hannigan (Junior), Caroline Ray (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 10 @ Falmouth, Dec. 13 CAPEFLETE, Jan. 3 @ Scarborough, Jan. 10 @ Capeflete, Jan. 17 ST. DOM’S, Jan. 24 FALMOUTH, Jan. 31 SCARBOROUGH

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a young team and low numbers, but some high quality players who are willing to work hard and learn a lot about hockey to improve their game. We have several newcomers who are skilled and ready to learn our system and play as a team to achieve success. We’re looking to re-enter the playoff picture at the end of the season by pulling off some upsets and continuing to improve as the season goes on.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Stags missed the playoffs last winter for the first time since the Maine Principals’ Association began sanctioning girls’ hockey, but they hope to climb back into contention this time around. Cheverus has opened with wins in two of its first three contests, losing to Biddeford (6-0) before downing Mt. Ararat (5-3) and Portland/Deering (8-2). This year’s offense will be anchored by Hannigan and Ray. Hannigan (a first-team all-star in 2013-14) is also a stalwart on defense, along with Giancotti (who was an all-star honorable mention last winter). Courtois returns in goal. Junior Colleen Slattery and freshman Olivia Adams figure to play bigger roles as the season progresses. It’s quite likely last year was an aberration and the Stags will get back to the postseason this winter. This program is heading in the right direction.

INDOOR TRACK

COACH: Steve Virgilio (fifth year w/boys’ team; third year w/girls’ team)

2013-14 results:

(BOYS) Tie-2nd @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 2nd @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Jake Dixon (Senior), Jacob Schott (Senior), Gerry Wagner (Senior), Nick White (Senior), Hunter Griffiths (Junior), Ricardo Romero (Junior), Luke Trickey (Junior)

(GIRLS) Georgia Caso (Senior), Kaitlyn Dostie (Senior), Abby Goodrich (Senior), Milena Opielowski (Senior), Emily Grinnell (Junior), Sarah Mount (Junior), Emily Turner (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Scarborough, Thornton Academy

COACH’S COMMENT: “Every year there’s something new to strive for and achieve. We want to learn and have fun. We want to compete hard and prepare well. Each person has a responsibility and drive to do something unique and special for someone else. I need to provide each team member an opportunity to do it in their own way.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: After both teams fell just short of a title a year ago, each is looking to take the next step this winter.

The boys will have to fill the talented shoes of Elijah Yeboah and Isaac Yeboah (the reigning Class A 55 hurdles champion), but the cupboard isn’t bare. Leading the way will be Dixon, who won the 200 and was runner-up in the 400 a year ago. He’s joined in the sprints by Griffiths, Trickey, soccer hero Wagner (fifth in the 400 last winter) and a pair of newcomers, James Hannigan and Bobby Slattery. Schott will compete in the hurdles and in the high jump, where he placed second last season. Schott is joined in the jumps by Romero and Slattery. White was the runner-up in the shot put a year ago. He’ll be a top thrower. Cheverus should be a force during the league meet season and with its front end talent, should have no trouble finishing among the top teams in the state yet again. Perhaps atop the heap.

On the girls’ side, graduation claimed reigning state champions Kiera Murray (two-mile) and Meredith Willard (55), but don’t overlook this group, which is coming off the program’s best state finish to date. The top returning scorers are Mount (seventh in the 55 hurdles) and Opielowski (seventh in the long jump). Mount will be a top sprinter and hurdler this season, as will Fall Female Athlete of the Year Goodrich. Turner, along with sophomore Katelyn Gendron and freshman Caroline Ford, are other sprinters to watch. In the middle-distance, Caso and Dostie are top-notch. On the field side, Opielowski looks to move up in the jumps. She’s joined by Gendron, Goodrich and Mount. Grinnell is the top thrower. There are a lot of strong teams in the league and state, but the Stags should be able to hang right there with them from start to finish.

SWIMMING

COACH: Kevin Haley (26th year w/boys’ team; 13th year w/girls’ team, three state championships)

2013-14 results:

(BOYS) Class A state champions

(GIRLS) Class A state champions

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Sam Devine (Senior), Tony Penk (Senior), Jacob Griffin (Junior), Kevin Kane (Junior), Michael O’Donovan (Junior), Thomas Nappo (Junior), Gus Anderson (Sophomore), Raymond Le (Sophomore), Ben Tompkins (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Courtney Kane (Senior), Margaret Meserve (Senior), Hattie Train (Senior), Danielle Chambers (Sophomore), Gabrielle Cholish (Sophomore), Lauren Girard (Sophomore), Carrie Hight (Sophomore), Abbie Longstaff (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Greely

COACH’S COMMENT: “The boys’ team looks strong and we have some depth. We’re looking forward to competing and moving athletes around in different events this year. We should be one of the top teams in the conference and the state. The girls won their first championship last year. This year, we’re a well balanced team in the pool and on the board. We have a young, but experienced team and we’ll be on the list of the top teams in the conference and the state.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: While it’s not possible to exceed the magic of 2013-14 (dual titles, including a first-ever for the girls), it might be possible to match it this winter as both squads again are loaded for bear.

The boys are seeking a third straight Class A crown and have a lot of talent back. Leading the way are Griffin, Kane and O’Donovan, who were part of a champion 400 relay squad at last year’s state meet, a performance which ultimately was the difference. O’Donovan was the individual runner-up in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races last winter and is eyeing the top spot this time around. He’ll also contend in the sprint freestyle. Kane hopes to build on his third place finishes in the butterfly and individual medley. Penk was fifth in the 200 free and sixth in the 500 free last year. Look for him to move up. Griffin is coming off a sixth-place showing in the 100 free and a seventh-place finish in the IM. He too looks to improve. Anderson (sprint freestyle and breaststroke), Devine (backstroke), Le (fly and IM) and Tompkins (backstroke, distance freestyle) also have experience. They’re joined by sophomore Booway Bikales, a transfer from Waynflete, who was seventh in the 500 free at the Class B meet last winter. He’ll swim the backstroke, fly and IM, and freshman distance freestyler Ben Adams. This is a talented group that can score points individually and in the relays. Don’t be surprised if another championship trophy winds up in their possession.

On the girls’ side, the Stags have to replace reigning backstroke state champion Sarah Nappo, but Cholish, Longstaff and Train all return from a state champion medley relay. Longstaff was runner-up in the 100 free and fourth in the 50 free last year. She’ll be one of the state’s elite sprinters again and this winter, will also vie for top honors in the backstroke. Train is another sprinter to watch. She came in seventh in the 50 free and eighth in the 100 free last year. Cholish scored in the IM (eighth) and will also compete in the butterfly. Other potential scorers include Chambers (distance freestyle) Girard (breaststroke, fly, IM), Hight (fly, freestyle) and Meserve (breaststroke). Cheverus also returns a top-notch diver in Kane (who was third in Class A a year ago). That nucleus is joined by freshmen Teegan Gunther (IM, backstroke, freestyle) and Sophia Kruse (fly, IM, freestyle) and sophomore diver Nina Greenwood. The competition will be fierce, but there’s enough depth and talent here to bring home a second straight championship.

WRESTLING

COACH: Jason Barriault (first year)

2013-14 results: 20th at Class A state meet

TOP RETURNERS: Mike Macaluso (Junior), Aidan Whitis (Junior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We’re continuing to compete and practice in cooperation with Deering. We’ve been working hard to build a program and we’ve grown from two athletes who are looking to learn the sport and want to grow Cheverus into an independent team.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: This is a program that is still finding its way, but there are some wrestlers to watch in the weeks to come. Leading the way will be returners Macaluso and Whitis. Junior Justin Johnston joins the team and looks to make a mark. If the Stags can qualify a couple wrestlers for the state meet, the season will be a success. Look for that to happen and for this squad to only grow going forward.

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

Senior Zordan Holman will once again be a force down low.

Derek Hammond will score his share of points in the weeks to come.

Jillian Libby committed to Division I New Jersey Institute of Technology in the offseason and now looks to lead the Stags back to the playoffs.

Senior Casey Simpson will play a key role for the Stags in the weeks to come.

James Hannigan will help pace the Cheverus offense.

Senior James Kane is a top defenseman for the Stags.

No one wants to get in the way of bruising Cheverus senior defenseman Matt O’Leary.

Sophia Giancotti will be a top defender for Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team this winter.

Jill Hannigan will be a top scoring threat for Cheverus this winter.

Junior Caroline Ray is another key returner on offense for the Stags.

Nick White will make a run at a state title in the shot put this winter.

Senior Kaitlyn Dostie is a top middle distance threat for the Stags.

Milena Opielowski is back for her senior season and projects to be a top jumper in the SMAA.

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Austin Boudreau and his Cheverus teammates are aiming for a deep playoff run this winter.

File photos.

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