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Spring Preview: Cheverus Stags

Sports

Spring Preview: Cheverus Stags

There's a lot of new this spring at Cheverus as baseball, softball, boys' track and girls' tennis all feature first-year coaches. There's plenty of optimism as well. Baseball hopes to make a run at the postseason. Softball is looking to return and go even deeper. Both lacrosse teams are positioned to be serious contenders. Both track teams feature some special athletes. Boys' and girls' tennis have their share of standouts also.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mac McKew (first year)

2008 Record: 6-10 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Mick DiStasio (Senior), Dan Foster (Senior), Eliot Pickering (Senior), Jake Watson (Senior)

Pivotal games: April 25 @ Westbrook, April 30 @ Scarborough, May 14 (H) DEERING, May 16 @ South Portland, May 26 @ Portland, June 3 (H) WESTBROOK

Coach's comment: "We have a mixture of veterans and youth. We want to be competitive against higher echelon teams. I'm looking forward to it. We hope to have a good year"

The Forecaster's forecast: A year ago, the Stags missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1997. This spring, they aim to return and the nucleus of a competitive squad is in place. McKew has coached the Cheverus Legion team the past two summers and had a lot of success with the Junior Legion squad last year, leading it to a state crown. He played at Lewiston High School and at USM, where he also served as an assistant for a year. As was the case in the winter on the hardwood, DiStasio figures to be a big key to the team's success. He'll be the pitching ace (3-3 last year with a 2.52 ERA), also play centerfield and bat third (he hit .365 with seven RBI last spring). Junior Kyle Randall (a swing player in 2008) and new sophomore Joe Royer, who helped the Westbrook Babe Ruth team enjoy great acclaim, will bolster the pitching staff. Watson (eight RBI a year ago) serves behind the plate and will look to produce with the bat. Foster (leftfield) and Pickering (utility) bring experience. The left side of the infield will be quite young as freshmen Louie DiStasio (shortstop) and Nick Melville (third base) will receive trial by fire. The pieces are in place for Cheverus to contend. With the elder DiStasio on the mound, the Stags can go toe-to-toe with anyone. If the young players quickly come of age, a winning season and a playoff trip are likely. This could be a dark horse in the weeks to come.

Fun Fact: The last time Cheverus had a first-year coach (2000), it won 11 games and reached the regional quarterfinals.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Amy McMullin (first year)

2008 Record: 9-9 (Lost 3-0 to Scarborough in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Elena Ardito (Senior), Alexis Garrison (Senior), Lauren DuBois (Junior), Audrey Grinnell (Junior), Theresa Hendrix (Junior), Cassie Skelly (Junior), Keturah Smith (Junior), Anna Snook (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 24 (H) BIDDEFORD, April 27 @ Portland, April 30 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, May 14 @ Deering, May 26 (H) GORHAM, June 3 @ Scarborough

Coach's comment: "We're coming off our most successful season ever. We have a tough group of returning varsity players and some key newcomers, so we're setting high expectations for ourselves. We have a new coaching staff, but the girls have responded positively. We want to be the team that can turn some heads this year."

The Forecaster's forecast: A program on the rise welcomes a familiar face this season. McMullin enjoyed great success with the field hockey team last fall and has served as a softball assistant under Rick Supinski. She was a standout at Messalonskee High School and at Franklin Pierce. The team she inherits is on the cusp of being a serious contender and has opposing coaches nervous. The Stags feature a two-headed pitching monster in Grinnell and Hendrix (an honorable mention all-star in 2008). Grinnell and Garrison will catch. The infield features Snook at first, Ardito, DuBois or Skelly at second, Garrison or Hendrix at shortstop and new junior Caitlin Pleau (a transfer from Biddeford) at third. Smith anchors the outfield in center. She's joined by a quartet of new players: juniors Maggie Corrigan (a transfer from Gray-New Gloucester) and Kiley McCann (a transfer from Scarborough), and sophomores Erin Bucci and Emily Sawchuck. After graduating just one senior from last year's team, Cheverus remains young. The Stags will face their growing pains, but McMullin has shown she knows how to win and win quickly. Cheverus might not have the firepower to contend against the handful of elite teams in the Southern Maine Activities Association, but the Stags will battle every time out. Don't be surprised if this year's squad raises the bar another level.

Fun Fact: In every year but one (2006) during their six-year history, the Stags have won more games than the year before.

BOYS' LACROSSE

Coach: Deke Andrew (11th year)

2008 Record: 8-6 (Lost 11-8 to Kennebunk in Western Class B semifinals)

Top returning players: Trevor Greene (Senior), Nate Lawson (Senior), Doug MacGillivray (Senior), Ryan McQuaid (Senior), Ian Schwarz (Senior), Justin Sheehan (Senior), Spencer Tuttle (Senior), Matt Wilson (Senior)

Pivotal games: April 28 @ Deering, May 2 (H) NYA, May 5 @ Portland, May 9 (H) YARMOUTH, May 20 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 23 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 28 @ Cape Elizabeth, June 3 @ Falmouth

Coach's comment: "Our goal is always a playoff berth and to play deep into June. We have everything from varsity players to varsity athletes from our basketball and hockey programs that have never played the game. Our freshman class is the most skilled in the program's history. Overall, this is a very high quality group of young men. I'm looking forward to seeing this team develop over the next three months."

The Forecaster's forecast: While consensus holds that defending state champion Scarborough and perennial contender Portland are the teams to beat this season in Western Class A, don't write off the Stags. Cheverus upset the Bulldogs in the playoffs a year ago and have inched closer to the big boys. The Stags lost several key players to graduation, but that paled in comparison to an even bigger loss in December when senior McKenna Dempsey passed away. His absence will be felt this spring, but you have to believe his teammates will do their all to produce a special season in his memory. Cheverus has a solid coaching staff as Andrew (the only coach in program history) is joined again by Jason Hurley (last year's Assistant Coach of the Year) and will also have the assistance of Kyle Baker, a former star at Kennebunk and Merrimack College. McQuaid is the top returning scorer. He had 36 goals and 10 assists last spring. He's joined on attack by MacGillivray. Middies Greene, Lawson, Schwarz and Wilson (the faceoff specialist) will be heard from as well. Tuttle figures to be one of the more formidable defensemen. He had 13 takeaways and 30 ground balls last season. Sheehan returns in goal. He averaged 15 saves per contest in 2008. Several other newcomers are eager for their opportunity. If some of them can step up, Cheverus should be that much better. The Stags face a couple of brutal three-game stretches (NYA, Portland and Yarmouth early and Scarborough, Kennebunk and Cape Elizabeth late) meaning it will be difficult for them to improve on their win total. Regardless, this team will be battle-tested by June and will have a major say in who's the last team standing.

Fun Fact: Cheverus has reached the semifinal round three years in a row and four years out of five. The Stags have only played in one regional final in their history (2003).

GIRLS' LACROSSE

Coach: Jamie Chamberlain (fourth year)

2008 Record: 6-8 (Lost 7-2 to Scarborough in Western Class A semifinals)

Top returning players: Alex Merrill (Senior), Bethany Schleh (Senior), Briana Amato (Junior), Grace Fitzpatrick (Junior), Grace Frantzen (Junior), Olivia Rogosienski (Junior), Emily Van Duzer (Junior), Sage Witham (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 1 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 5 (H) KENNEBUNK, May 21 (H) NYA, May 23 @ Yarmouth, May 26 (H) WAYNFLETE

Coach's comment: "To me, it will come down to how well our JV players adjust to varsity and how last year's non-starters adjust to more playing time. We have a young team. Just two seniors. The kids are used to a tough schedule. We're a little ahead of where we were last year."

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus' rapid ascension came to a momentary halt last year, but by year's end, the Stags were very dangerous. Look for this year's team to build on that momentum. Cheverus only has two seniors, but they're very good. Schleh (a first-team all-star last spring) is a top scoring threat and also handles draw controls. Merrill joins her at midfield. Chamberlain feels that Fitzpatrick, Frantzen and Van Duzer (All-Rookie team last season) will also be scoring threats. Sophomore Mary Dempsey will also figure into the attack. Rogosienski will do a little of everything. Amato and Witham anchor the defense. After the graduation of Brenna Foley, the Stags will need to fill a hole in goal. Junior Katie Haley will get the nod. Several other newcomers will look to step up. That group includes sophomores Deirdre Lambert and Meghan MacGillivray on attack, junior defender Alyssa Audet and sophomore defenders Paige Lucas and Becca Roberts. There is plenty of promise on the roster. Cheverus will have a tough time against the premiere programs, but should hold its own in most games. This year's foundation is better equipped to start the season. As this squad gains confidence, look out. The Stags will win their share of games and be a threat come June.

Fun fact: Cheverus has made three trips to the postseason in its short four-year history and has won at least one game in each of those seasons.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys' Coach: Bruce Bickford (first year)

Girls' Coach: Valerie Guillet (ninth year)

2008 Results:
(Boys) 11th @ Class A state meet
(Girls) 11th @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:
(Boys) Brian LeBlanc (Senior), Josh Reali (Senior), Taylor Dundas (Junior), Beau Michaud (Junior), Andrew Snyder (Junior), John White (Junior), Tim Woods (Junior), Jack Terwilliger (Sophomore)
(Girls) Ashley Giddinge (Junior), Alex Kane (Junior), Amelia Lundkvist (Junior), Abby Norbert (Junior), Caroline Summa (Sophomore)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Deering, Scarborough, Thornton Academy

Coach Bickford's comment: "This is the biggest team we've had in several years. Distance is our strength. We need to get some points from the other events. We're heading in the right direction. We won't be too far off the top teams this year."

Coach Guillet's comment: "We should have a good team. We're coming off a good indoor season. We're motivated to do well outdoors. The core group's there. Distance is a strength. We want to build some momentum for the next couple years."

The Forecaster's forecast: Both track teams feature a ton of promise this year.

The boys' squad is paced by its distance contingent. Dundas, Reali, Terwilliger and Snyder set a state record in the 3,200 relay indoors. Mix in Woods (fourth in the 800 last spring), and they'll score their share of points again. Junior James Rudder is the top sprinting threat. LeBlanc hopes to compete in the hurdles. White (fourth indoors in the shot put) and Michaud could be major factors in the throws. They're joined by senior Mick DiStasio, who will throw the javelin, while also playing baseball this spring. Cheverus might lack the necessary depth and coverage of all events to make a run at a title, but this time will be formidable throughout the season.

On the girls' side, the Stags have the potential to score some big points in several events. Lundkvist and Norbert return as distance threats and are joined by new freshman Fiona Hendry (indoors) and McAuley transfer junior Liana Rubinoff. In the sprints, Kane and another McAuley transfer, junior Hanna Lyons, lead the way. Giddinge looks to score in the throws. Last, but not least, Summa, Cheverus' Winter Female Athlete of the Year, takes aim at the high jump title and will also run the relays and hurdles. The Stags should be very tough in-conference and have the potential to move up the standings at the big meets.

BOYS' TENNIS

Coach: Wayne St. Peter (fifth year)

2008 Results: 12-4 (Lost 5-0 to Lewiston in Class A state final)

Top returning players: Mike Jerome (Senior), Conner Shoos (Senior), Elliot Coates (Junior), D.J. Honan (Junior), Will Lenk (Sophomore), Conner O'Neil (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: May 18 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 20 (H) DEERING, May 22 @ Windham

Coach's comment: "We graduated a lot. We're molding a new team together. It's a restructuring year, not a rebuilding year. I have a lot of very good athletes. They're smart kids who don't get rattled much. We'll be in the middle-of-the-pack."

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus rose from the No. 5 seed to make a stirring run to the state final match last spring, but will be hard-pressed to repeat after losing standouts Andrew Gleason and Chris Lavoie to graduation, along with Evan Cianchette, who moved to Costa Rica after his father was named ambassador to that country. The Stags will lean heavily on Lenk, who projects to be the No. 1 or No. 2 singles player. Jerome, at 6-foot-5, will be tough to contend with. Other returnees include Coates, Honan, O'Neill and Shoos. They're joined by new senior Ian Gormley, freshman David Woodbury and senior Mackenzie Crosby, who played as a freshman and sophomore before studying in Japan last school year. This Cheverus team has promise, but will need to come of age in a timely manner. Luckily for the Stags, their most challenging matches come toward the end of the regular season. By then, Cheverus could be in position to make another late-May and June charge.

GIRLS TENNIS

Coach: Jordi St. John (first year)

2008 Results: 8-6 (Lost 4-1 to Portland in Western Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning player: Sofia Bergen (Senior)

Pivotal matches: May 8 @ Portland, May 20 @ Deering

Coach's comment: "It's a good group of girls. It will be a learning experience. It should be a lot of fun. I think we'll have a very good season."

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus welcomes a new coach this spring in St. John. He played tennis in high school in Vermont and is an avid skier who competed at the University of Vermont and coached at Bates College. He takes over a program that has been a regular contender the past few years. After graduating five seniors, the Stags have a lot of question marks. One certainty is Bergen, who returns to play second singles. The No. 1 spot goes to freshman Abby Harrison. Tori Schuyler will be in the third position. The doubles teams are still up in the air as several promising players look to take advantage of their opportunity. Cheverus isn't viewed as a favorite, but should win its share of matches. The Stags should improve mightily as the season progresses and could be very dangerous by the time the playoffs roll around.

Photo:
Senior Spencer Tuttle is one of the elite defensive players in the SMAA. He and his teammates are hoping to go all the way this spring. (File photo)

Photo:
Junior Andrew Snyder was part of a state record-setting indoor relay team. Outdoors, he and his teammates should turn heads as well. (File photo)