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Cheverus Stags Winter Sports Preview

Winter Sports Previews

Cheverus Stags Winter Sports Preview

After a pair of championships in the fall, Cheverus eagerly awaits the winter sports season. The boys' basketball team was just moments shy of an undefeated state title in 2010-11. This year's squad hopes its recent run of even year championships continues. The Stags will be in the mix throughout. The girls' team has been very competitive in recent seasons and could be on the verge of doing something special. Boys' hockey got back to playoffs a year ago and could be one of the top contenders in Western A. The girls' team again will be a factor well into February. Both track teams feature some terrific talent. Cheverus swimmers will be a force and Alpine skiing will make its presence felt. The school isn't fielding a wrestling team, but two individuals, junior Iain Whitis and freshman Liam LaFountain, will represent the school while training with Deering.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Bob Brown (11th year, 189-23)

2010-11 Record: 21-1 (Lost, 58-49, to Bangor in Class A state final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Louie DiStasio (Senior), Shawn Grover (Senior), James Kapothanasis (Senior), Cam Olson (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 16 @ Portland, Dec. 30 (H) MARSHWOOD, Jan. 3 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 6 (H) SANFORD, Jan. 13 (H) DEERING, Jan. 21 (H) PORTLAND, Jan. 27 (H) SP, Feb. 3 (H) TA, Feb. 7 @ Deering, Feb. 10 @ SP

COACH’S COMMENT: “Of all my years coaching at Cheverus, this is probably the slowest start we're off to. Seven of the 12 kids are new and I gave the football players a week off. Most years, we're ahead of everyone else at the start. This year, I hope we can catch up. If we can stay healthy and get into shape, we'll be a good, solid team. We're athletic, big and mobile. The question will be how fast can a freshman and three sophomores develop at this level? I'm not sure we have enough, but we might.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Only a fourth quarter rally by Bangor in last year's Class A state final stood between Cheverus and a perfect season and a repeat championship. The Stags graduated the likes of Griffin Brady, Nick Burns, Peter Gwilym, Connor O'Neil and Joe Savino, then saw promising Matt Cimino and Malcolm Smith transfer to prep schools. While that type of exodus would devastate most programs, Cheverus will be fine, although it might take awhile to get to elite level. For the first time in several seasons, the Stags aren't the overwhelming favorite, but they could be as good as anyone by March. While DiStasio is the only returning starter, he's a reigning first-team SMAA all-star, who was 10th in the league in scoring (14.3 ppg), 10th in steals (2.0) and 15th in assists (2.6). DiStasio (who had a game-high 20 points in a season-opening 57-38 win at Biddeford) will be the focal point of the opposition, but Cheverus will feature other weapons, including Grover down low and Olson on the wing. Kapothanasis is the point guard and he'll be backed up by junior Michael Flaherty. Look for junior forward Drew Ferrick, junior guard Donald Goodrich (the football hero), sophomore guard Noah Stebbins and freshman center Zordan Holman (nine points in the opener) to make an impact as well. The Stags' calling card has always been defense and last year, they were again tops in the league. While the squad is going through growing pains, look for it to continue to excel on that side of the ball. The offense and the confidence will come. There might not be as many household names as in years past and while city rivals Deering and Portland have gotten much of the preseason buzz, Cheverus is going to be heard from as the season goes on. Look for Brown to get his 200th victory with the team, the Stags to lock up one of the top seeds and for them to make a serious run at a fourth regional (and possibly a third state) championship in the past five years.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Richie Ashley (fifth year, 42-34)

2010-11 Record: 14-5 (Lost, 45-42, to Sanford in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy (Senior), Brooke Flaherty (Junior), Danielle Kane (Junior), Kylie Libby (Junior), Mikayla Mayberry (Junior), Victoria Nappi (Junior), Abby Maker (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 13 @ Gorham, Dec. 30 @ Marshwood, Jan. 3 (H) BONNY EAGLE, Jan. 5 @ Sanford, Jan. 10 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 13 @ Deering, Jan. 20 @ Windham, Feb. 4 @ McAuley, Feb. 9 (H) DEERING

COACH’S COMMENT: “We return pretty much everybody. I like our group a lot. I think we have a cohesive unit. The roles are more defined this year. We're a year older. We'll always play hard. We'll get after people and make it an athletic contest. We'll play a lot of girls. At least 10 every night.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Cheverus program takes strides every season and 2010-11 was no different as it set a new mark for victories. The Stags did suffer a disappointing playoff loss, but after graduating just one player (All-Defensive team member Britni Mikulanecz) and losing another to transfer (first-team all-star Morgan Cahill, back to Yarmouth), they're in great shape to perhaps be the biggest threat to defending state champion McAuley. Palazzi-Leahy (who averaged 11 points and 3.7 assists and was third in the league with 29 made 3-pointers last winter when she was an honorable mention all-star) will pace the offense. She's a gunslinger (going off for 25 points in a season-opening 68-28 rout of Biddeford) and when she's on, the opposition has a hard time keeping up. Palazzi-Leahy is joined as a captain by Flaherty (who had seven points and a dozen rebounds in the first game), Libby and Mayberry, who all boast experience. Mayberry will set the tone on offense as the point guard. Libby (who was seventh in the SMAA last year with a 48 percent field goal average) can play guard or forward and could be primed for a breakout season. Flaherty will look to replace Cahill's production down low. Kane will also see time at point guard. Maker is a terrific athlete, who's always deadly and Nappi (nine points versus Biddeford) will be a force on the front line as well. A quartet of new players also figure to make a mark. Senior forward Allie Thomas, sophomore guards Georgia Ford and Sade Lyons (who was hurt last winter), along with freshman guard Jill Libby, will get their opportunity to shine and will only make the program that much stronger going forward. Cheverus has shown it belongs in the discussion of the top teams, but it still has work to do. The Stags have yet to beat Deering or McAuley and are still seeking their first postseason victory. This year's squad will rack up the points and wins, but needs to find a way to get the job done in February. The guess here is that at least one of those droughts will come to an end and that Cheverus will be one of the last teams standing.

BOYS' HOCKEY

COACH: Dan Lucas (third year, 19-17-1)

2010-11 Record: 10-9 (Lost, 6-2, to Marshwood in Western A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: John Cella (Senior), Mike Haas-Zanghi (Senior), Harry Ridge (Senior), Sean Rogers (Senior), Tom Sullivan (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 15 (H) BIDDEFORD, Dec. 22 (H) PORTLAND, Jan. 5 @ Cape Elizabeth, Jan. 21 @ Portland, Jan. 26 @ Scarborough, Feb. 13 @ Marshwood, Feb. 18 (H) TA

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have 10 freshmen joining the team this year. We'll compete with improved play from the freshmen as the season progresses.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus returned to the upper echelon of Western Class A a year ago and hopes to be even more formidable this time around. The Stags will face a very tough slate, but have the pieces in place to compete. The forward line features Cella, Rogers and Sullivan, a solid senior core. Defensively, Ridge leads the way in front of Haas-Zanghi in the cage. With an abundance of new skaters, the Stags hope a few new stars emerge and help the cause. While Cheverus isn't yet at the level of defending Class A state champion Thornton Academy, Biddeford or Falmouth, it should be in the running for a playoff berth and maybe even a home game if all goes well. This is a program on the rise and the 2011-12 season should be further indication that the Stags are back.

GIRLS' HOCKEY

COACH: J.P. Lavoie (fifth year, 60-16-3)

2010-11 Record: 11-7-1 (Lost, 1-0, to York in West Region semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Sarah LaQuerre (Senior), Annie Delisio (Junior), Dana Maloney (Junior), Emily Rodrigue (Junior), Katie Roy (Junior), Laura Bither (Sophomore), Julia Lambert (Sophomore), Alex Logan (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 21 @ Falmouth, Dec. 31 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 2 (H) YORK, Jan. 4 (H) BIDDEFORD, Jan. 7 @ Scarborough, Jan. 11 @ Biddeford, Jan. 21 @ Portland, Jan. 23 @ St. Dom's, Jan. 28 (H) LEWISTON, Feb. 2 (H) PORTLAND

COACH'S COMMENT: “Overall, we're a young team and we're rebuilding. Our biggest team strengths are enthusiasm, work ethic and a desire to learn and improve every day.”

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Cheverus wasn't able to repeat as state champs a year ago, but was still very good. Now, the effect of losing a plethora of standouts to graduation will pose a challenge, but the Stags should still be one of the top teams in the West Region when all is said and done. Cheverus opened the year with a 5-1 win at Brunswick and after a 3-0 loss at York in a playoff rematch, blanked host Cape Elizabeth, 7-0. So far the offense has been led by Roy, who tickled the twine five times against Cape Elizabeth. Delisio, Lambert, Logan, Maloney and Rodrigue are also players to watch on the forward line. New junior Paige Severance will look to make an immediate impact as well. LaQuerre (Cheverus' Fall 2011 Female Athlete of the Year) is the defensive anchor and helps start the offense. She's joined on the back line by Bither in front of freshman goalie Allie Spinney, who replaces all-state graduated goalkeeper Taylor Witham. The roster also includes Elyse Caiazzo, Mira D'Amato, Frankie Pasquali, Megan Sawicki, Staci Swallow and Cati Walsh. As usual, the Stags have a very challenging schedule, but they'll hold their own. Look for this squad to improve quite a bit between now and the end of the regular season and be a team that no one will want to play in the postseason. This group's upside is very high.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS' COACH: Steve Virgilio (second year)

GIRLS' COACH: Valerie Guillet (12th year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 11th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 11th @ Class A state meet

(BOYS) Joe Slattery (Senior), David Woodbury (Senior), Adam Zieba (Senior), Jimmy Campbell (Junior), Matt Cushing (Junior), Jackson McMann (Junior), Andrew Rose (Junior), Zeb Tarasevich (Junior), David Terwilliger (Junior), Elijah Yeboah (Sophomore), Isaac Yeboah (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Lizzie Gwilym (Senior), Katie Shapiro (Senior), Anne Slattery (Junior), Rachel Simonds (Sophomore)

COACH VIRGILIO’S COMMENT: “This team is on the rise. The numbers are growing and the talent's expanding. Everyone's excited and committed. The senior class is the smallest on the team, but has great leadership and ability. The younger classes also boast prodigious potential. We'll be competitive in every event. This team wants to succeed and does all the necessary preparation to make that happen. The athletes and focused and fun to coach.”

COACH GUILLET'S COMMENT: “The team is growing and will be at least twice as large as last year and the girls are hugely motivated. I'm delighted to have most of my cross country girls and I can't wait to see what they can do on the track. It should be an exciting season.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Cheverus teams have healthy numbers and high aspirations as the new season begins.

The boys were hurt by the graduation of standout Jack Terwilliger, who won the mile and two-mile at last year's state meet and was Cheverus' 2010-11 Winter Male Athlete of the Year. Campbell, McMann, Rose and Slattery were part of a fifth-place 800 relay team. This winter, Slattery will literally do a little of everything, sprints, hurdles, jumps, pole vault and relays. He could score in more than one event. Campbell is another sprinter and jumper to watch. He won the junior 400 at last year's conference meet. McMann, Rose, Elijah Yeboah, Isaac Yeboah, new sophomores Colin Grove, Will Hilton and Jack Sutton and freshmen Jake Dixon and Jacob Schott could also make a mark in the short races. In the distance, look for Tarasevich, Woodbury and Zieba to lead the way. Senior Lukas Temple is a swimmer who will run track when he can. He's a top runner in cross country and could be a top scorer even with limited time to compete. New juniors Chandler Dundas and Brady Foshay and freshman Parker Montano add depth. Joining Slattery in the hurdles will be McMann, Schott, Terwilliger and both Yeboahs. On the field side, top throwers will likely be Cushing, Hilton, new sophomore Greg Grinnell and freshman Nick White, the younger brother of former Cheverus state champions Matt and John. In the jumps, Slattery will be joined by Campbell, Hilton, McMann, Schott, Terwilliger, both Yeboahs, new junior Michael Orne (who also pole vaults) and freshman Michael Cummings. There's no shortage of athletes who can cover all the events. The Stags will be very good in conference and if some kids can step up in February, will exceed last year's big meet finishes.

On the girls' side, the loss of last year's state high jump champion Caroline Summa (Cheverus' 2008-09 and 2010-11 Winter Female Athlete of the Year) will be big, but the return of senior Fiona Hendry (a distance standout) to the team after skipping last year helps fill the scoring void. Hendry is joined in the distance by Simonds and state champion cross country teammates Gwilym, senior Emily Durgin, sophomores Shannon Conley and Kiera Murray and freshmen Georgia Caso and Hayley Doss. Shapiro's the top thrower. Slattery will be a force in the hurdles and jumps. Freshman Milena Opielowski hopes to make a mark in the sprints and jumps. The Stags have the potential to be very strong in the distance races if Durgin is able to stay healthy. Look for Cheverus to be one of the top teams in the SMAA and to finish in the top 10 at states.

SWIMMING

COACH: Kevin Haley (23rd year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 5th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 3rd @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS:

(BOYS) Drew Fernandez (Senior), Lars Murphy (Senior), Lukas Temple (Senior), Reed Fernandez (Junior), Connor Pothier (Junior)

(GIRLS) Michelle Giordano (Senior), Olivia Pickering (Senior), Nicole Chambers (Junior), Sam Savaun (Junior), Tessa Lindsley (Sophomore), Sarah Nappo (Sophomore)

COACH'S COMMENT: “We're a solid team with a lot of outstanding swimmers and divers with a great balance. We have 20 new athletes, giving us 60 total. We'll be a competitive team again at Southwesterns and states with our depth. We just need to focus on qualifying the most athletes we can. The boys should be in the top four and the girls in the top three.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: As always, Cheverus has lofty goals in the pool and for good reason.

The boys' team's top returner is Murphy, who came in fifth in last year's breaststroke. He'll look to be even more formidable this time around. Temple swims the sprint freestyle races. Pothier does both sprint and distance freestyle. Drew Fernandez (individual medley and breaststroke) and Reed Fernandez (butterfly and IM) both were part of a scoring medley relay team at last year's states. Junior Trebor Lawton returns to the pool after a year off and will swim all events. Freshmen Nick Lewis (backstroke, freestyle), Spencer Lindsley (sprint freestyle) and Tony Penk (distance) will help the cause. The Stags will face several of the state's best teams in the regular season, but that will ready them for the postseason meets where once again, they should make a run at one of the top spots.

On the girls' side, Lindsley leads the way. She placed third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free at last year's state meet. Chambers, Nappo and Savaun joined Lindsley to come in third in the medley relay. This year, Chambers will swim the butterfly, IM and distance races. Nappo is a backstroker. Savaun competes in the breaststroke. Giordano (distance) and Pickering (backstroke and IM) add experience. Keep an eye on new diver Courtney Kane. She'll certainly help the Stags score points. Cheverus should be considered one of the favorites going in. It could be a memorable February for this group.

ALPINE SKIING

COACHES: Kim Pike (11th year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 11th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) No score @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SKIERS

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

(GIRLS) Maddie Woods (Senior)

ASSISTANT COACH CARRIE ALFORD’S COMMENT: “We have a large number of returners this year, with the team growing exponentially. Our seniors promise to continue to do well and we have a new group of juniors who are really solid skiers and hard workers. With 20 skiers, the outlook is great. There are a ton of solid, seasoned racers who could have a really great season and solid new skiers to add points.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Cheverus is bolstered by good numbers this winter and there are some skiers to watch.

The boys are led by Hoffman (40th in the slalom and 41st in the giant slalom at last year's Class A state meet) and Reynolds (23rd in the slalom 67th in the GS).

The girls' squad by Woods (47th in the slalom and 50th in the GS last winter). Several others hope to make their mark in the weeks to come, so by February, the Stags hope to be in a position to perform very well at the state championships.

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

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Junior Katie Roy is one of the state's top offensive threats and hopes to lead Cheverus deep into the playoffs this winter.

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Junior Mikayla Mayberry will be in the middle of the action all over the floor.

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Victoria Nappi is one of several standout juniors sporting the purple and gold this winter.

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Junior Brooke Flaherty is a star on the rise for the Cheverus girls.

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Senior sharpshooter Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy projects to be one of the top scorers in the SMAA this winter.

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Fresh off quarterbacking the football team to a championship, senior Cam Olson is hoping to play a key role on a basketball team going for its own Gold Ball.

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Senior Shawn Grover is a beast above the rim.

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Senior Fiona Hendry is part of a dynamic distance crew for Cheverus' talented indoor track squad.