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Portland edition Spring Coaches of the Year

Sports

Portland edition Spring Coaches of the Year

Boys' team:

Steve Virgilio, Cheverus outdoor track

For several years, Cheverus' boys' outdoor track team went to the Class A state championship meet hoping, even expecting to win a championship, but something always went wrong.

Not this year.

The Stags capped a strong season with an emphatic victory on the biggest stage and at last, for the first time this century, could call themselves champions.

A big reason for the program's sustained excellence and for finally getting over the hump this season is coach Steve Virgilio, a Cheverus graduate, who has enjoyed the Midas Touch and earns our selection as our Portland edition Spring Coach of the Year of a boys' team.

Virgilio graduated from Cheverus in 2000 after playing football, basketball and competing in the high jump, long jump, pole vault, sprints and hurdles in indoor and outdoor track. He went on to compete in the decathlon at the College of the Holy Cross.

Coaching was the logical next step.

"My love for competing and for track led me to coaching," Virgilio said.

Virgilio became a volunteer assistant at Cheverus, then moved to Ohio where he coached at the Division III college level for a couple seasons. Virgilio returned to Cheverus for good in 2009 and for good measure, he's also coached at the University of Southern Maine and the Falmouth community track program.

"Coaching has become a passion," Virgilio said. "I just love competing. I have a non-conventional, unique approach. My top priority is to make good things happen. I'm willing to do whatever to make someone else's pursuit easier. I love doing that."

The Stags, with top-tier talent like all-staters Jake Dixon, Nick White, Elijah Yeboah and Isaac Yeboah and a whole lot of depth, were strong all season, won Southwesterns, then left no doubt at states, winning by 29 points to leave no doubt they were without peer.

"It was awesome," Virgilio said. "I was so proud and so happy for everybody. The previous classes who just missed set this up."

Virgilio, who has the distinction of coaching both the high school (Cheverus) and college (USM) state record holders in the 4x400 relay, lives in Portland. He hopes to get the Cheverus girls' team to the pinnacle as well and plans to coach for many years.

That means we likely haven't seen the last of Cheverus earning championship hardware. Steve Virgilio, our Portland edition boys' team Spring Coach of the Year, has built a program that is consistently great and now stands alone.

Previous winners:

2013 Jeff Madore (Waynflete tennis)

2012 Deke Andrew (Cheverus lacrosse)

2011 Mac McKew (Cheverus baseball)

2010 Steve Kautz (Waynflete baseball)

2009 Eric Begonia (Portland lacrosse)

2008 Mike D'Andrea (Deering baseball)

2007 Mike D'Andrea (Deering baseball)

2006 Stephane Pejic (Waynflete tennis)

2005 Eric Begonia (Portland lacrosse)

2004 Mike D'Andrea (Deering baseball)

Girls' team:

Maureen Curran, Cheverus softball

Cheverus' softball team started 5-1 in 2013, then imploded, going 1-9 the rest of the way and missing the playoffs.

This spring, the Stags started 7-0 and this time never looked back, posting a program-best 14-4 record and going deeper into the playoffs (semifinals) than any previous editions.

It was a season of unity and triumph and it was orchestrated by Maureen Curran, who gets our nod as our Portland edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a girls' team.

Curran was a one-time standout in field hockey and softball at South Portland High School and went on to play softball at Dartmouth College. Her athletic acumen comes naturally as one grandfather was longtime football, basketball and baseball coach and athletic director Bill Curran, the other was "Whopper" Deetjen, who coached basketball at Portland and her father, "Tige" Curran, was a longtime football and softball coach.

"Sports are ingrained in my DNA," Maureen Curran said.

After graduating college, Curran started coaching sub-varsity softball at South Portland, took over the field hockey program (leading the Red Riots to the 2003 Western A Final) and turned the school's girls' lacrosse team into a contender.

Curran left South Portland to help coach Bowdoin's field hockey team and was along for the ride for two championships.

Curran taught history at South Portland for several years, then came to Cheverus and took over the softball program in 2012.

This year's squad dazzled.

The Stags, behind ace Brittany Bell and a potent offense, won their first seven games, then, after losing at Biddeford, proved once and for all that they were legit, by beating South Portland in a back-and-forth thriller in extra innings. Back-to-back losses to powerhouses Scarborough and Thornton Academy could have put Cheverus into a tailspin, but the Stags won their final three regular season games to set a new benchmark with 12 victories.

As the number three seed, Cheverus won a quarterfinal for the first time, edging Marshwood in a thriller. The Stags took a 3-1 lead to the fifth inning at Thornton Academy in the semifinals before the eventual regional champions seized control and went on to end Cheverus' season.

But in the aftermath, there wasn't much fault to find.

"The kids were fun," Curran said. "The coaches tried to foster teamwork and fun."

Curran, who also officiates field hockey, credited her talented coaching staff for its role in the program's success.

"It was a special group," Curran said. "It's important to surround yourself with good assistants and let them perform. Casey Mull, my JV coach, played at Cheverus and U. Maine-Farmington. (Catching coach) Cynthia Wescott and (pitching coach) Lesley Warn did a great job with Brittany. (Assistant coach) Kevin Haley (who is also Cheverus' swim coach) is a great motivator. My Dad, the third base coach, brought invaluable experience."

Curran plans to coach for the forseeable future and hopes the Stags remain in contention.

That's likely to happen as long as she's at the helm. Maureen Curran, our Portland edition girls' team Spring Coach of the Year pushed all the right buttons and will continue to do so.

Previous winners:

2013 Jamie Chamberlain (Cheverus lacrosse)

2012 Cathie Connors (Waynflete lacrosse)

2011 Linda Cohen (Waynflete tennis)

2010 Robby Ferrante (McAuley softball)

2009 Bonnie Moran (Portland tennis)

2008 Cathie Connors (Waynflete lacrosse)

2007 Jamie Chamberlain (Cheverus lacrosse)

2006 Jamie Chamberlain (Cheverus lacrosse)

2005 Rick Supinski (Cheverus softball)

2004 Cathie Connors (Waynflete lacrosse)

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