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Cheverus Stags Spring Sports Preview

Sports

Cheverus Stags Spring Sports Preview

Cheverus produced excellence in several sports last spring and that theme figures to continue in 2014. For the first time, girls' lacrosse is defending a state title and even with a new coach, the Stags have the pieces in place to repeat. The boys' squad has fallen just short each of the past two seasons and this year, aims to finish the job. Baseball remains a top contender in a wide-open league. Softball hopes to build on last year's strides and make it to the postseason. Both track teams have no shortage of top runners, jumpers and throwers. Boys' tennis looks to make the playoffs once again and the girls' squad, behind a new coach, should once again be on the short list of top teams in the conference.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mac McKew (sixth year, 62-29 overall record, one state championship)

2013 record: 10-7 (Lost, 3-2, to eventual champion Westbrook in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Felix del Vecchio (Senior), Peter Dutton (Senior), Charlie Mull (Senior), Mitchell Powers (Senior), Chris Tinsman (Senior), Jensen LaPoint (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 6 SCARBOROUGH, May 13 @ South Portland, May 15 @ Portland, May 20 DEERING, May 23 WESTBROOK

Coach's comment: “Our success this year will be dependent on senior leadership, our pitching staff settling into their roles and tightening up our defense from last year. We weren't consistent and had too many defensive lapses. We look forward to competing in what appears to be a very balanced SMAA. This should make for an exciting season for all teams.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus is one of many teams that has the necessary ingredients to win a league that doesn't boast a clear favorite. Several key players are back and are joined by many new faces who are looking to make their mark. For starters, league all-star Powers, a tri-captain, can do a little of everything, from pitching (he was 2-2 with a 2.73 earned run average in 2013) to playing the infield or outfield, to pounding the ball (he hit .370, drove in eight runs and scored 13 last season). He'll be playing at Southern New Hampshire University in the fall. Speaking of hitting, Tinsman, a catcher and first baseman, could be due for a transcendent season. He hit .267 last year with six RBI and 12 runs scored, but look for those numbers to go way up. Tinsman has been recruited to play at the University of Rhode Island. He's also a tri-captain, along with del Vecchio, the shortstop, who led the Stags with 12 RBI while hitting .320 in 2013. Mull, an outfielder, hit .333 last season, scored nine times and drove in five as he was named to the All-Rookie team . Baseball's not even Mull's top sport (he'll play soccer at the University of Southern Maine), but look for him to make a mark before he graduates. LaPoint, a pitcher/first baseman, made the All-Rookie team last spring after hitting .345 and driving in five runs. Dutton projects to be a top pitcher. He was 2-0 with a 4.02 ERA last season. Then, there's seniors Brad Carney (outfield/pitcher), Ethan Jordan (third base) and Jon Ruterbories (first base) and junior Derek Hammond (pitcher/outfield), who also saw time last season. Newcomers of note include juniors Ryan Anderson (first base/outfield), Chris Billings (infield or outfield), Matt Drouin (pitcher/third base) and Alex Libby (pitcher/utility), sophomores Alex Jacobs (pitcher/utility) and Matt LaPoint (second base) and freshmen Jared Brooks (first base) and Logan McCarthy (catcher). Having to contend with a pitching staff featuring Powers, Dutton, Jacobs and Jensen LaPoint and an offense sparked by Powers, Tinsman, del Vecchio, Mull and LaPoint, the opposition clearly has its work cut out. The Stags have the pieces in place to not just make it six straight seasons with a winning record and a trip to the playoffs, but to be great. They just need to stay confident, healthy and be at their best in June. Don't be surprised if this is one of the last teams standing.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Maureen Curran (third year, 11-21 record)

2013 record: 6-10 (no playoffs)

Top returning players: Brittany Bell (Senior), Libby DesRuisseaux (Senior), Katie Randall (Senior), Josie Bradshaw (Junior), Casey Simpson (Junior), Sophia Giancotti (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 25 @ Deering, May 3 MCAULEY, May 12 PORTLAND, May 14 @ South Portland, May 19 @ Bonny Eagle, May 21 SCARBOROUGH, May 23 @ Thornton Academy, May 30 @ Sanford

Coach's comment: “We have some veteran players in key positions, as well as some newcomers in key positions. The veterans are doing a phenomenal job incorporating the newcomers into our program and the newcomers have truly embraced our philosophy. We're making incremental steps at improvement and hope to peak at the right time for the playoffs. Last season, we played some of our best softball against the most competitive teams in the league at the end of the season and we hope to carry that momentum into this season.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus got off to a dazzling start in 2013, winning five of its first six, but the bottom fell out from there and the Stags were only victorious on one more occasion, falling short of the playoffs. This year's squad is seeking consistency and a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Cheverus has one of the better pitchers in the league in Bell, an Underclass All-Star last season, who had an earned run average of 3.89 last spring. She's also very good with the glove (a .964 fielding percentage) and is one of the team's top hitters (.392 batting average, 1.082 on-base-plus-slugging percentage). She'll spark both the offense and defense. Bell will be spelled at times by senior Emma Engelman, who pitched for the junior varsity in 2013. On offense, look for DesRuisseaux (an infielder who hit .362) and Randall (an infielder/outfielder who hit .250 last season and a terrific fielder to boot) to lead the charge. Freshman infielder Rylee Day is a potential star of the future with the bat. Simpson and junior Margaret Rigney will see time behind the plate. Giancotti is a seasoned infielder. She'll be joined by junior Olivia Mull. Bradshaw brings experience to the outfield. The Stags expect to be competitive throughout and this time, they know the season's a marathon, not a sprint. If the offense produces consistently, Cheverus could win more than it loses and get to the playoffs where it could be a very dangerous out.

BOYS' LACROSSE

Coach: Bill Bodwell (second year, 13-3 overall record)

2013 record: 13-3 (Lost, 15-4, to Scarborough in Class A state final)

Top returning players: Riley Archer (Senior), James Biegel (Senior), Cody O'Brien (Senior), Jack Sutton (Senior), James Kane (Junior), Tom Lawson (Junior), Nick Schleh (Junior), Keegan Thomas (Junior), Alex Nason (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 25 DEERING, April 28 @ South Portland, May 10 FALMOUTH, May 14 SCARBOROUGH, May 16 @ Kennebunk, May 28 PORTLAND

Coach's comment: “I'm pushing the guys hard to get them ready for the season. We've got some big tests on our schedule. We've got good senior leadership. We have good offensive players who can move the ball. The guys are working hard. They're excited and they're hungry. They understand it's an important year.”

The Forecaster's forecast: For two years running, Cheverus has had no peer in its region, but it's also been no match for mighty Scarborough in the Class A state final. This time around, the Stags won't be satisfied with anything short a championship. This year's team has an abundance of returners who are talented and hungry. The offense will be led by returning SMAA first-team all-stars Lawson and Sutton. They'll be joined by Kane, Nason (the team's top faceoff man), senior Pat O'Hanlon (who returns to the program after a year away), Schleh and Thomas. On defense, O'Brien, the football standout, who was a second-team all-star a season ago, along with gridiron teammate Archer, will help make life easier for Biegel, an honorable mention all-star in 2013. Sophomore longstick middie Justin Johnson is a top newcomer. Seniors Cavan Dudley and Charlie Walsh will also be factors with the long poles and on defense. Cheverus has a very challenging regular season schedule, but that will only make the Stags better come June. They appear to be the regional favorite once more, but this year's team, anchored by many players who know it's now or never, has its sights set on the big prize. If Cheverus gets back to the state final, there's a good chance the third time will be the charm.

GIRLS' LACROSSE

Coach: Mallory Pelkey (first year)

2013 record: 13-3 (Beat Massabesic, 8-7, to win first-ever Class A state championship)

Top returning players: Elyse Caiazzo (Senior), Alex Logan (Senior), Meredith Willard (Senior), Hope Correia (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 17 WAYNFLETE, May 20 TA, May 22 @ Marshwood, May 27 SCARBOROUGH

Coach's comment:I think this is going to be another great season. We have a lot of returning players as well as some new talented players who came into the mix. My goal this year is to focus on each game and strengthen our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Every coach and player loves winning, but there is something to be said about a team who has fun and enjoys being around each other. Keeping that intact is my main priority. I am fortunate to be coaching a team of great athletes and young women, I'm looking forward to another exciting season.

The Forecaster's forecast: After knocking on the door for a couple seasons, the Stags roared through last spring and not only thrilled their followers by winning the Class A title, but made history in the process by doing so for the first time. While the team did lose a few key players, many standouts are back and as a result, this time around, Cheverus is being viewed as a favorite. That's OK, the Stags are up for the challenge. The team will have a new look at the top as Jamie Chamberlain, our Coach of the Year last spring, took a leave of absence prior to the season and was replaced by Pelkey, who will be the interim coach. Pelkey is no stranger to the program, however. She was a standout player in its infancy, graduated in 2007, the same year Cheverus upset perennial powerhouse Waynflete in the playoffs, then went on to play one year in college at Division 3 Hartwick in Oneonta, N.Y. Pelkey returned to Cheverus in 2010 and was Chamberlain's assistant prior to inheriting the team this spring. And what a group she has to work with. Making the team go in many ways will be Logan, Cheverus' 2013 Spring Female Athlete of the Year, an All-American honorable mention and an All-American All-Academic team qualifier, who lives and breathes lacrosse and will be playing at Bowdoin College. Logan takes draws, wins most of them and is equally adept scoring goals or setting up her teammates. She plays good defense too. When it comes to scoring, Willard, Cheverus' 2012 Spring Female Athlete of the Year, does plenty of it. Speedy and skilled, Willard is a matchup nightmare. Rounding out the triumvirate of offensive superstars and first-team league all-stars is Caiazzo, who was Cheverus' Fall Female Athlete of the Year after a stellar field hockey season. She's pretty good in the spring too, almost single-handedly leading the Stags past Cony in last year's regional final. She led the team in assists last spring and will likely score an abundance of goals this time around. There's much more to the game than just offense of course. Junior Nicole Pineau, who had a breakout campaign last spring, will be a key part of the midfield, along with new sophomore Anne Veroneau, a transfer from Waynflete. Leading the defense will be senior Sadie Lyons, who missed last spring with a knee injury. She'll look to make up for lost time and no opposing attacker will relish seeing Lyons between her and the goal. Every championship hopeful needs a good goalie and Cheverus has that in Correia, who has already played in a ton of big games. The question is no longer, “Can the Stags win it?” They've proved that they can. Now it comes down to, “Does the hunger remain?” The guess here is that is does. Cheverus will face many tests in the regular season and getting through its region won't come easily, but if the Stags stay healthy, they have a very good chance of returning to Fitzpatrick Stadium on June 21 and once again celebrating a championship. These seniors won't settle for anything else.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: Steve Virgilio (fourth year w/boys' team; second year w/girls' team)

2013 results:

(Boys) 2nd @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 10th @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Tim Jerome (Senior), Mike Sinclair (Senior), Elijah Yeboah (Senior), Isaac Yeboah (Senior), Jake Dixon (Junior), James Hannigan (Junior), Aston Kritzer (Junior), Jake Schott (Junior), Gerry Wagner (Junior), Nick White (Junior), Justin Johnson (Sophomore), Luke Trickey (Sophomore)

(Girls) Laura Bither (Senior), Lizzie Ford (Senior), Kiera Murray (Senior), Meredith Willard (Senior), Georgia Caso (Junior), Kaitlyn Dostie (Junior), Milena Opielowski (Junior), Emily Grinnell (Sophomore), Sarah Mount (Sophomore)

Top foes: Scarborough boys; Bonny Eagle, Thornton Academy girls

Coach's comment: “We'll try to improve on last year's performance in every way. We want to make more of an impact on track and field, Maine high school sports and our greater community as a whole. We want to create opportunities for ourselves, our program, the sport and we'll work to achieve that goal every day. Doing good things, setting positive precedents and inspiring others will be our major focus. We want to make an indelible impact in some way.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Both Cheverus outdoor track teams finished in the top 10 at the state meet for the fifth straight season a year ago. Each squad is once again primed for excellence.

The boys are led by Dixon, Cheverus' Winter Male Athlete of the Year, who sprints (he was sixth in the 200 and was part of a champion 1,600 relay team last spring). Dixon's joined in the short races by Hannigan (a member of a champion 3,200 relay team last season), Trickey, Wagner and standout hurdlers Elijah Yeboah (second in last spring's 300 hurdles and fifth in the 110 hurdles) and Isaac Yeboah (third in the 300 hurdles last year). There figure to be a lot of points coming from those boys in the weeks to come. Schott is another hurdler to watch. If the Stags can find some distance points, look out. On the field side, they figure to excel in the throws behind White (fourth in the discus last spring), Jerome (fifth in the javelin in 2013), Johnson, Kritzer and Sinclair. Schott and Trickey are top jumpers. While Scarborough remains the league's standard bearer and may be too much to overcome, Cheverus will be hot on its heels. Another high finish for the Stags is quite likely.

On the girls' side, Bither (middle distance), Ford (sprints, jumps and relays), Murray (distance) and Willard (sprints) bring experience. Murray was fourth in last year's two-mile. Caso and Dostie are other middle distance runners of note. Mount (fourth in last year's 400) could be a factor in the sprints, hurdles, jumps or relays. Opielowski also jumps. Grinnell (seventh in the javelin last year) could be a top thrower. Two freshmen: Liz Jerome (throws, hurdles) and Emily Turner (sprints) add depth. This group will be very strong throughout the conference season and should snare a high finish at the big postseason meets.

BOYS' TENNIS

Coach: Wayne St. Peter (10th year, 84-39 overall record)

2013 record: 6-7 (Lost, 4-1, to Scarborough in Western Class A prelim)

Top returning players: John Devine (Senior), Damian Smith (Senior), George Budri (Junior), Sam Devine (Junior), Jakob Harris (Sophomore), Malcolm Smith (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: May 7 @ TA, May 14 PORTLAND, May 16 @ Scarborough, May 21 DEERING, May 23 @ Windham, May 27 GORHAM

Coach's comment: “We're putting the pieces together. We're working on defining our doubles teams. We're solid in singles. I hope we can be a playoff team again. It usually works out that way.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus made it 13 straight trips to the playoffs last spring and should be among the best teams in Western A again. Budri projects to be in the number one singles spot. Devine, a first-team league all-star last season, will play in the second spot. Freshman Matthew McCormack shows great promise and will also play singles. Sam Devine, Damian Smith, Malcolm and Harris are all in line for doubles spots. The Stags will be very good in singles matches. If the doubles teams come together as hoped, they'll win more matches than they lose. This could be a very dangerous squad by the time the postseason begins.

GIRLS' TENNIS

Coach: April Tracy (first year)

2013 record: 11-3 (Lost, 4-1, to Portland in Western Class A semifinals)

Top returning players: Gillian Coates (Senior), Alexia Fornaro (Senior), Caty Galligan (Senior), Sarah Hoffman (Senior), Katie Smith (Senior), Jess Soucy (Senior),

Pivotal matches: May 14 PORTLAND, May 16 @ Scarborough, May 21 DEERING

Coach's comment: “This is a seasoned team led by some great seniors. I think we'll have a long and successful season and I'm eager to work with these girls again, making them the best they can be. There's a lot of potential to play well into the playoffs.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Cheverus has made the playoffs each of the past four seasons, but hasn't been able to get past the semifinals. This season, the Stags could take that next step. Tracy replaces Erin Ovalle as coach. She played tennis at South Portland and was a singles champion at the University of Southern Maine. Tracy coached in 2011 and 2012 and has returned, inheriting a very strong squad. First-team league all-star Galligan and Soucy are returning talents at singles. Freshman Natalia Mavor will also step into a singles spot. Coates and Smith will make up one doubles team, with Fornaro and Hoffman comprising the other. This is a veteran team, talented and hungry enough to play on the biggest stages in Mane high school tennis. While Falmouth (which moves up to Class A this spring for playoff purposes) and defending regional champion Portland are the favorites, the Stags believe they can be right there as well. This promises to be another very successful campaign.

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

Photo:

Senior Felix del Vecchio is a top returner for a talented Cheverus baseball team.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Charlie Mull is one of the state's premier soccer goalies and is pretty good on the diamond as well.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Brittany Bell projects to be one of the top pitchers in the SMAA.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Libby DesRuisseaux will be one of the Stags top hitters this spring.

Photo: Michael Strout

Much is expected of sophomore Sophia Giancotti after her strong season in 2013.

Photo: Michael Strout

Junior Thomas Lawson is a top returning scoring threat for a Cheverus boys' lacrosse team hoping to get over the hump this spring.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Jack Sutton is a veteran standout for the two-time defending Eastern A champions.

Photo: Jason Veilleux

Senior James Biegel is back in goal for the Stags this spring.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Alex Logan hopes to lead Cheverus to a repeat championship before taking her game to Bowdoin College.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Meredith Willard returns to pace the Cheverus offense.

Photo: Michael Strout

Senior Elyse Caiazzo is a prolific scoring threat for the Stags.

Photo: Michael Strout

Junior Nicole Pineau is a multi-faceted talent for the defending champions.

Photo: Michael Strout

Hope Correia returns in goal and looks to help the Stags in their title defense.

Photo: Michael Strout

Junior Nick White returns as one of the top throwers in the SMAA.