Cheverus lax teams lone survivors
(Ed. Note: For the complete Portland-Windham baseball, Waynflete-Greely boys' lacrosse and Cheverus-Windham and Waynflete-Cape Elizabeth girls' lacrosse game stories, with photos and box scores, see theforecaster.net)
Just two teams remain in the pursuit of a spring sports state championship.
The Cheverus boys' lacrosse team and its defending Class A champion girls' squad counterparts.
Everyone else has been ousted, some in agonizing fashion, others more routinely.
Here's a glimpse:
Cheverus, the two-time defending Eastern A boys' lacrosse champions, played as well as anyone late in the season and finds itself two wins from a first ever championship.
The Stags, who went 8-4 in the regular season, good for the No. 3 seed in Eastern A, dominated No. 6 Edward Little in the quarterfinals last Wednesday, 15-1, then went to No. 2 Messalonskee Saturday and advanced with an 8-5 triumph. Nick Schleh scored four times against the Red Eddies and Patrick O'Hanlon added three goals. At the Eagles, in a game played at Thomas College, Schleh scored three more times.
Cheverus goes to top-ranked Brunswick (12-2) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for the regional final. The teams didn't play this year. They have produced one-goal thrillers in each of the past two postseasons, with the Stags eking out a 9-8 overtime win in the 2012 Eastern A semifinals and holding on for a 10-9 victory in last year's regional final.
If Cheverus makes it to states for the third year in a row, it won't have worry about playing Scarborough. The Stags would meet either South Portland (12-1) or Thornton Academy (11-3) Saturday at 5:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Cheverus lost at the Golden Trojans in the opener, 9-8, back on April 22 and fell at the Red Riots, 15-10, six days later. The Stags lost to Thornton Academy in the 2000 West Region quarterfinals (9-4) and again the 2001 quarterfinals (13-8). They beat South Portland in the lone prior playoff encounter, 17-5, in the 2005 preliminary round.
Portland was the No. 7 seed in Eastern A after a 6-6 regular season and gave second-ranked Messalonskee a scare in the quarterfinals before losing last week, 7-5. The Bulldogs led, 2-1, at halftime, but fell just short to wind up a resurgent season at 6-7.
In Western B, Waynflete closed strong and earned the No. 5 seed after an 8-4 regular season, but the Flyers were no match for No. 4 Greely in a quarterfinal Wednesday. Waynflete took a 1-0 lead on Henry Cleaves' goal, but that was the high point. The Rangers led, 6-2, at halftime, then erupted for 14 second half goals to prevail, 20-9. The Flyers got five goals from Cleaves in his swan song, but it wasn't nearly enough as Waynflete wound up 8-5.
"We were in it at halftime, but we don't have numbers and ran out of gas a little bit," said Flyers coach Dan Thomsen. "Hats off to Greely. They played great.
"I feel like we have come a long way. We had some great wins. I'm really proud of how hard the guys worked."
Waynflete expects to be a factor again in 2015.
"We want to get better every year and make improvements," said Thomsen "I like our sophomore class a lot and I look forward to next year."
The city of Portland produced both girls' lacrosse state champions last season, but this spring, there will only be one. At most.
The team still alive is defending Class A champion Cheverus, which has been dominant in its first two playoff tests.
The Stags, ranked first in the region after a 9-3 regular season, had no trouble with No. 8 Brunswick in the quarterfinals, winning, 20-5. Elyse Caiazzo and Meredith Willard both had five goals, while Abby Biegel, Alex Logan and Sadie Lyons all tickled the twine on three occasions.
Saturday, Cheverus hosted No. 4 Windham and fell behind early, 2-0, but after first-year coach Mallory Pelkey called timeout to get the Stags refocused, they erupted offensively and went on to a 14-8 win, behind four goals from Logan and three from Willard.
"It was a little rocky in the beginning and we had some nerves, but we got it together and played our game," Logan said.
"I just told (the girls) in the timeout to play their game," Pelkey said. "They came out and they did it. They responded quickly. We have leadership and an older team that has been there before. The girls are very composed. That means anytime we have a rut, we pull out of it more quickly."
Cheverus advanced to host No. Messalonskee (11-3) in the Eastern A Final Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Stags romped at the Eagles, 17-6, back in May and beat Messalonskee, 10-8, in the 2011 quarterfinals and 10-9 in the 2012 semifinals.
Cheverus knows it will be challenged, but is confident.
"It's good we're playing a team that we've seen," Logan said. "We have a level of confidence playing at home. It would be great to go to the championship game again, but we won't take it lightly. We're taking it one game at a time."
"Messalonskee has strong girls on defense," said Pelkey. "They'll be more prepared for us this time. We beat them by quite a lot, but they'll come out strong. As long as we come out and play our game, we should be good."
If the Stags get back to the state final, they will meet either Massabesic (13-1) or Thornton Academy (11-3) Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Cheverus lost at the Mustangs, 12-10, May 15 and beat visiting Thornton Academy, 9-6, five days later. Last year, in the state final, the Stags held off the Mustangs, 8-7. Cheverus also beat Massabesic, 10-9, in the 2008 Western A quarterfinals. The Stags and Golden Trojans have no playoff history.
Portland, the No. 6 seed in Eastern A, went to No. 3 Cony for the quarterfinals, but despite putting up 12 goals, lost by six to finish 6-7. Hallie Allex and Merritt Ryan both had four goals in the loss, while Isabel Stehli added three.
Waynflete had the pieces in place to make a run at a third consecutive Class B championship, but the Flyers' hopes were dashed Saturday by a most unlikely foe.
Waynflete earned the No. 2 seed in Western B after an 8-4 season and had a bye into Saturday's semifinals, where No. 3 Cape Elizabeth paid a visit. The Flyers had beaten the Capers twice during the regular season, making it 24 straight victories over Cape Elizabeth dating back to 2003, but their wouldn't be a 25th.
Waynflete dug an early 4-1 hole, battled back to tie on Hannah Thompson-Greaves' second half goal, then went up, 8-6, on two goals from Leigh Fernandez and a possible dagger from Sofia Canning, but this time, the Capers responded, tying the game on a free position, then going ahead, 9-8, when Abby McInerney scored her sixth goal with 16 seconds to play. The Flyers never had a look at an equalizer and finished 8-5 after its first semifinal round loss in seven seasons.
"I just reminded them of where we started and where they are at the end of the season and reminded them that we're a family," longtime Waynflete coach Cathie Connors said. "When we win, we celebrate and when we lose, we still celebrate the good things we did. I'm just sad it's over because I love spending time with the girls. I'm so proud of how far they have come. That's why it's painful. It's not as much about losing as it is about not being together. We wanted to play together some more."
The loss of players like Canning, Fernandez, Cat Johnson and Ella Millard (along with talented but lesser heralded defenders Amelia Deady and Ellen Silk) will be hard to overcome, but this program reloads and after Saturday's heartache will be more determined than ever to make 2015 a championship year.
"We've got some good young players," Connors said. "That will help."
Cheverus and Portland had title hopes on the diamond, but they didn't come to fruition.
The Stags managed to win a playoff game, then dropped a heartbreaker, while the Bulldogs went one-and-done.
Cheverus finished ninth in Western A after an 8-8 regular season. Last Tuesday, in the preliminary round, the Stags rallied to win at eighth-ranked Thornton Academy, 9-7, bouncing back from an early 6-2 deficit. Chris Tinsman had three hits and three RBI. Mitchell Powers also had three hits, drove in two and earned the win. Charlie Mull singled and doubled. Thursday, Cheverus played at top-ranked South Portland and gave the Red Riots everything they could handle for eight innings before dropping a painful 1-0 decision to wind up 9-9. The Stags only mustered two hits and Alex Jacobs was the hard-luck loser after giving up only five hits.
Portland earned the No. 6 seed in the region after going 10-6, its best record since 2007, but once again struggled against No. 11 Windham in the preliminary round last Tuesday. The Bulldogs had lost at home to the Eagles, 11-2, May 24 and fell again, 6-1, making it seven straight victories for Windham in the series. Evan Gallant had two hits and an RBI, but Portland couldn't get a clutch hit and its season ended.
"We had our chances, but you have to give credit to Windham, they played very well today," Portland coach Tony DiBiase said. "We just don't seem to play well against Windham. Maybe that's matchups. If you compare scores against other teams, we beat teams they lost to, but we just don't bring our good game against them, it seems like.
"The seniors brought Portland baseball back. We hadn't had double digit wins in the regular season for a long time. These kids got the program back heading in the right direction. Last year was a great tournament run. This year, it ended quickly. In this league, every team is equal. We could have won the whole thing or gotten knocked out in the first round."
The Bulldogs hope to contend again in 2015.
"We return a lot and we have a good group on the freshman and the JV levels," DiBiase said. "It's a good group coming through. We have good pitching and good young kids. I think we'll keep heading in the right direction."
Cheverus and McAuley were lone city softball teams to make the playoffs.
The Stags enjoyed the best regular season in program history (13-3) and earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs. They then went out and won a quarterfinal round game for the first time, holding off visiting No. 11 Marshwood, 5-4, last Thursday. Brittany Bell earned the win by allowing just two earned runs on six hits, while striking out 15. Casey Simpson had two hits.
Saturday, Cheverus went to No. 2 Thornton Academy and took a 3-1 lead to the fifth, where the bottom fell out. The Golden Trojans pushed across four runs to take the lead, then added five more in the sixth and handed the Stags a 10-3 loss, ending their tremendous season at 14-4.
"We achieved more than any of us could've imagined," said Cheverus coach Maureen Curran. "It was tough to get so close though."
McAuley was a sneaky-good 8-8 in the regular season and played some of the league's top teams to the wire. The Lions wound up ninth in Western A and gave No. 8 Noble a scare in the preliminary round last week, but couldn't get a key hit and lost, 2-0, to finish 8-9.
Several local athletes competed in the New England championships in Bridgewater, Mass., last weekend.
Cheverus' boys, fresh off a Class A team championship, produced some of the best results, as Jake Dixon placed third in the 400 (49.66 seconds) and Isaac Yeboah finished third in the 300 hurdles (39.47). Nick White placed eighth in the discus (148 feet, 8 inches) and 18th in the shot put (47-11). The Stags 400 relay team came in seventh (43.76) and the 3,200 squad was eighth (3 minutes, 24.34 seconds).
Deering got a 13th-place showing from Yahya Hussein in the two-mile (9:41.07) and a 20th-place finish from Paulo DeMarco in the 300 hurdles (43.18).
On the girls' side, Deering's Rashad Zagon came in 21st in the high jump (5 feet) and Cheverus' 400 relay team placed 22nd (52.79).