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Spring 2009 Portland edition Coach of the Year-Boys’ team
ERIC BEGONIA-PORTLAND LACROSSE
When Eric Begonia arrived as coach of the Portland boys’ lacrosse program in 2002, thoughts of a championship were nothing more than folly.
The Bulldogs were essentially still a start-up program, played in the shadow of the other city teams and had never won a playoff game.
My how quickly things have changed.
Portland is now an elite program and added the last remaining piece to its pedigree on June 20 when it rolled past Brunswick to win a state championship for the first time.
This year’s team overcame the sting of a disappointing ending to 2008, was of a single purpose from day one through the title game and thrilled its followers and fans of the sport with not only a prolific offense, but also with a smothering defense.
Begonia not only guided the Bulldogs to the Promised Land this year, but he’s arguably done as much to create a powerhouse program as any coach in recent years, attributes that made it easy for The Forecaster to name Eric Begonia our 2009 Portland edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.
Begonia doesn’t have a lacrosse background, but you’d never know it. He played football at South Portland for legendary coach John Wolfgram and learned lacrosse at the Navy Prep School. He played there and at the Coast Guard Academy, then completed his education at Florida State.
Begonia got his start in coaching at North Yarmouth Academy, then came to Portland, where he promptly turned an also-ran into a powerhouse.
The Bulldogs went undefeated in the regular season in 2004, made the state final for the first time in 2007, then got off to a hot start in 2008 before slumping late and getting upset by rival Cheverus in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Begonia didn’t have to do much to motivate his seniors this spring and they got the job done, dominating in all but two games. Portland went 11-1 (losing only at Yarmouth in the game of the year), then decimated Massabesic, South Portland and Scarborough in the regional playoffs. The Bulldogs then capped their run with a 9-3 win over Brunswick in the state game, avenging a loss to the Dragons from two years prior.
Begonia is now 78-25 with the Bulldogs and could hit the century mark in victories some time in 2011. Portland was decimated by graduation, but don’t write this program off. The Bulldogs will be better than anticipated next spring.
Begonia teaches biology at Portland High and runs a science camp each summer. He lives in Gorham with wife Renee, 8-year-old daughter Celia and 6-year-old son Gavin. All three were along for the ride this spring.
It’s a ride that won’t soon be forgotten. The Portland Bulldogs can finally say they’re the best team in the state and that the program is as fine as any. Eric Begonia, our 2009 Portland Spring boys’ Coach of the Year deserves the lion’s share of the credit. He created a powerhouse and delivered the final championship piece.
2008 winner: Mike D’Andrea (Deering baseball)
2007 winner: Mike D’Andrea (Deering baseball)
2006 winner: Stephane Pejic (Waynflete tennis)
2005 winner: Eric Begonia (Portland lacrosse)
2004 winner: Mike D’Andrea (Deering baseball)
Spring 2009 Portland edition Coach of the Year-Girls’ team
BONNIE MORAN-PORTLAND TENNIS
Entering this season, the Portland girls’ tennis team had never played in a state final, or a regional final, for that matter. The Bulldogs had never won more than 10 matches in a year or had the top seed for the playoffs.
All of those nevers are now a thing of the past.
Portland enjoyed a season for the ages this spring, going 12-0 in the regular year, earning the top spot in the postseason, then winning three more matches to win a first-ever regional championship. Even though the Bulldogs’ run finally ended with a loss to perennial champion Lewiston in the Class A Final, Portland had stolen the headlines and the imagination of tennis fans in the area.
While the Bulldogs’ success might have been a surprise to many, it wasn’t to second-year coach Bonnie Moran. After Portland dropped a close semifinal round match to Deering last year and returned a plethora of talent, Moran felt that the Bulldogs were on the verge of doing something special.
She was right. Portland had a magical season and Moran deserves a great deal of credit for getting the Bulldogs to the top. For making history and getting her players to believe they could be the best, Bonnie Moran is The Forecaster’s selection as our 2009 Portland Spring Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.
Moran, a New Jersey native, who attended Bonny Eagle High School, has been making the most of the sport of tennis for a long time. She came of age in the pre-Title IX days and didn’t get to play in high school, but did play and beat male players whenever and wherever she could. In fact, she met her husband, Jim, playing tennis at Deering Oaks.
Moran, who has long idolized the legendary Billie Jean King, still plays competitively (doubles mostly), had never coached prior to 2008. Her youngest of six children, daughter Mary, was entering her sophomore year and the Bulldogs needed a coach. Mom stepped in and led Portland to its finest season to date, then enjoyed even more success this spring.
The Bulldogs started out victorious and didn’t stop until the state match on June 13. Portland beat every league foe, made history with a win over McAuley in the semifinals, then punched its state final ticket with a win over Gorham.
Moran credited her driven players for getting the job done, but there’s little question she played a major role in getting a group with little pedigree to believe it was championship-worthy.
Moran has a degree in social work and is working on her Masters. She works for her husband, a psychologist, and lives in Windham. She plans on coaching for awhile and hopes to keep the Bulldogs at or near the top, a realistic goal with several top players returning next spring.
Portland’s girls’ tennis team had a magical run this year. There were several reasons why the Bulldogs were able to make history, but a big dose of the credit has to go to Bonnie Moran, our 2009 Portland girls’ Coach of the Year.
2008 winner: Cathie Connors (Waynflete lacrosse)
2007 winner: Jamie Chamberlain (Cheverus lacrosse)
2006 winner: Jamie Chamberlain (Cheverus lacrosse)
2005 winner: Rick Supinski (Cheverus softball)
2004 winner: Cathie Connors (Waynflete lacrosse)