Boys’ team:

Andrew Leach, Waynflete lacrosse

Contributed photo

Talk about an impressive debut.

Andrew Leach’s first season as Waynflete’s boys’ lacrosse coach saw the Flyers win 14 of 15 games and stake their claim as the best team in program history after steam-rolling the opposition en route to a Class C state title.

For pushing all the right buttons in his first go round as Waynflete’s head man, Leach gets The Forecaster’s nod as our Portland edition Coach of the Year of a boys’ team.

Leach played lacrosse at the University of New England and later coached there, as well as at Gould Academy, Bridgton Academy, Cheverus and at Waynflete, where he was an assistant coach on the Flyers’ 2018 Class C title team. Leach, who also coaches the school’s girls’ basketball squad, was planning to take over the boys’ lacrosse program in 2020, but the season was canceled due to COVID. This spring, he got his chance and more than made the most of it.

Waynflete won its first four games this spring by a composite 53-8 margin, then proved its mettle in close games, edging eventual Class B champion Yarmouth and defending Class C champion North Yarmouth Academy by one goal apiece. After their only loss of the year, to Class A South runner-up Berwick Academy, the Flyers closed with wins over Greely, Class A contender Portland and Camden Hills, in a double-overtime thriller.

Waynflete earned the top seed for the Class C state playoffs and was never seriously tested on its way to the title, downing Fryeburg Academy, 12-1, in the quarterfinals, beating NYA with surprising decisiveness in the semifinals, 11-4, then dominating Oak Hill, 17-5, to capture the crown.

“(Winning states) means everything,” Leach said. “These guys play in big moments in big games. It’s a small school. We have to rely on each other.”

The Flyers were hard-hit by graduation, but don’t expect them to drop off the map anytime soon. As long as Andrew Leach, our Portland edition boys’ team Spring Coach of the Year, is at the helm, great things figure to follow.

Previous winners:

• 2020 No season
• 2019 Jeff Madore (Waynflete tennis)
• 2018 Mike DiFusco (Portland lacrosse)
• 2017 Mac McKew (Cheverus baseball)
• 2016 Jeff Madore (Waynflete tennis)
• 2015 Mike Rutherford (Portland baseball)
• 2014 Steve Virgilio (Cheverus track)
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:

Cathie Connors, Waynflete lacrosse

Contributed photo

Cathie Connors has enjoyed many memorable seasons as the longtime coach of the Waynflete girls’ lacrosse team.

But none of them were like 2021.

Entering this past season, Connors had won 12 state titles.

But none of them were quite like number 13.

A year that began with utmost uncertainty ended in most familiar fashion and after molding a top team from little experience, reaching a landmark no prior coach had attained and for capturing yet another state championship, as an underdog no less, Cathie Connors, is The Forecaster’s choice for our Portland edition Coach of the Year of a girls’ team.

Connors was also selected in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Connors, who grew up in the lacrosse hotbed of Long Island, New York, and played at Castleton State (Vermont) College, took the Flyers’ job as a 22-year-old, fresh out of college.

The wins and championships soon followed, but following a dominant title campaign in 2013, Waynflete hadn’t advanced past the semifinals, and in 2020, the Flyers didn’t get to play a single game or partake in a single practice due to COVID.

When the 2021 season dawned, Waynflete had little varsity experience, but Connors quickly put the pieces in place and thanks in large part to the heroics of Jesse Connors, her daughter, the Flyers would soar to unforgettable heights.

Waynflete split its first four games, then came the weekend of May 7-8, when Jesse Connors scored in overtime to produce a win at Gorham one day and the next, the Flyers held off Cheverus, 7-4, to give Cathie Connors career victory number 300, a milestone no other coach of a girls’ team had reached.

“So many girls contributed that it makes me feel lucky,” Connors said following the win. “It’s all about the girls and they’ve been so sweet.”

In most years, that would have been the biggest highlight.

Not in 2021.

While Waynflete went just 7-5 in the regular season, it was competitive with everyone, and even though the Flyers were ranked third for the Class C playoffs, they were just getting started.

After knocking off Wells in the state quarterfinals, Waynflete held off Maranacook in the semifinals. That set up a state game showdown with a Freeport squad which had beaten the Flyers during the regular season, but the rematch would be a different story, as Jesse Connors, who was along for the ride on many championship runs as a young girl, ensured her mother would make it back to the pinnacle by scoring five goals as Waynflete eked out a 9-8 victory.

It was a fairy tale ending if there ever was one.

“This means everything,” Cathie Connors said. “Every team is special, but after losing a season, this year was like I was a new coach. I felt like I found a new inspiration as to why I do this and love this. I feel so lucky.”

Connors now has 306 career wins and is just getting started, which means the Flyers figures to remain in championship contention for years to come.

Cathie Connors, our Portland edition Spring girls’ team Coach of the Year, has long set the bar for greatness, but even she couldn’t have dreamed up a better season than the one she just enjoyed.

Previous winners:

• 2020 No season
• 2019 Theresa Hendrix (Cheverus softball)
• 2018 Bonnie Moran (Portland tennis)
• 2017 Tim Eisenhart (MGA/Falmouth softball)
• 2016 Robbie Ferrante (Portland softball)
2015 Cameron McManus (Portland lacrosse)
2014 Maureen Curran (Cheverus softball)
• 2013 Jamie Chamberlain (Cheverus lacrosse)
• 2012 Cathie Connors (Waynflete lacrosse)
• 2011 Linda Cohen (Waynflete tennis)
• 2010 Robbie 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 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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