This past Friday, six former Black Bears were inducted into the University of Maine’s Sports Hall of Fame for their contributions to the university on and off the playing field. Swimmer Elizabeth Carone Prelgovisk (1977-81), football linebacker Stephen Cooper (1999-02), pitcher Scott Morse (1983-86), sprinter Mike Viani (1985-89), women’s basketball forward Liz Wood (2012-16) and most notably hockey player and current NHL head coach John Tortorella (1977-81).
For Carone Prelgovisk, UMaine served as her own personal diving board into the world of professional swimming. In her time spent studying at UMaine, Carone Prelgovisk captured five individual New England titles. Her multiple second-place finishes assisted the Black Bears in winning three regional championships to pair with her own personal accolades.
Cooper’s abilities at the Alfond Stadium propelled him toward an NFL-lined career path once he left the university in 2002. While in Orono, Cooper was a domineering force on the defensive side of the ball. He oddly enough started his collegiate football career at both quarterback and then free safety, but made it to the linebacker position before long. Over his three seasons at UMaine, Cooper racked up 374 total tackles to go along with 25 sacks and seven interceptions. His play caught the attention of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, who offered Cooper a contract. From 2003-11, Cooper remained in San Diego, earning the designation as team captain in three separate seasons.
Maine’s baseball presence in the College World Series in the 80’s was palpable, and the arrival of hurler Morse in 1983 turned the Black Bears baseball team into a living, breathing weapon. His ability to paint the corners, as well as compose himself in high-pressure situations became a shoulder for the team to lean on as they reached the College World Series twice in his tenure at UMaine. Morse currently still holds the record for most consecutive wins by a Black Bear pitcher at 10.
Built like a tank, Viani’s 6’1” 200-pound frame could commonly be found racing on the track around the football field during his time at UMaine. The sprinter’s ability to blow by his competitors aided in his quest in securing 11 different school track and field records when he graduated. To this day, Viani holds records in various relay events as well, a testament to his raw athletic ability.
Having a first-year head coach leading the charge is no easy task, and having nine first-year players on a single roster certainly doesn’t make that challenge any easier. Head coach Richard Barron took the reins without hesitation, allowing one of those first-years, Wood, to blossom into a superstar. Earning the 2013 co-rookie of the year award was only the tip of the iceberg, with Wood going on to become one of America East’s most dominant players in conference history. Finishing her basketball career at UMaine in the top 10 across five different scoring categories, Wood proved to be the bona fide leader of the group. She received various honors and awards, such as co-defensive player of the year in 2015, as well as three all-conference choice selections. Wood went on to have a career playing professionally in Germany following her graduation, while completing medical school through the Navy.
Arguably the most notable name on the list of inductees is Tortorella, a former UMaine hockey player and the current head coach of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. In Orono, Tortorella played with a level of grit and determination that we measure our current Black Bear ice hockey teams to, transferring in from Salem State University after his first year. Putting up 39 goals and 71 assists across 99 games of action, the Concord, Massachusetts native was without a doubt a healthy contributor. Tortorella went on to become a coach following his graduation, becoming the very first Black Bear to win a Stanley Cup when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the mountaintop in 2004. Tortorella additionally is a two-time Jack Adams trophy recipient and is generally considered a hot commodity whenever he finds himself unemployed.
While not individuals, the 1915 men’s cross country team and the 1994 softball team were also honored at the event. UMaine’s cross-country team was able to capture the New England title in 1915 while featuring some of the most prolific runners in the region. The Black Bears softball team was the first to ever reach the NCAA Division One tournament following an America East conference victory in the regular season.