Five area teams cap season in state finals
Perfection for Panthers
Every season, it seems, the Hopkinton and Marlborough High girls’ volleyball teams are on a collision course in the Division 2 Central tournament. There is always a preseason scrimmage - which ended in a tie this year - and, in at least the last three years, a tourney showdown.
In 2009, the Hillers knocked out the Panthers in the sectional semifinals. Last year, Marlborough ruled. This time, Marlborough put its perfect record on the line in the sectional final.
“We knew we were in for a war,’’ said Marlborough coach Peter Lepore, with 25 years guiding the Panthers.
Hopkinton’s Tess Chandler was on fire (27 kills). Lepore knew his team could not let Chandler continue to dominate. He told his girls to avoid her at all costs, but in this game, she was unavoidable.
The 18-2 Hillers seized a 2-1 game lead, after Marlborough had just lost just one set during the regular season. Lepore was concerned.
In stepped junior Kara Sweeney, a first-year varsity player frequently utilized as a specialist, capable of playing some defense and setting the ball well.
But Sweeney is really known for one thing: her serves.
“We were expecting a case of nerves a little bit,’’ Lepore said. “But she just comes in cool and pounds them down the line. I always ask her, ‘Are you aiming there? She goes, ‘I don’t know.’ ’’
When Sweeney entered the game, Marlborough was trailing 10-4. When she was done, it was 11-11.
The Panthers rallied to win the fourth game and cruised in the fifth, clinching the Central sectional title before rolling over Fairhaven and Melrose for the state championship and a perfect 25-0 season.
Crusaders rise to top
It’s not Sean Wisbey’s only rule as the boys’ soccer coach at Groton-Dunstable Regional High, but it is one of the most important.
After coaching in New Hampshire for six years, Wisbey took over at Groton-Dunstable last season, and guided the Crusaders to the Division 2 Central sectional final, where they lost, 1-0, to Nipmuc Regional High School.
So heading into the offseason, again he preached his rule: No soda.
“It was a huge difference because you can see the physical shape they were in,’’ he said, thrilled when he first saw his squad this fall. “A lot of them worried about their nutrition. And after one day in preseason I said, ‘OK, we don’t need to work on fitness.’ ’’
Groton-Dunstable’s scoring duo of senior Kyle Romich (19 goals, 18 assists) and junior Nate Pomeroy (32 goals, 13 assists) gave opposing defenses nightmares. The team’s defense was a question mark, but when the tournament arrived, it allowed just two goals in five games.
With a 21-1-1 final record, the Crusaders posted the best winning percentage in the program’s 36-year history.
Entering Groton on Route 119, a sign proclaims, “Welcome to Groton, home of the state champion boys’ soccer team: 1999 and 2001.’’
Wisbey took a picture and took it to the team’s first practice this season.
“They’re going to have to change that sign now,’’ he said after the Crusaders denied Concord-Carlisle, the two-time defending state champion, in the Division 2 final, 2-0.
“Life can be hard sometimes. Parenting is not an easy thing and I think for this group of parents, to have such a special relationship with these kids, to see them succeed to this level is one of those amazing things,’’ Wisbey said.
So close for Patriots
If there’s one high school soccer team that deserves to walk with a little swagger, it might be the Concord-Carlisle boys’ squad. Under coach Ray Pavlik, the Patriots entered this season with back-to-back state titles and three in the last five years.
Even after a 10-4-2 season that led to the No. 11 seed in the Division 2 North bracket, his players “never felt like the underdogs,’’ Pavlik said.
But in the Eastern Mass. title game, against a Sandwich team that was regarded by many as the class of the state this fall, it wasn’t the Patriots who walked with swagger. Sandwich took the early 1-0 lead and looked like the more confident side.
Then Ethan Atwood, a crafty midfielder who had scored once all year entering the tournament, made a breaking run to sneak behind the defense and redirected a pass to even things up, 1-1, right before the half.
“In the playoffs, the game changes,’’ Atwood said. “You can’t wait for one of your teammates to step up. We didn’t have enough seniors and I just told myself I need to score.’’
Concord-Carlisle scored again in the second half, and held on for the 2-1 win, but their bid for a three-peat in Division 2 was stymied by Groton-Dunstable, 2-0.
Brookline hits tape
It was never in doubt. Brookline High boys’ cross-country coach Mike Glennon knew he had the Division 1 state title won well before runners crossed the finish line at Franklin Park.
Senior Chernet Sisay was still feeling effects from a nagging illness, but, just as Glennon directed him before the race, he kept pace with teammate Mark Perry. It wasn’t the race Glennon was hoping for, but even an off day from Sisay is better than top form for most.
There were no top-10 finishers from Brookline, but Glennon still had plenty of firepower at his disposal, with one of the deepest teams around this year.
As a result, the Warriors won the state title with a group effort, edging Lowell, 110-147.
“It wasn’t pure excitement and joy by any stretch of the imagination,’’ Glennon said of the state crown. “When something is expected, that’s what it really is. It’s more relief than anything.’’
Watertown takes 3
The night before the Division 2 state final, Watertown High’s field hockey squad was still practicing well into darkness. They hadn’t played on artificial turf much, and with the state title game to be played on the surface, that meant practice, practice, and more practice.
But the girls still woke up at 8 a.m. the next morning, traveled to Worcester and put up a 3-1 win over Oakmont Regional, making it three straight for coach Eileen Donahue and Watertown.
“I was just thinking, these girls are so dedicated to keep doing whatever it takes,’’ the coach said. “It was just admirable.’’
Jason Mastrodonato’s e-mail is email@example.com.