Boston High School: Julia Nolan

D1 girls final: Duxbury 2, Arlington Catholic 1

March, 16, 2014

BOSTON — Midway through the third period of the Division 1 girls’ state final game at TD Garden, the Cougars of Arlington Catholic tied the game at one and appeared to seize the momentum.

However, there is a reason the Duxbury Dragons had won three consecutive state championships coming into the game.

Just 11 seconds after AC tied the game at one, junior Marissa Fichter pounced on a Julia Nolan face-off win and fired a blast past Cougars goalie Katherine Crane for the eventual game winner in Duxbury’s 2-1 victory.

“It is a lot of credit to my center Julia Nolan,” said Fichter. “We practice it all the time and scored on it once before in a game. I would like to say I was picking a spot but I just fired it towards the net and it went in.”

It is the fourth straight championship for the Dragons, their first in Division I, after being moved up from Division II this season.

“This team was not going to be denied,” said Duxbury head coach Friend Weiler. “It was a complete team effort. This team just worked so hard and never gave up. The girls just wanted it today.”

After a relatively quiet first two periods, things opened up in the third period, specifically for Duxbury who got on the board just 40 seconds into the final stanza.

On the first shift of the third period, Dragons junior forward Jane Dudley crashed hard into the end boards but later in the shift, she exacted her revenge.

Collecting a loose puck near center ice, Dudley broke down the left wing with an AC defender draped on her, but Dudley stayed strong on the puck and cut to the middle firing a low, hard shot through the legs of Crane for a 1-0 lead.

“Jane [Dudley] has been on fire for the entire playoff run,” said Weiler. “She is a fierce competitor and today when we needed her at the biggest time, she came through. She had kind of been pushed to the outside and I was trying to get her to get her to lower the shoulder and cut it to the middle and she did today.”

The Cougars would not go quietly and despite having many good chances on Duxbury goalie Rachel Myette, they finally broke through with 6:59 left in the third period.

After some hard work behind the net by senior Danielle Kelley, the puck squirted in front to Jackie Sindoris who tucked a nifty back-hand pass to Kelley who beat Myette high to tie the game at one.

The celebration was short lived as Fichter provided the game winner just seconds later, leaving the Cougars stunned, and unable to rally in the final minutes.

“We didn’t play our style of hockey the first two periods I felt,” said Cougars head coach Maggie Taverna. “Danielle [Kelley] came up with a huge goal for us and then they got a quick goal back. It was a good game. Duxbury is a great team and has a great goaltender.”

OH MY-ETTE: Midway through the third period, Duxbury senior goalie Rachel Myette proved that she was human, after allowing a goal to tie the game at one.

The goal was noteworthy because it was the first she had let up the entire postseason.

In fact, Myette went through all of last postseason not allowing a goal. You have to go back to the 2011-12 final against Falmouth to find the last time she allowed a postseason goal before today’s final which locked up her fourth individual championship.

“I don’t think it is real at all right now and I feel like I am in a dream,” said Myette. “It is real and it is an insane feeling that I can’t describe. To end my senior year like this is just insane.”

Despite allowing the tying goal, Myette’s confidence never wavered.

“My team is a third period team and we have shown that we have the heart in us to dig down deep,” added Myette. “It was really important to get on them and destroy their momentum after their goal.”

As the final seconds ticked down, the Cougars had a last ditch effort as snipers Jess Piracini and Adrieanna Rossini bore down on a two-on-one. The Duxbury defender played the pass, allowing Myette to play the shooter, and flash a pad to deny Piracini with five seconds left, putting a stamp on a remarkable career.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: For Arlington Catholic, the sting of losing consecutive state title games will take some time to wear off.

However, they will return their three top scorers in Rossini, Piracini, and Sindoris as well as their group of four talented defensemen.

Goaltender Katherine Crane also returns but recall that she was a first-year goalie this year, so the future is sure to be bright for the Lady Cougars so don’t rule out a potential return trip to the Garden next year.

“We do have a lot of good kids coming back,” added Taverna. “We had a great year this year and the kids were very successful early on and into the rest of the season.”

Recap: No. 1 Duxbury 1, No. 5 Falmouth 1

February, 9, 2014
KINGSTON, Mass. – State championship rematch? Check.

Pair of top-five teams? Check.

Two top-tier goalies? Check.

All the ingredients were there for a tournament caliber game between Falmouth and Duxbury and they sure did not disappoint. In a game that had an early-March playoff feel to it, the late heroics of the Clippers led to a 1-1 tie between two teams that are all too-familiar with each other.

Trailing with by one 44 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled for the extra skater, Falmouth’s Kelly Ferreira buried a rebound in traffic sending the Clippers into an uproar.

“My center Maddie Haberl, she pushed the puck forward and tied up their center,” Ferreira said of the frantic rush in front of the net. “Alexa Scribner came across and took a nice rebound shot that went off her pad and me and a Duxbury goal both hit it and it went in.”

The way the third period was going, it was only a matter of time until the Clippers pushed across the game-tying goal. The Dragons owned possession of the puck for the first two periods, outshooting Falmouth 22-10 in the first 30 minutes. But when the teams took the ice for the third period, the Clippers team that we’ve come to expect took the ice.

“It was a different team, I knew they had it in them,” Falmouth coach Erin Hunt said. “We talked about it in-between periods about okay, time to turn it on girls lets go.”

The Clippers outshot Duxbury 12-1 in the final period and if it weren’t for the fantastic play of Quinnipiac commit Rachel Myette in net, it is likely the Dragons would have been on the losing end.

“Our teams starts with Rachel and is built from the back out,” Duxbury coach Friend Weiler said. “She made the saves she needs to make and absolutely is a force and I’m glad she’s my goalie and arguably she is the strongest goalie in the state and keeps us in the game when we need her to.”

The Clippers generated their offense off the rush all game long, but in the third period they got a couple of breakaways that were stonewalled by Myette. None bigger was a short-handed bid from Haberl that was stopped by Myette’s right leg. Maggie MacDonald swooped in for the rebound but her shot bounced harmlessly off the post.

“In the first and second period we didn’t have many opportunities but in the third we really turned it on and played great,” said Ferreira. “It was just a matter of time before it happened.”

Coming into the game both teams knew a low-scoring affair was in store and a couple of bounces would decide the outcome.

With 2:07 left in the first period, one of those bonces went the Dragons way. Julia Nolan ripped a shot from the slot that Falmouth goalie Madison Scavotto grabbed with her glove but it popped out and Nolan poked the puck into the net that account for all of Duxbury’s scoring.

“They had an odd man rush coming in and we didn’t have a great job on our gap and Maddie had the save but she got the rebound and our defense didn’t really step in and stop that play from happening,” Hunt said of the only goal they surrendered.

Boasting the best: With Myette in net for Duxbury and Scavotto for Falmouth, two of the best goaltenders in the state were going head-to-head. It was no secret that goals would be few and far between.

It was Scavotto putting together a highlight reel in the first two periods as she turned away 21 of the 22 shots she faced in the first two periods as Duxbury dominated time on attack early on.

“[Scavotto] held us in the game, covering rebounds and coming out of the net which is what we’ve been working on,” said Hunt.

In the third period, it was Myette’s turn to show off her ability as momentum shifted toward Falmouth and their offense. She saw 12 shots and was kept on her toes all period as a majority of the play was in her own end.

“That is playoff hockey,” said Weiler. “It’s a great rivalry that has been going on for a couple years and we had a great 44 and a quarter minutes but a little breakdown in the end but I thought our girls carried play well.”

Power outage: Adding to the frustration of playing a majority of the first two periods in their own end as the struggles of the power play unit.

During that span, the Clippers went on the power play five times and came up empty-handed. An additional man advantage in the third period was unsuccessful and Falmouth closed out the game 0-for-6 on the power play.

Even down a player, the Dragon defense swarmed the puck carrier, clogged up shooting lanes and kept the puck out of their zone.

The slot was congested and Falmouth was never given a chance to set up their offense.

The rivalry continues: If you missed this game, don’t worry you get another chance Sunday when Duxbury makes the trip to Falmouth with the chance that the SEMGHL coastal title will be on the line.

These two teams know each other very well already but seeing each other twice in a week will be sure to bring out some extra emotion.

“We are so familiar,” Weiler said. “We’ve played about 12 games in the last four years, every time we play them we know it’s some to be a war and come down to a play or two. But again, we have them again in a week and you don’t get too high on a win or low on a loss.”

MIAA championship hockey picks

March, 16, 2013
No. 1 Duxbury (21-1-2) vs. No. 2 Falmouth (19-1-2), 11 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Duxbury – F Hannah Murphy, F Marissa Fichter, F Jane Dudley, F Meredith Wright, F Julia Nolan, D Ally Hammel, D Payton Donato, G Rachel Myette; Falmouth – F Alexa Scribner, F Rachel Moore, F Madison Haberl, F Kelly Ferreira, D Hannah Ghelfi, D Alexx Good, G Madison Scavotto.

Breakdown: It is perhaps the most predictable of all of Sunday’s matchups and the most anticipated. The Dragons and Clippers renew a burgeoning rivalry, intensified by last year’s duel at the Garden and invigorated by the fact that either team’s lone loss of the season was handed to them by the other. Duxbury has been playing lockdown defense throughout the playoffs and haven’t allowed a goal in more than six games, including the regular season. The Clippers’ young corps will look to get over the hump, building on a bittersweet experience on the Bruins’ home ice sheet one year ago.

X-factor: Scavotto. As dominant as Duxbury’s defense has been in front of and including Myette, the Clippers are capable of the same. And their sophomore netminder is a big reason why. She could steal one.

Pick: Duxbury, 1-0.

No. 4 St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-3-4) vs. No. 7 Arlington Catholic (17-4-2), 9 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: St. Mary’s – F Alison Butler, F Kaleigh Finigan, F Gabby Crugnale, F Madison Molea, D Tatiana Doucette, D Amanda Donahoe, G Lauren Skinnion; AC – F Adrieanna Rossini, F Jess Piracini, F Duggan Delano, F Hayle Rudin, D Melissa Richard, G Megan Messuri.

Breakdown: The Catholic Central rivals meet for the second straight year on championship Sunday and, like their Div. 2 counterparts, also split their season series at a game apiece. Behind the benches, both the Spatans’ Frank Pagliuca and the Cougars’ Maggie Taverna have done work worthy of Coach of the Year honors. St. Mary’s has the feel of a team of destiny, neither a short bench nor nagging injuries all season long have kept the Spartans from returning to the biggest stage, all while dispatching No. 1 Woburn in the process.

X-factor: Rossini. You’d be hard pressed to find a young player in recent memory who has scored more clutch playoff goals than the AC sophomore.

Pick: St. Mary’s, 3-2.

Swampscott (19-5-0) vs. Westfield (18-3-2), 3:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Swampscott – F Corey Carmody, F Noah Maercklein, F Nunzio Morretti, D Chris Carman, D Trevor Massey; Westfield – F Sean Spohr, F Mike Santinello, F Anthony Cagliostro, F Adam Collier, F Neil Parrow, D Nate Barnes.

Breakdown: The Big Blue took down defending D3 finalist and South sectional champion Medway (thanks to an OT goal from Maercklein) to advance to the program’s first title game appearance. Westfield returns to the Garden ice after a one-year hiatus after taking a scorched-earth policy to Western Mass. competition, while averaging more than 5.5 goals per game.

X-factor: Swampscott freshman goaltender Tristan Bradley. The first-year backstop has been a key element to the Big Blue’s success, maintaining a 91.5 save percentage through the season.

Pick: Swampscott, 5-4.

Wilmington (20-3-2) vs. Franklin (17-7-2), 1:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Wilmington – F Cam Owens, F Brendan McDonough, F Jake Rogers, F Dylan DiNatale, D Brian Pickett, D Cam Collins, G Drew Foley; Franklin – F Cam Curley, F Dennis Pisani, F Aidan Isberg, F Troy Donahue, D Kyle Powers, D Kyle Filbert, G Devon Maloof.

Breakdown: The third of six rematches on the day, after the Wildcats claimed a 3-2 victory over Franklin a year ago on championship Sunday, propelled by a hat trick from Owens. The Panthers will be looking to avoid their third straight fruitless trip to the Garden, having dropped title tilts with Wilmington and Tewksbury. The Wildcats, who had Super 8 aspirations until late in the season, are eying their second straight title.

X-factor: McDonough. He’s been the break-out performer of the tournament and provides a great complement to Owens on Wilmington’s top line.

Pick: Wilmington, 3-2.

Burlington (13-6-5) vs. Marshfield (20-6-0), 8:15 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Burlington – F C.J. Grinnell, F Joe Berardi, F Joey Scali, D Adam Crowley, D Sean Costa, G Derek DeCastro; Marshfield – F Mike Carbone, F Pat Burchill, F Joe Admirand, F Pat Shea, D Matt Burchill, D Trevor Salmon.

Breakdown: While this isn’t another rematch, these teams are no strangers to this stage, with the Red Devils and Rams representing as the last two Div. 1 state champions. Both teams were near .500 squads through the first month of the season, and closed their regular-season slates with momentum they’ve carried over into the playoffs. Both these teams can skate with the best of them, but they also pay attention to the little things in the defensive zone as well.

X-factor: Crowley. I’d expect a defensive struggle in this one and so I’m going with the Red Devils’ blue-liner who always makes his presence felt.

Pick: Burlington, 3-1.

No. 4 Austin Prep (16-1-6) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (15-6-3), 6 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Frankie Candelino, F George Sennott, F Eric MacAdams, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton, G Elijah Harris; MC – F Ara Nazarian, F Mike Iovanna, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, F Austin Goldstein, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli, G Connor Maloney.

Breakdown: AP, while short on years, is not short on talent. I think we all knew coming into this season that they were capable of reaching this stage, but it might have been a question of when. The Cougars earned their way to Sunday after dispatching town rival Reading and then No. 1 seed St. John’s Prep in Wednesday’s semifinal. It seems like years ago since there was a time when the Lancers were in jeopardy of missing the tournament all together, but they’ve played the best hockey in the state during the last month.

X-factor: Nazarian. It’s his tournament, the rest of us are just living in it.

Pick: Malden Catholic, 4-2.

Recap: No. 1 Duxbury 4, No. 2 Hingham 2

January, 2, 2013

KINGSTON, Mass. -- The last thing a goaltender wants to see with nothing but a clean sheet of ice between them is a Duxbury skater wearing No. 13 on her sweater and long red hair flying out from underneath the helmet, bearing down on you.

The Hingham girls saw that happen twice, and a third time that same white jersey was parked alone just off the crease. Hannah Murphy buried all three chances and powered the top-ranked Dragons to a 4-2 victory over No. 2 Hingham last night at The Bog.

With 5:35 to go in the first period, Murphy intercepted a clearing attempt just beyond the Harborwomen blue line, split a pair of defenders and out-skated four black shirts in to fire a wrist to the far side for the game's first score.

In the middle frame, defenseman Carly Campbell pushed a loose puck forward to Murphy, who floating solo around the Hingham blue line. Murphy collected the pass, skated in again and ripped a wrist shot to the stick-side corner at 5:03.

Just under five minutes later with the Dragons on the power play, Murphy executed a perfect give-and-go with Marissa Fichter, whose return pass from behind the goal was tailor-made for a one-timer, which Murphy buried to give the Dragons a 3-0 lead.

"I definitely couldn't have scored without their playing," Murphy said of her teammates ability to get her the puck. "There were definitely some good passes and Marisa made an awesome dish to me out front on the power play. I don't want to miss so I'm pretty confident. I just go in positive and say to myself that I'm going to snipe."

Added Duxbury head coach Friend Weiler, "The key is to get [Murphy] free and give her clear shooting lanes and we were able to do that tonight. Whenever she gets the space, she's real dangerous."

Most girls programs spent the holidays either playing club hockey or enjoying the vacation time with their families and friends. Call it rust, or perhaps they were simply snake-bit, but the Harborwomen certainly generated chances. They outshot Duxbury, 18-14, in the game. They just weren't able to capitalize on many.

That changed in the closing seconds of the second period when quick passes by Emily Falvey and Catherine Linehan sprung Jane Freda loose for a breakaway, and the talented senior went low and found the five-hole with 1.5 seconds left.

That energized Hingham, and they cashed in on an early, third period power play as Freda and Linehan set up Falvey for a nice shot from the low left circle to make it a 3-2 game with 9:04 to go.

"I thought we had the momentum once we had that second goal," said Hingham head coach Tom Findley. "I honestly believe that we did dominate a lot of parts of that game. We just didn't put the pucks in the net. They have a goalie who is an elite goalie in the state and one of the elite players in Hannah who is just opportunistic. There's one girl you've got to keep an eye on and we didn't. We let her loose and she got loose in the wrong parts of the rink and she put the puck in."

Before the Harborwomen could tie it, however, Duxbury's Julia Nolan was able to sweep a loose puck home and the Dragons had a very important insurance goal with 4:19 remaining. Goalie Rachel Myette held the fort from there as Hingham kept the pressure on, finishing with 16 saves.

"Rachel had a huge game for us," Weiler praised. "There was a couple of big saves that kept us ahead and preserved the lead. They were trying to get traffic in front of the net and she was still able to make the big save when we needed it. Another backbone of the team. Goaltending is so huge and she's been phenomenal all year and the past two years."

Recap: Duxbury 4, St. Mary's (Lynn) 1

December, 13, 2012
LYNN, Mass. -- One thing hockey fans can expect to see a lot of when the Duxbury girls take the ice is pressure. In heavy doses.

That pressure came last night in the form of a relentless forecheck, which in turn created scoring chances that the Dragons were able to cash in on. Ally Hammel and Meredith Wright each had a goal and assist and Rachel Myette stopped 16 shots to help Duxbury take a 4-1 victory over St. Mary's at Connery Rink Wednesday night.

Despite a roster featuring just two seniors and four juniors, the Dragons (2-0) are as deep and talented a team as you'll find in Massachusetts. And every one of those girls that hops over the boards has one thing in mind for her shift - attack.

"Our gameplan going in was to put the pressure on them, get that wave after wave of attackers coming in and force them in the neutral zone and make them make the tough pass and continue to have the support to go in there as the second girl in," said Duxbury coach Friend Weiler. "They are such a strong, explosive team and we wanted to make sure we kind of put them back on their heels and not let them get it started."

In addition to pressure, Weiler wants his team to put bodies around opposing creases. That activity led directly to the Dragons first goal as Hammel stuck a shot from the left point through traffic with 3:16 to play in the first period.

Duxbury increased its lead to 3-0 early in the second as Hannah Murphy and Wright scored within 46 seconds of one another. The Dragons second power play chance resulted in another score as Jacqui Nolan won a faceoff back to younger sister Julia for a hard shot that found the back of the net.

"It's about going to the net, fundamental hockey," Weiler said. "Against a great team like St. Mary's, you can't afford to make mental errors and I just wanted the girls to stay sharp and have a high-energy, high-tempo game and try to keep up with them. And they were able to do that by going hard to the net and converting when we needed to."

St. Mary's (1-1) got one back as Gabby Crugnale got loose for breakaway and fired one past Myette at 9:39 of the second, a goal that seemed to shift the momentum of the game. The Spartans became the team applying the pressure, while Duxbury was forced to sit back and play defense.

Myette turned in a strong final frame, however, and the Dragons killed off four penalties from the end of the second through the third to take the win.

The quarter of Hammel, Jacqui Nolan, Liz Collins and Payton Donato took the lead role on Duxbury's shorthanded unit and performed beyond admirably. Faced with the prospect of defending dominant offensive talents such as Alison Butler and Kaleigh Finigan, the Dragons managed to hold St. Mary's scoreless on all five power play opportunities they drew.

"I have a lot of faith in my penalty-kill," praised Weiler. "They do a great job of staying aggressive and not giving them room to move or room to pass. They're taking away passing lanes and really keeping the pressure on. You don't want to get back in a defensive shell. You want to maintain that high intensity, the high pressure, and put it back on them."

Despite the final outcome, there were certainly plenty of positives for St. Mary's to take away. First and foremost, they know they won't likely face another team with the speed, talent and intensity of Duxbury.

The Spartans never quit, and even after falling into a 4-0 hole they actually took control of the tempo. Scoring chances were there and, while being a little snake-bit at times in this one, the finishing touch will come because the talent is there.

"At times I thought we did a good job of puck pursuit, getting on the puck quick and forcing them to turn the puck over, which is all positive," St. Mary's coach Frank Pagliuca said. "Even though we got down 4-0, the kids kept fighting back and Gabby had a great goal there to get us back in the game."

"The last five minutes of the second period I thought we did a good job of getting on them and pressuring them and we had opportunities, we just didn't finish them. But that's the way hockey is sometimes."

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

June, 22, 2011
Considering the contest's national significance and how the seven-inning bout played out, there's just one way to sum up the Division II baseball final.

It was sensational.

New HampshirePortsmouth High prevailed in a thriller – a game played in 2 hours, 8 minutes but over the course of two days – to stun Seacoast rival St. Thomas Aquinas High of Dover. The Clippers clinched a 9-6 win at the home of Double-A baseball's New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

The last title game of the NHIAA's “Super Saturday,” a June 18 quadruple-header at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, ended with No. 1 seed Portsmouth (20-0) celebrating a fourth consecutive crown and national record-extending 83rd straight win.

“What the program has accomplished and what we've gone through, and the attention (the win streak) has earned, to get to this point and not finish it with a win, that wasn't something I was prepared to deal with,” Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley said. “It was a real important game for us.”

Three storylines from the much-anticipated matchup:

Strange time to start. The game was scheduled to start at 8:15 p.m. Portsmouth ace and Northeastern-bound Keegan Taylor didn't fire the first pitch until 10:23.

The last out wasn't recorded until 12:45 Sunday morning.

STA-Portsmouth followed the Division IV final, delayed 50 minutes by thunder. Weather was just one factor contributing to the lengthy game that pushed back the main event's scheduled start time.

“We gave both teams the option of coming back (to play Sunday). It was late. But everybody preferred to get it in,” NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin said. “We had a tremendous crowd. For the kids, they'll always be able to say, 'We're the ones that played the latest game in the history of New Hampshire.'”

Dueling aces. Five summers ago, they were the Nos. 1 and 2 pitchers for Portsmouth's Little League World Series team that reached the U.S. semifinals. As the clock approached 1 a.m. Sunday, STA ace Jordan Bean and Taylor squared off in the game's key sequence.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

May, 28, 2011
Round-trippers that clear the fence at Campbell High are a rarity. They're so rare, in fact, that nobody associated with the Litchfield school's softball program remembers a single batter going yard.

Correction: Nobody remembers a single batter going yard before May 13.

New HampshireThat's when sophomore designated hitter Chelsea Caynon slugged her way to a career-defining contest. Her 3-for-4 day at the dish included three towering home runs tagged in consecutive at-bats.

“I kind of thought all of them were lucky because nobody has done it before,” Caynon of her Friday the 13th fireworks, the last of which was a walk-off that clinched a 13-1 Division III mercy win over Alton's Prospect Mountain High.

Caynon said she was mobbed by teammates after circling the bases for the third time. Her last blast, in the fifth inning, capped Campbell's 13-run outburst over three frames.

Campbell's No. 3 hitter connected in the third, fourth and fifth innings and knocked in five runs. The lasers all landed in the same spot, well beyond the left-field fence stationed 250 feet from home plate.

Coach Laurie Gatherum, in her sixth year at the helm, estimated the shots sailed 260 feet.

“When Chelsea comes up to bat, I get as far away from the third-base box as I can. She's come close to killing me. She's a dead-pull hitter,” Gatherum said. “I get as close to the out-of-play line as possible.

“I almost want to warn the third baseman to back up. If she gets a piece of the ball, it's going.”

Caynon's powerful performance actually carried into her next game. She went 1-for-3 with a homer against Hopkinton High, giving her four taters in a span of seven at-bats.

But Caynon isn't a stereotypical all-or-nothing power hitter. She closed the regular season with one strikeout in 64 plate appearances.

She also posted a .500 average (28-for-56) with eight walks, five home runs, one triple, 10 doubles, 25 runs scored and 32 RBI. Her production helped the Cougars clinch first place with a 15-1 record.

“I would say she is the best hitter that the program has ever had, as far as consistency and power,” Gatherum said.

That's saying something. Caynon is, after all, just a sophomore.

“I wasn't really trying to hit three in row,” she said. “I was just waiting for my pitch.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

May, 13, 2011
It's a head-scratcher of the highest order.

New HampshireTony Johnson, among the Granite State's most successful head football coaches, will not return for his 18th season at powerhouse Bishop Guertin High, the three-time defending Division II champion.

Also the Nashua school's athletics director for the past four years, Johnson announced his stunning decision on May 6. He first broke the news to his assistant coaches and student-athletes.

Word spread quickly.

Pinkerton Academy head football coach Brian O'Reilly – whose Division I champion Astros play yet another much-anticipated season-opening crossover contest with BG this fall – said his reaction was complete disbelief.

“Tony has obviously done an exceptional job at Bishop Guertin,” said O'Reilly, entering his 34th season at the helm in Derry. “When I think of Bishop Guertin football, I immediately think of Tony Johnson.”

O'Reilly, whose program is a 10-time Division I king, isn't alone.

On this topic, easily obtainable answers exist to four of journalism's five W's: Who?, What?, When?, and Where? The fifth question is much tougher to explain.


“My passion is coaching,” said Johnson, who will remain BG's athletics director. “But really, (BG officials) wanted me to focus on being AD.”

Four years earlier, Johnson became AD in addition to coaching football. He said his performance in both roles has been reviewed annually.

Johnson, a Guertin graduate (1977), simply said the powers-that-be wanted him to focus more attention on all sports programs.

Minus any details, which haven't emerged from behind Guertin's doors, this move is baffling. Guertin fields championship-caliber teams in a variety of fall, winter and spring sports.

Let's see how much longer Guertin football remains a force. Johnson and his loyal assistants are a big reason for BG's stranglehold on Division II.

Johnson took over in 1994, fresh off a winless campaign. BG reached the final in 1997, the first of 10 title-game trips under Johnson's tutelage.

The Cardinals finally finished No. 1 in 2004, securing their first crown since Johnson starred for the school's 1975 title team as a junior.

Johnson's juggernaut has won six of the seven state championships since 2004. All that separates the Cards from seven straight titles is, quite possibly, a controversial pass interference penalty late in the 2007 final against Exeter High. The infraction gave Exeter life, and led to a 14-13 comeback decision.

“It will not be the same,” O'Reilly said. “Whoever follows (Johnson) is behind the 8-ball.”

That's because the successor will work in a giant shadow cast by the former coach, still serving as AD.

“We'll open this thing up. We're going to do an open search,” Johnson said. “I owe it to my kids to find the best coach I can.”

BG's former head coach read this statement to select media members after informing the football team of his decision to leave the sideline:

“My heartfelt thanks goes to the thousands of young men I have had the honor of coaching and teaching over the past 17 years. I want to thank my loyal coaches, thousands of great parents, alumni and friends of BG for their contributions in achieving an unparalleled record of winning football games, developing outstanding scholar-athletes, and to their dedication of the highest principles of good sportsmanship and citizenship.”

Portsmouth High's baseball team (10-0) is close to tying the national record for consecutive wins.

The three-time defending Division II champion won its 73rd consecutive game on May 11. The Clippers beat Amherst's Souhegan High, 9-3.

But it was Portsmouth's 70th straight win that stands out. It certainly qualified as nail-biter baseball. The Clippers clinched a 4-3 comeback win against Dover's St. Thomas Aquinas High on May 2.

Pitching ace Keegan Taylor was tagged for a first-inning home run that placed the Clippers in a 2-0 hole. Jordan Bean, STA's top hurler and Taylor's teammate on the celebrated Portsmouth Little League squad that reached the national semifinals of the 60th World Series in 2006, belted Taylor's third toss of the game.

Portsmouth's third-inning four-spot erased the deficit.

Bill Hartman cracked an RBI double. Matt Feeney ripped a two-run single. Taylor tripled to plate Feeney with the game-winning run.

Taylor threw a four-hitter on 100 pitches. Northeastern's recruit recorded 10 strikeouts and walked one.

The current win streak record-holder is Michigan's Homer High, which beat 75 teams in a row, according to the National Federation of State High Schools Association.

If the Clippers defeat Durham's Oyster River High on May 13, they'll play for a share of the record on May 16 at Kingston's Sanborn Regional.

The potential record-breaker game is May 18 at Pembroke Academy.

Londonderry High survived a fierce five-game stretch from April 30 to May 11, which kept its state-best girls' lacrosse win streak alive. The streak reached 48 straight games with a 14-4 Division I win over arch-rival Pinkerton on May 11.

It was Londonderry's lone lopsided win in the 12-day span.

The Lancers (11-0) edged the Bay State's Duxbury High, 12-11, on April 30. They worked a 10-8 comeback win at Pinkerton on May 3.

Three days later, Londonderry beat Concord High, 8-6. The Lancers kept the Crimson Tide off the scoreboard for the final 22 minutes, and erased a 6-2 second-half deficit.

They again faced Concord on May 10, and topped the Tide, 12-9.

From front to back, the Lancers displayed their balance. Attackers Leah Walter and Julia Wasserman, midfielders Jenny Thompson and Alexa Bedell, defenders Amy Johnson and Lindsay Conroy, and goalkeeper Crystalle Parent all made critical contributions.

“All the stuff we've been trying to teach throughout the year is just starting to come into place,” Londonderry coach Bob Slater said. “This is when we wanted it. This is when we needed it.”

Twenty-nine seniors from schools throughout the state were the honored guests at the 24th annual Joe Yukica New Hampshire Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame scholar-athlete dinner on May 4.

The number of standouts – celebrated by 200-plus members of the state's football community at the Executive Court in Manchester – tied the record set last year. At least one school from each of the six New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) football divisions was represented.

A five-man selection committee from the Yukica foundation chose from nearly 50 candidates nominated by their coaches. Prerequisites for consideration included football talent, good grades and high character.

This year's winners included:
  • Chris Almeida, Souhegan (Amherst)
  • Jared Barczak, Trinity (Manchester)
  • Nick Kepka-Calvetti, Souhegan
  • Matthew Cannone, Salem
  • Sam Carney, Hanover
  • Tim Croteau, Nashua North
  • Stephen Cuipa II, Bishop Guertin
  • Joseph DiPalma, Salem
  • Keith Farkas, Nashua South
  • Benjamin Fee, Winnacunnet (Hampton)
  • Dan Folger, Bishop Guertin
  • Nick Hession, Souhegan
  • Jake Holmes, Laconia
  • Max Jacques, Salem
  • Brandon Karkhanis, Nashua North
  • Jim Kemos, Bishop Guertin
  • Kevin Kosiorek, Mascoma (Canaan)
  • Doran Logsdon, Laconia
  • Anton Marinchik, Nashua North
  • Sam McClain, Bedford
  • James Murphy, Nashua North
  • Cody Patch, Lebanon
  • Jack Pearl, St. Thomas Aquinas (Dover)
  • Jonathan Roth, Lebanon
  • Michael Seaman, Epping
  • Luke Somers, Pinkerton
  • Matthew Sullivan, Winnacunnet
  • Michael Sullivan, Winnacunnet
  • Nicholas Sullivan, Newport
The Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) recently announced plans for New Hampshire's first East-West high school football all-star game. The inaugural contest is June 23, 2012, at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium.

The game will benefit CHaD and the Kristen's Gift fund for pediatric oncology.

Each team's roster will include 36 players based on nominations made by their head coaches. Players must compete for schools recognized by the NHIAA.

Every division will be represented by, at minimum, one athlete. A maximum four players may be chosen from a single team.

Route 3 and Interstate-93 are the dividing lines that create the “East vs. West” matchup.

“The team of organizers that we’ve assembled will do a masterful job in premiering the state's only all-star football game,” event founder Nick Vailas said in a written statement. “New Hampshire football will be elevated by this platform, and players should aspire to make the teams' rosters in order to showcase their skills in an event that will raise awareness and funding for CHaD and Kristen’s Gift.”

  • Bedford High goalkeeper Austin Lauzier made at least 20 saves in consecutive Division II boys' lacrosse contests on May 7 and 9. He stopped 21 shots in a 17-10 loss at Souhegan on May 7. He made 20 saves in an 11-8 win over Portsmouth two days later.
  • Jack Dowst, a midfielder at Manchester's Derryfield School, totaled seven goals and three assists on May 9. His 10-point effort paced the defending Division III boys' lacrosse champion in a 13-10 win over Lebanon High.
  • Pinkerton's Ryan Feney was a double threat on the baseball diamond May 9 at Rochester's Spaulding High. He struck out nine batters and hit a two-run homer in his team's 5-3 Division I win.
  • Mickenzie Larivee and Meggie Whitney each recorded five goals and an assist in Souhegan's 19-3 Division I girls' lacrosse win over Manchester Central High on May 10.
  • Julia Nolan led Litchfield's Campbell High to a 1-0 Division III softball win over Conant High of Jaffrey on May 11. She fanned 14 batters and celebrated her 100th strikeout of the season.
  • Oyster River girls' basketball star Danielle Walczak, a scholarship recruit for the University of Maine, secured a spot on Parade Magazine's 35th annual All-America high school team. The 6-foot 1-inch center will be profiled in the publication's May 15 issue.
Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He can be reached at You can read his blog, "New Hampshire GameDay" and follow him on Twitter @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

April, 13, 2011
There was a time when, before the season's first face-off, predicting the champion in Granite State boys' lacrosse was a pointless exercise.

New HampshireEven in the preseason, Pinkerton Academy always had the crown locked up.

The Derry program's rich lacrosse history dates back decades, well before the NHIAA sanctioned the sport in 1994.

Coach Brian O'Reilly – who began his 30th season April 12 with a 400-122 career record – led his Astros to the first four NHIAA titles from 1994-97. O'Reilly & Co. won eight of the first nine championships through the 2002 campaign.

But in the eight seasons since that time, the Astros have won just one title (2006). They last played for the Division I championship in 2008.

“We need to get back to where we were. That's been taken from us the last several years in lacrosse,” O'Reilly said. “We're not the defending champions. We haven't been the defending champions in a while.”

Yet the Astros are this spring's preseason favorite. They narrowly edge Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, the defending champ that's appeared in six consecutive league finals and won three titles since 2005.

It's unknown whether the Cardinals consider their preseason position a slight. But this much is clear: Depth in Division I is lacking this spring. Pinkerton and BG are the runaway favorites to clash for the championship in June.

“I doubt anybody is talking about us as a top team right now, which is fine by us. It gives us a little more incentive to work hard and be there at the end of the year,” said Exeter High coach Gerry Holly, whose reigning runner-up Blue Hawks rank behind Hanover High, the third-best club exiting the preseason.

Several teams, starting with Exeter, were senior-laden a year ago. Pinkerton was an exception. They boast experience, roster depth, speed, toughness and, perhaps most important, balance.

(Read full post)