A look back at varsity sports best moments in 2014-15
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — It was a year that brought dramatic highs and disappointing lows but plenty of memories for local sport fans to cherish for years to come. Over the course of the 2014-’15 sport season Melrose High qualified over a dozen teams in post season, earned one sectional title, an individual state championship, numerous league awards and four Middlesex league team titles. Not to mention, a trip to Foxboro.
The year began in the most dramatic of ways, with the Melrose Red Raider footballreturning to the Super Bowl after 32 years. That game itself against Dartmouth wasn’t as climatic as the post season that led up to it, but was still a local sport fan’s dream. The game was broadcast live on Comcast and busloads of rain-soaked Melrose fans watched a competitive game in which Melrose fell, 14-7. However, no one will forget that Div. 3 North postseason journey with memorable games such as the quarterfinal contest again Woburn, where Melrose’s fateful 4th and 1 call on their own 1 yard line secured victory, followed by the stunning 14-7 defeat of Tewksbury at Cawley Field in Lowell in one of the best Melrose football games ever played. That victory earned Melrose their first ever Div. 3 Northwest title and a trip to the Big Show. It was (twice) in a lifetime high school football for Melrose folks.
The Melrose High School girls volleyball team came out of the gate quickly, pounding their way to an undefeated league record and an overall 20-2 record entering playoffs as the number one seed in Div. 2 North. This after a season in which they earned a first-ever win against their titanic rival Newton North and impressive wins against Central Catholic, Arlington Catholic and Bishop Fenwick. While bowing out in playoffs to Weston came as a surprise, it was still another impressive season for Coach Scott Celli’s Lady Raiders. Senior Ali Nolan earned All Scholastic/All State honors, top hitter Meri Lessing compiled 478 career kills and a college career now awaits libero Amanda Cain, who was recruited to play at Div. 2 Merrimack.
The Melrose High varsity soccer teams had rebuilding seasons but return with a lot of potential in 2016. On the girls’ side, coach Bill DeSimone will see his team return with some strong players including nine starters, such as Olivia Smith, Katey Baraw, Hayley Rodriguez, Aevary Smith, Hannah Butler, Sarah Heron and Colleen Denning along with Melissa Rushton and Shannon Jones at the net. On the boys’ side, Melrose played with a young team which is not necessarily a bad thing. Returning with tons of potential next season are Ryan McDermott, Frantz Pierrot, Marco Garofalo, Vien Pham and 11 more underclassman.
The Melrose High field hockey squad lost seven seniors to graduation but return with goalie Maria Schwartz, and on offense Maura Perline, Yvanne Ngassa, Emily Donovan and Lindsey Chase. Haley Mate will bring leadership to the turf. It was a rebuilding year for the MHS golf team but three shooters represented Melrose at Middlesex League shoot out: Duncan Leitz, John Carroll and Joe Hughes. Melrose’s strong tradition of cross country success continued in 2014 and one team took the league. The boys’ cross country team captured the Middlesex Freedom League title and rostered some of the best distance runners in the state in Adam Cook and Kevin Wheelock, who took first place among hundreds at the Frank Kelly Twilight Meet. For the first time in 30 years the team qualified for state finals in back to back years. On thegirls’ cross country side, Melrose logged an impressive 4-1 record, nearly taking the league and sent standout Liz Hirsch to State Finals.
Perhaps the best surprise of the season was the dynamic performance of the girls’ swim team who had a record breaking year. Led by standout upperclassmen Anna Steele, Isabel Bates, Ali Thome and Holly Cohan and boasting newbies in Virginia Guanci, Sam D’Allesandro and Madeline Hughes, Melrose enjoyed their best season in years, breaking two school records (200 medley relay and 400 free relay), taking down Reading for the first time ever and medaling in North sectionals in the 200 medley relay. The freshman Sam D’Allesandro is already a record breaker at Melrose in the 50 free and is the current 50 freestyle league champ. She has years of more records to break. Look for the Lady Raiders to continue their success, in a big way, in 2015.
The wrestling team stayed under the radar and, fueled by a late season surge, grabbed a share of the Middlesex Freedom League thanks in part by efforts from 2014 state champ Ryan Stanton, Patrick Whelan, Mike Doucette and Marco DiFronzo. Both Doucette and Whelan made it into All States. The boys’ swim team posted their best season in nearly a decade thanks to outstanding swimming from Jack Steinberg, Hudson Rubbins, Ben Fiesel, Sam Foley and Joe Connolly, who were among those who advanced to States. In the end the Raiders compiled the most wins in a regular season in almost a decade. Look for Fiesel and Connolly to be forces in the coming years.
The five year reigning league champ gymnastics team returned to an undefeated season before injury struck and their 49 meet winning streak ended when they fell to Woburn in January. Despite the setback, look for standouts Shay Fennell, Izzy Judware, Brooke Norris and Lauren Cincotta to help put them back in the hunt to reclaim their title in 2016. The Melrose basketball teams went 50/50 overall with thegirls’ basketball team missing playoffs this season despite talent from Victoria Crovo, Leonora Ivers, Cat Torpey, Aly Bornstein, Caroline Nolan and Sarah Foote; some of whom are expected to return next season. The boys’ basketball team showed a lot of power during the season thanks to stellar play from senior Anthony Gilardi, Colby Andrews and junior Julian Nyland. While their season ended in the first round of playoffs to Gloucester, watch for the team to return competitive with players such as Nyland, T’Mahri Mercer, Will Brincheiro and Sean Prendergast leading the charge.
The Melrose indoor track teams saw outstanding performances over the season from athletes such as Maddie Oro who competed for the girls’ team in the high jump. The senior earned a state silver medal at States for her efforts. Sophomore sensation Kevin Wheelock missed the podium at All States in the mile by just one second while Shaylyn McCarthy earned All Star honors for her work over the season in the discus and Anna Steele earned league MVP honors in the shot put.
The girls’ hockey team proved to be an overachieving bunch, one of the more exciting teams of the winter season who rolled into playoffs for the second year in the row with just one senior on the team. Hannah Aveni, an eighth grader at goal, was outstanding in playoffs against a very tough Austin Prep with 25 saves. On offense Melrose relied on nearly half a dozen eighth graders and freshmen. In the unlikely event that these mighty underclassmen don’t get poached by private schools, look for Melrose to be the team to beat in the Freedom League in 2016. The boys’ hockey team returned armed with an athletic first line and qualified for their third straight playoff appearance under the leadership of Vin Mirasolo, just missing the league title by a point. The Raiders, briefly considered on a Super 8 Watch List early in the season, fell in double overtime to perennial playoff foe, Chelmsford, in a 2-1 sudden death loss, despite otherwise outstanding goaltending from Melrose senior Tyler Brown.
The spring season was an overall successful one for Melrose, with 5-6 teams making a postseason. The girls’ tennis team battled through a string of injuries that required major substitution. And while they struggled for wins, they will return to 2016 with experienced players. The boys’ tennis team, however, had its best season ever in a 16 win season that saw them go deep in playoffs against a historically tough Winchester team in Div. 2 North Semifinals, where they fell 4-0. Both baseball and softball qualified for playoffs, bowing out in the first round in well-played, one run games against Marblehead and Burlington respectively, both greatly improved from prior seasons. Lacrosse remains a hot sport in Melrose, with the girls’ lacrosse team surprising people along the way and returning to playoffs for the second year in a row, thanks to offense from Haley Mate, Anna Steele, Katey Baraw, Haley Rodriguez and goal tending by Sarah Foote. Though they fell in opening round of play against Pentucket 15-4, Melrose could be considered a team to beat next year. That sentiment also applies to the boys’ lacrosse team, who returned from their league champion 2014 season with a target on their backs. Melrose fell to injury during the season but nonetheless saw plenty of goals from Jack Mandracchia, Mike Pedrini, Jack Siebert, Corbin White, among others. Melrose is a young team that is expected to be tough to beat in 2016.
The spring track season brought a state championship to Melrose, once again, thanks to the boys’ outdoor track team. Sophomore Kevin Wheelock became the Div. 3 State Champion in the two mile at Durfee High, while teammate Will Caffey came up big in the long jump and 200 dash, earning medals at the league meet. Wheelock’s title is Melrose’s third individual state championship in track in three years. Melrose’s girls’ outdoor track team earned three league titles from work by Maddie Oro, Shaylyn McCarthy and Anne Morrison and, in short time, Oro earned a silver medal at States in the high jump. Her fine post season brought her all the way to All New England’s.
And while fields took a beating in over 100 inches of white stuff in an endless winter, the fields held up just fine in order to host Patriot party boy Rob Gronkowski, who landed at Fred Green Field at Melrose High and made it his personal slip and slide while teaching kids at his Football Camp. Gronk dancing his original moves on Melrose turf? That seems an oddly-appropriate finish to a wild 2014-15 sport year in Melrose.
‘Til next season.
Published in the June 26, 2015 edition