Many teams and individuals excelled in 2014

THE WARRIOR golf team was crowned Middlesex League Freedom division co-champions and had one of its best seasons ever. In the front row (from left to right) are Steven Melanson, Dylan Melanson, Kevin Lamattina and Stephen Marino. In the back row (from left to right) are Coach Dennis Bisso, Tim Hurley David Melanson, Austin Collard, Kevin Murray, Michael Guanci and Justin Sullivan. (Donna Larsson File Photo)

THE WARRIOR golf team was crowned Middlesex League Freedom division co-champions and had one of its best seasons ever. In the front row (from left to right) are Steven Melanson, Dylan Melanson, Kevin Lamattina and Stephen Marino. In the back row (from left to right) are Coach Dennis Bisso, Tim Hurley David Melanson, Austin Collard, Kevin Murray, Michael Guanci and Justin Sullivan. (Donna Larsson File Photo)

New Year’s Day is three days away and it is time to take a quick look back over the year in Wakefield sports. While there were many, many achievements by teams and individuals at the high school and youth levels, here are some of the top stories of the calendar year 2014.

The top stories of the year are in random order and not by order of importance since that is often subjective.

The sign of a top story is when teams have terrific seasons making the playoffs, letting their actions on the field do their talking. Also, something controversial or unusual that takes place usually is a top story as well.

There were stories of WMHS teams making the state tournament, clinching league titles, individual achievements by Wakefield athletes and summer and youth teams that excelled as well.

There were also a number of individuals who excelled at the youth and collegiate levels over the past year and the since the achievements are so many, there are simply too many to single out all but a few. The Item recognizes all the individual and team accomplishments this past year by future, present and former Warrior athletes and athletes that either live or have lived in this community and congratulates their fine efforts.

While the Item Sports Department tries to highlight 10 of the top events, there always seems to be something that is left out inadvertently. Even if an event isn’t recognized as one of the top stories of 2014, that does nothing to diminish its importance.

1. Golf team captures share of M.L. Freedom division championship

The 2014 Wakefield Memorial High golf team was among the best ever in school history to play on the links and this fall certainly was one to remember for the 10 Warriors that were on the roster.

Wakefield captured a share of the Middlesex League championship, posted the most wins it has in recent history and it clinched a berth in the North Sectional tournament for the second straight year.

The Warriors finished with a 12-5-1 overall record which is the most wins dating as far back as 1987. Also, the Warriors finished with an 8-3-0 record in the M.L. Freedom division to earn a share of the league championship with Burlington.

In the Div. 2 North sectional tournament, Wakefield finished sixth overall and did the best of all the M.L. teams that qualified for that sectional.

It was quite a season for the Warriors as they posted the most victories since 1987 and they posted their best record in the M.L. since 1988. Wakefield also clinched their seventh North sectional berth since ‘87 and fifth with Dennis Bisso as the head coach.

2. Three WMHS wrestlers qualify for New England Meet

Senior Ben Spicer and juniors Alex Kane and Dan Wensley qualified to compete in the New England Championship Meet in March. All three posted at least one victory in the elite showcase and proved that they were among the top wrestlers ever at WMHS.

According to Head Coach Ross Ickes this was the first time in at least 30 years and possibly ever that the Warriors had three wrestlers who competed in the New England Championships at once.

Spicer, Wensley and Kane earned a place in the New England Championships based on their performances in the All-State Meet. Spicer came in third at the 160 weight class, Wensley secured fifth place at the 195 weight class and Kane earned a sixth place finish at the 220 weight class.

Kane also qualified for the New England Meet for the second straight year. Kane was the second two-time placer in all-states in school history.

Prior to the All-State Meet, Spicer captured the Div. 3 state title at 160, while both Wensley and Kane both claimed second places in the Div. 3 state meet at the 195 and 220 weight classes, respectively.

In the Div. 3 North meet, Spicer, Wensley and Kane were first place finishers in the 160, 195 and 220 weight classes, respectively. For Wensley, he repeated as the 195 champion.

3. Boys’ Soccer Team Clinches State Tournament berth

The Warriors boys’ soccer team clinched its first state tournament berth since 1999 as it finished the regular season with an 8-6-4 overall record and 6-4-4 in the Middlesex League Freedom division.

Wakefield wound up facing M.L. Freedom division rival Watertown in the first round of the Div. 3 North Tournament and dropped a 2-1 contest to the Red Raiders. During the regular season, Wakefield lost to Watertown, 2-1, at Victory Field and tied the Red Raiders, 2-2, at Landrigan Field.

The Warriors also had key wins over Winchester (1-0), Swampscott twice, Melrose twice, Stoneham twice and Burlington (3-0). Also Wakefield earned ties against Belmont (0-0) and Woburn (1-1), two more tournament teams which helped as well.

Head Coach Matt Angelo, in his third year as head coach, saw Wakefield get the monkey off its back after missing qualifying by two points in 2013. Next year, the Warriors will be seeking to return to the postseason and get its first tournament win since ‘99.

4. Coaching Changes

John Pellerin was named an interim assistant coach for the Warrior boys’ hockey team last winter after the resignation of head coach Derek Edgerly and nearly his entire staff midway through the season. Pellerin joined the program to help interim head coach Paul Uva for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.

Now the interim tag is gone and Pellerin is the head coach as he takes over for Uva who just filled in for the final 11 games last winter.

Pellerin’s had a hockey business the past 16 years, Martian Sports Skills, where he has been the clinic director for 12 years. He works with co-directors Mike O’Neill (Bowdoin College) and Paul Sacco (Northeastern University).

He has also coached players from the Mite level to the high school level. He has also helped coach the Wakefield Generals in the middle school league which has been very successful over the past seven years. There he has worked with the Galvin Middle School hockey coaches, Mark Roberto and Lou Dellanno, who helped form the program. That has allowed him to become familiar with the talents of the Warrior hockey players having seen them play at the middle school level.

The newly appointed head coach is originally from Maine where he played high school hockey. He then played prep hockey for one year at Hotchkiss before attending college in Canada at Mount Allison University and at North Adams State College.

In addition to Pellerin, Keith Forbes took over as Warrior baseball coach and nearly led the team to the state tournament in his first season. Wakefield finished with a 9-11 record with a young team and the foundation has been laid for success in the future

Since graduating from Malden High School in 1995,  Forbes has been around baseball nearly 20 years. Forbes was appointed to the varsity baseball head coach’s position and took over for Dennis Bisso who retired after 21 years at the helm of the Warriors.

Forbes is a Wakefield resident and he took over after being an assistant coach for the Northern Essex Community College baseball team which played in the college world series last year.

Forbes played for Malden High before attending Troy State University. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres organization and spent 1998-2003 in the big leagues and an independent league.

Once his professional playing career was over, Forbes worked at Extra Innings in Middleton where he met Bisso whom he knows very well. Once Forbes heard about Bisso stepping down, he jumped at the opportunity to coach in his home town.

When Extra Innings franchised, he became the general manager at Extra Innings in Woburn. He currently coaches traveling teams and AAU programs and runs a couple of baseball club teams, one of which is the Winter Scorpions. He also coached as an assistant at Northern Essex but he is happy to be a head coach closer to home.

Forbes hopes to teach the fundamentals of the game to the Warriors. It is what he does for his main job and has been doing for almost 20 years. One of the the places he teaches baseball in clinics is the Rams Athletic Complex in North Reading. He knows legendary coach Frank Carey and he is quite familiar with the success of the Hornets baseball program.

5. Girls’ Cross Country Team Captures Fourth Straight M.L. Title

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Wakefield Memorial High girls’ cross country team but it proved to be anything but.

Wakefield captured its fourth straight Middlesex League Freedom division and continued its dominance in the division with nearly an entire new cast of runners.

The Warriors lost their two non-league meets against Middlesex League Liberty division powers Woburn and Lexington. But in the Freedom division, the Warriors posted a 5-0 record to four-peat as M.L. Freedom division champs.

Wakefield lost to Woburn (19-42) and Lexington (18-44) to be 0-2 out of the gate. But the Warriors didn’t get discouraged as they posted victories over Watertown (20-39), Stoneham (18-37), Wilmington (15-45), Melrose (22-39) and Burlington (25-30).

The Warriors were led by Middlesex League Freedom Division All-Stars Emily Hammond, Lauren Sallade, Sara Custodio and Abby Harrington. Hammond and Sallade were the senior co-captains, Custodio was a junior and Harrington was a sophomore.

6. Shannon Quirk, Jackson Gallagher Win Titles

Wakefield Memorial High senior Shannon Quirk was named an All-Scholastic in girls’ swimming by both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

Quirk captured the 500 freestyle title in the Div. 2 All-State Meet at Harvard University on Sunday, Nov. 16 as she swam a time of 5:06.97 and easily outdistanced the competition for the crown.

Not only did the Warrior standout win one event but she also placed in another individual event. Quirk secured a third place finish in the 200 freestyle as she clocked in at 1:56.09.

The Warrior standout also captured two first place finishes in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle as she had a phenomenal performance at the North Sectional Swimming and Diving Championships which were held on Nov. 8 at Wellesley College’s Chandler Pool.

Quirk was also named a Middlesex League All-Star and captured first in both the 200 and 500 freestyles at the M.L. meet.

In addition to Quirk, senior Jackson Gallagher also had quite a winter season. Gallagher won the 600 meter run as he clocked in with a sensational time of 1:22.60 at the Div. 4 state meet.

Gallagher finished in 10th place in the 600 in a time of 1:23.54 at the All-State meet during the indoor season.

Gallagher also had a good outdoor track season being part of one Wakefield’s relays that competed in the U.S. Nationals in June. The senior also had a strong cross country season qualifying to compete in the All-State meet.

Gallagher will attend UMass Lowell on a track scholarship in the fall.

7. Head Coach Mike Boyages Retires

The Thanksgiving Day Classic between the Wakefield Memorial High and Melrose High football teams was postponed due to snow for the first time since 1989. While that was a big story, the bigger story took place at halftime as it was announced that head coach Mike Boyages was retiring after 18 seasons and that he was coaching his final game.

Boyages  made his decision at the beginning of the season but didn’t announce it publicly. He met with the members of the Warrior football team on Friday morning that day and told them he was not coming back.

Boyages, the Director of Athletics and Student Activities at WMHS, will stay on in that position for the time being.

Boyages concluded his 18 year career as Warrior head coach with a 131-60-3 record. During his time as WMHS head football coach, Wakefield made four Super Bowl appearances (1997, 1999, 2001 and 2011) and captured one Super Bowl championship in 1999 with a 13-7 triumph over Acton-Boxboro.

Wakefield also went undefeated in ‘99 with a 10-0-1 record and was a co-champion of the Middlesex League with Melrose (9-0-1). The Warriors won the now infamous “coin flip” to advance to the Super Bowl which they won. That 1999 Super Bowl championship football team was just inducted into the WMHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

8. State Tournament Teams

There were a number of Warrior teams that made the state tournament as well as the boys’ soccer team.

In the winter, the girls’ basketball team clinched its first state tournament berth in seven years with a 12-8 regular season record and faced Tewksbury in a Div. 3 North first round game which the Warriors dropped by a 45-41 score.

In the spring, the varsity boys’ lacrosse team had things go its way early and often this season as the Warriors completed a successful 2014 campaign at 15-5. In the tourney, Wakefield crushed Tewksbury before losing to Beverly. The team’s 15 wins was also a record for Wakefield.

The softball team and girls’ tennis team also clinched state tournament berths this past spring. The softball team (14-7) lost to Dracut in the first round. The girls’ tennis team (9-8) made the postseason for the second time in three years.

In the fall, the football and girls’ soccer teams both clinched playoff berths. The football team lost a Div. 3 Northwest quarterfinal game against Melrose, the eventual Div. 3 Super Bowl finalist. The girls’ soccer team went on a tremendous run in the second half of the season to get into the state tournament. The girls’ soccer team was edged by M.L. Liberty division champ Arlington, 3-2, in the first round.

9. Summer Teams Excel

The summer baseball and softball teams at the men’s, women’s and youth levels all had seasons to remember in the Intercity League, Twi-League, Lou Tompkins All-Star Baseball League, Middlesex Senior Babe Ruth League, Little League and town softball leagues.

There were town champions crowned in Little League at all levels. There were champs crowned in Twi-League and town softball leagues. The Merchants also made the Intercity League playoffs and two of the Townies teams made their respective playoffs as well.

The All-Star teams in Little League baseball and softball all represented the town well and several had great runs in District and State Tournament play.

There are so many summer ball teams it is difficult to highlight one or two of them. So all the summer ballclubs are included in this section.

10. Youth Teams Excel

The youth teams in all the various sports also had terrific years in 2014. Many of the baseball and softball teams have already been acknowledged. But the youth players in basketball, hockey, lacrosse, football and soccer teams as well as other youth sports not mentioned here all had memorable moments.

Like the many summer ball teams it is difficult to highlight one or two youth sports or one or two teams. So all the youth sports are included in this section.

It was quite a year for Wakefield sports and many memories were created by the athletes in the community. It’s a good bet that 2015 should be just as exciting.