EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 26, 2013

Eagle-Tribune Fall Coaches of the Year


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Football: Coach A enjoys Super Bowl success

After waiting for 15 years to return to the peak of Massachusetts high school football, the moment couldn’t have been any sweeter for Chuck Adamopoulos as he stood to the side of the trophy stage at Gillette Stadium.

“It’s a lot of satisfaction,” said the overjoyed Central Catholic coach, who boasts a 122-63 career record. “It’s been a long journey, and I am just so happy for these kids.”

Many were also thrilled for Adamopoulos — known affectionately as “Coach A” to just about everyone that knows him. His Raiders were crowned Division 1 state champions on Dec. 7, the first title for the Central football team since the Niall Murphy-led EMass. Division 2 Super Bowl champions in 1997 and 1998, Adamopoulos’ first two seasons.

Football has always been in Adamopoulos’ blood. His father was Mass. Football Coaches Hall of Famer Arthur Adamopoulos (the original Coach A). Chuck played his high school football at Pentucket (class of 1977) for Tom Flaherty.

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Adamopoulos coached for the Sachems under Steve Hayden before moving to Central Catholic, where he has coached as an assistant and head coach for 30 years. He is also a business teacher at Central.

“We heard from players that played here 15 or 20 years ago,” said the 54-year-old Adamopoulos, whose son, former Eagle-Tribune All-Star Zak, was on the sidelines helping the coaching staff during the Super Bowl. “That is something really special.”

Boys Soccer: Wood successfully followsa coaching legend

Kyle Wood had the difficult task of replacing a local soccer legend, Bill Tarbox, at North Andover.

Tarbox was a varsity coach for 40 years, including 22 at North Andover High where he won 301 games.

“Truly, the word for him would be ‘legendary,’” Wood said.

Wood is this year’s boys soccer Coach of the Year, which has been renamed the Bill Tarbox Award.

He helped North Andover to its first ever undefeated regular season (18-0).

The Scarlet Knights finished 21-1 with their lone loss coming against Masconomet in the Division 2 North final.

Wood said he was lucky to have inherited such talented players who had practiced and played together for several years.

“We all very quickly had the same goal,” Wood said. “And I just feel very lucky that this was my first team. I think they kind of set the bar for future teams that I have.”

Wood, a wellness teacher at North Andover Middle School, coached the freshman team from 2001-12. He was a goalie at Westfield State, graduating in 1997. He served as a varsity girls soccer coach at Northbridge High for three seasons, 1998-00, prior to coming to North Andover.

Girls Soccer: Tarbox wins big despite injuries

Coach Fred Tarbox helped lead Haverhill girls soccer to a 12-1-4 regular season record and the MVC Division 2 championship.

The Hillies finished 13-2-4 overall, making the Division 1 North quarterfinals.

“Winning the conference is great and beating Andover for the first time (since the rivalry began in 1994) is great ... but the thing that was so special this year with the girls was the attitude they took when we found out we lost two starters to ACL injuries,” Tarbox said. “When we went into the season and we had lost Basema Hussein, we kind of accepted that. But to lose her sister Bianca, who played during preseason and was playing absolutely terrific and was really a leader on our team, was really a test for these girls.”

He told his players their job still remained to win the league title.

Senior Kelleigh Cokely looked at Tarbox and told him the Hillies were going to finish undefeated.

“The way she said it, I said, ‘She’s not joking around, she really means it,’” Tarbox recalled. “And they finished the regular season with just one loss. So it was just the attitude that they took.”

Tarbox’s father, Bill Tarbox, was his new assistant coach. He brought 40 years of varsity head coaching experience.

“Working with my dad was definitely a dream come true,” he said.

Tarbox, who teaches physical education at the Guilmette Middle School in Lawrence, also is an assistant indoor and outdoor track coach at Haverhill.

Volleyball: Littlefield engineered big turnaround

After a tough 3-17 season in 2012, Deb Littlefield remained positive. It paid off as she guided Whittier to a 13-8 season and the ninth-year Wildcats coach recorded her 100th career win.

“The thing that impressed me the most was, although we took quite a beating last year, every single one came back eager for another shot,” she said. “It was a great experience. That character made it worthwhile.”

Littlefield has a 107-84 record with the Cats, who reached the Division 3 North quarterfinals this fall.

She works in corporate training development and helps run the Northeast Hurricanes baseball and softball programs.

The Iowa native attended the Coast Guard Academy, where she led the Bears softball team with a 1.49 ERA in 1987. She’s passed the love of sports onto her daughter Sydney, who does volleyball, track and softball for Methuen High. She’s also ranked fourth in the senior class.

Littlefield, who also has a daughter Dana in sixth grade, helped launch the Notre Dame High of Lawrence softball program.

Her father, Jim Kinyon, coached wrestling, football and track in Iowa and, after a 40-year coaching career, was inducted into the Iowa Coaches Hall of Fame.

Field Hockey: Ward, Jaguars did it together

If you had a question of the admiration shared between Amanda Ward and her team, it was answered this fall.

Windham, driven by its coach’s loss of a child before the season, helped her forget the pain, albeit for just a little while.

The Jags, runners-up for the state title in Ward’s first season, finished the job in 2013, beating Merrimack Valley for the Division 2 championship.

“We experienced the tragedy together,” said Ward, who got early season assistance from interim coach Katie Bourque. “These girls allowed me to face it head on and just embrace the fact that these things happen in life, but with hardship and hard work come great things.”

Windham has done little but win since Ward took over.

Over two seasons, Ward’s record stands at 28-4-2.

The coach will always have affection for this group of girls.

Said the coach about her late daughter, Clairee Ann: “These girls ... kept her memory alive.”

Boys Cross Country: Behan brings Owls to a peak

The objective in cross country is to peak at the end of the season at the championship races.

And that, under the guidance of veteran coach Mark Behan, is exactly what Timberlane did this year.

After finishing fifth in three large meets during the regular season, the Owls put it all together to finish third in the Division 1 meet, qualifying for the Meet of Champions for the first time since the school was elevated to Division 1 in 1998.

Led by an impressive surge from sophomore Liam Kimball, virtually every Timberlane runner improved during the season. At the Meet of Champions, they came within one place of qualifying for New England.

The success was certainly welcome for the 16th-year coach, but Behan is just as interested in having his athletes enjoy the sport.

“Being a member of the cross country team should be a positive experience,” said Behan, our girls cross country Coach of the Year in 2011. “I want to see the kids run well in the future and become runners for life.”

Long one of the top distance runners in the area, the former Haverhill High standout still runs with his team, even this year when bothered by a chronic injury. He alternates between different skill levels so that he can get to know everyone on the squad.

Girls Cross Country: Hession carries on Big Blue’s tradition

Following Nancy Lang, whose teams won five straight New England prep titles at one point in her 19-year career, is not easy. But Becky Hession has shown that she’s up to the challenge.

Hession led a young Phillips Academy team to third place at the Class A New England prep meet while the JVs won for the 12th time in 14 years. With virtually the whole team back, including junior Anoush Shehadeh (fourth at Foot Locker Nationals), the future looks bright.

Hession, a native of Oneida, N.Y., who ran at Bowdoin, was an assistant in 2006 under Lang. She then coached track for two years at Hanover (N.H.) High before returning to Phillips. Hession, who is the mother of two infant children, took over for a year while Lang was on sabbatical and then became permanent head coach two years later.

Lang is now her assistant coach.

Hession said, “We work very hard to provide a strong and healthy foundation for physical activity, smart training and racing, injury prevention, goal setting and teamwork. Ultimately, I want my runners to stay healthy and enjoy the team experience that cross country can offer.

Swimming: It’s 300 and counting for Battistini

Haverhill didn’t win the Merrimack Valley Conference championship but, once again, the Hillies were highly competitive.

It’s always been that way for the Hillies under Rick Battistini.

Perennial Division 1 state champ Andover and this year’s champion Chelmsford have ruled the MVC and often the state for the last decade, but Haverhill also has fared well. This year’s squad went 8-2.

“We’re very proud of that since we don’t have the high number of year-round swimmers that they have at Andover and Chelmsford,” said Battistini, who also was our Coach of the Year in 2006. “That makes a huge difference.”

Battistini has been a model of consistency at Haverhill. In 30 years, he’s never had a losing season. This year, he reached the coveted 300-win mark for his career. He’s also coached some of the top swimmers in the state, including numerous Division 1 college stars like Heidi Hannenian (Northwestern) and Allyson Horgan (BC).

Although he’s a demanding coach, Battistini, 59, asks as much of himself as his swimmers. He not only remains competitive as a masters swimmer, he coaches three other teams | the Lowell High boys, the New Wave Swim Club and the Andover-North Andover YMCA Masters.

Golf: Bourassa has the Midas touch

To win titles, the players have to have talent in any sport.

But you also need the right leader. And at Windham High, that leader is state champion golf coach Ken Bourassa.

“He’s a good coach to play for,” said senior standout Connor Greenleaf earlier in the year. “He’s easy to play for. He helps out, and he lets you play your game.”

Bourassa started the program in 2010 and the Jags have gone 20-0 each of the last three seasons.

It took little time to build the program because he had the players. Bourassa has nurtured things, though, and the results speak for themselves.

He and Joe Vaiknoras, coach of archrival Pelham, devised a Ryder Cup-style match this fall.

“We should compete against each other, and this is a nice way of doing it,” said Bourassa, the retired Methuen fire chief. “It’s exciting.”

Not only did Greenleaf win the state individual title, but the Jaguars won their first team championship.