High School Sports
---- — The winter season is history and the celebrations are over.
The members of the Central Catholic girls basketball team, the Timberlane wrestling team, the North Reading and North Andover basketball teams and anyone else who won league or state championships have, for the most part, turned their attention to other affairs.
For them, and many others like them, the winter season was a rousing success, with the multitude of victories equating to a positive experience that will be remembered for years.
Which is as it should be.
Often forgotten among the hoopla of the winners, however, is that even those teams that don’t have winning records, and often times rarely taste victory at all, can enjoy positive experiences.
There can be, after all, a number of definitions for success.
This all comes to mind because of the Haverhill High hockey team, which just completed a 4-14-2 season. It’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
On the surface, the Hillies’ record on the ice is nothing to be proud of, but it doesn’t do justice to the positives that took place under first-year coach Joe Roberts.
Every team loses some close ones, but the Hillies lost more than their share of heartbreakers, seven games by two goals or less. Even so, despite a particularly young squad, Haverhill improved on a woeful 2-18 mark in 2011-12.
“We set a goal of winning six games this year and making the playoffs next year,” said Roberts. “We didn’t quite make it, but we had a lot of positives and definitely improved during the season.
“Our goals-against improved, our blocked shots went up, our faceoff percentage improved and, the biggest thing was that our plus-minus rate was much better. We really became a much better team.
”We started this (formula) last year, 1-3-100, which stands for one team, three periods and 100 percent and I think we pretty much followed that. We had good kids, no grade problems — no trouble at all — and it was really a positive season.”
The varsity Hillies represented themselves impressively off the ice, showing tremendous team spirit (just how many pasta dinners can one team have?) and school spirit as well as a willingness to perform community service.
When there was a request for volunteers to engage senior citizens at a local nursing home, all but a handful of the 39 players in the program took part. It turned into a great experience for both the senior citizens and the players, who took a return trip later in the season to show a video of one of the Hillie games.
All in all, the positives were so pointed that it made the team banquet seem like quite the celebration for a team that lost three times more games than it won. One could tell that these players didn’t want the season to end regardless of the final record.
The positive attitude and general enthusiasm for the program — an active boosters group deserves ample credit — should carry over to next year, which will likely result in far more wins.
The bulk of the team, after all, will be back, including the entire first line of junior standout Tom Maguire, sophomore Josh Goldstein and freshman Kyle Gosselin and starting goalie Zach Grundy. There should be a boost from a JV team that won 13 games this winter under new coach Rich Hassel.
“I’m pretty confident, with the progress we made this season, we can make the playoffs next year,” said Roberts.
That remains to be seen, of course, but I wonder if — even then — the season will be any more “successful” than this past one.
What’s more, I wonder how many other high school teams, who may have been considered losers because of their record, were really big winners.