---- — Boys Basketball: Knights’ McVeigh went out on top
You could take the sweetest tomatoes, the freshest herbs and a bounty of flavorful meat and never come up with a great sauce.
Unless, the right person is mixing the ingredients.
That was the situation for Mike McVeigh in his 31st and final season at North Andover High.
He had pieces — a scholarship big man in Isaiah Nelsen, a wild card left-handed complement in unproven but talented senior transfer Chris Bardwell and the yet-to-be-tamed colt on the perimeter Derek Collins.
But what would he make of the Knights in their first year in the Merrimack Valley Conference?
In a word, champions.
McVeigh led North Andover to a 19-5 record, a share of the MVC large division crown and his fourth trip to the North sectional finals.
“Coach found a way to bring this team together,” said Bardwell, who made our Super Team. “He’s got such a calming influence. I know for me, the one thing I definitely learned from him is how to play with poise.”
Nothing came easily for the Knights, right to the end, as McVeigh had to deal with the loss of two regulars in a late season auto accident. Nonetheless, the Knights made their run, pushing eventual Division 2 state champ, Brighton, to the limit in the Division 2 North finals at Tsongas Arena.
McVeigh retires with a career 497-176 record. He has now won our Coach of the Year honor twice, the previous coming in 2007.
Previous Coaches of the Year (Bob and Dick Licare Award)
2012: Rob McLaughlin, Salem; 2011: Paul Neal, Lawrence; 2010: Peter Rosinski, Pinkerton; 2009: Dan Habib, Greater Lawrence; 2008: John McVeigh, Brooks; 2007: Mike McVeigh, North Andover; 2006: Dick Licare, Central; 2005: Leo Parent, Pentucket; 2004: Todd Kress, Pelham; 2003: E.J. Perry, Salem; 2002: Paul Neal, Lawrence
Girls Basketball: Alosa revives Salem program
Salem finished 13-10 overall and 12-8 in Division 1 this year — improving from its eight-win season last winter.
A big reason for the turnaround was energetic second-year coach Annie Alosa, who was hired at just 24 years old. Before she came on board, the Blue Devils had won just 14 games combined over the previous two seasons.
“She is a very intense coach, sort of someone hard to get a compliment out of,” junior guard Emily Hickey said during the season. “We’ll have a good practice but never great. But then she will tell us what we have to work on, which I think is really good before games. ... After a game, it will be like, ‘You had a really good game but tomorrow in practice let’s work on this, this and this.’”
Alosa was a three-year starter at Trinity and helped the Pioneers win the 2005 Class L title.
Before she took the position at Salem, she served two years as an assistant coach at UMass Lowell and one year as an assistant at Adelphi.
Alosa, who finished her master’s degree last year in sports management, is an assistant in special education at Salem High.
Alosa’s assistant coach is her father, Sal Alosa, who coached basketball at Gilford High years ago and also has been an AAU coach.
“He was always the person who pushed me (as a player),” Alosa said. “I told him that I wanted to be a really good basketball player. Now, as a coach, I tell him I want to be a very good coach, and he has never lets me settle.”
Her cousin, Matt Alosa, is one of the great players in state history and guided the Pembroke boys team to a title this winter.
Previous Coaches of the Year (Mimi Hyde-Kevin Woelfel Award)
2012: John McNamara, Pentucket; 2011: Sue Breen, North Andover; 2010: Joe DeBlois, PMA; 2009: BarriAnn Alonzo, Georgetown; 2008: Karen McLaughlin, Methuen; 2007: John McNamara, Pentucket; 2006: John Barry, Pinkerton; 2005: Sue Downer, Central; 2004: John Fagula, Londonderry; 2003: Jim Tildsley, Andover; 2002: Bruce Johnson, Timberlane
Boys Track: French guided Astros to a repeat
Third-year Pinkerton head coach Ian French seems to have the hang of it. In the 65-year history of the New Hampshire indoor state meets, Pinkerton has won four titles, two coming in the last two years.
“The surprising thing is we lost a lot of seniors,” said the 30-year-old coach, who has taught history and economics at his alma mater for the last six years. “This year we had only seven seniors. We’ll be excellent again next year. We’ll have a shot to three-peat, which is amazing to think. We have some great juniors back.”
One of the graduating seniors says the Astros are lucky to have French.
Chris Poggi remarked, “He’s a great coach and mentor. He’s really, really easy to relate to. You can joke around with him but when it time to get serious, he’s serious.”
This spring he’ll be assisting head coach Carol Quarles. In the fall, he is a cross country assistant at archrival Londonderry.
French has an impressive running pedigree. He was a two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star who ran at the University of Albany as an undergrad and at St. Rose in grad school.
Previous Coaches of the Year (Larry Klimas Award)
2012: Ian French, Pinkerton; 2011: Todd Seastedt, Salem; 2010: Josh Herzog, North Andover; 2009: Peter Comeau, Andover; 2008: Roger Fuller, Methuen; 2007: Mike Maguire, Haverhill; 2006: Roger Fuller, Methuen; 2004-05: Paul Dutton and Joe Sanborn, Londonderry; 2003: Don Gibson, Methuen; 2002: Joe Davis, North Reading
Girls Track: Lancers’ Johnson lives for her team
Londonderry fell one point short of denying Bishop Guertin its 11th straight Division 1 title and one point shy of its first ever indoor title.
Despite that disappointment, the Lancers would change very little about the season.
They went 28-1 and loved every minute of competing for 30-year Lancer head coach Sue Johnson.
Lancer star Morgan McGrath said, “She totally deserves it (Coach of the Year honors). She gives wholeheartedly to the team. She lives and breathes the track team. She puts so much time and effort in it.
“I can’t imagine anyone putting more time and effort in it. She loves it so much. We are so incredibly lucky to have her. I love her.”
The year-round coach is a social studies and video production teacher at Londonderry High.
Back in the early ‘80s Londonderry built almost a dream team of track coaching talent. When the school dedicated the Larry Martin Track and Field, he made sure to heap praise on the other veteran coaches like Johnson.
Her named is listed on a monument at the track.
Previous Coaches of the Year
2012: Mark Behan, Timberlane; 2011: Ann Bienvenue, Pinkerton; 2010: Steve Derro, Pentucket; 2009: Mike Maguire, Haverhill; 2008: Derek Dorval, North Reading; 2007: Rob Benedetto, Central; 2006: Ann Bienvenue, Pinkerton; 2005: Rob Benedetto, Central; 2004: Peter Comeau, Andover; 2003: David Cavallaro, Masconomet; 2002: Rob Benedetto, Central
Skiing: Steward has built program from ground up
Kellie Steward has been around skiing long enough to know when to leave well enough alone.
The fourth-year coach, who helped start the Windham program, has kept the Jaguars competitive throughout, but they took a jump to third place in New Hampshire Division 2 this year.
A big reason was the arrival of Nicole Taylor, who had competed for both Waterville Valley Academy and in Colorado her first three years.
”For the top skiers, you need to just refine things, give feedback on little tidbits and get them enough hill time,” said Steward, a UNH grad who is a guidance counselor at Windham High. “For the other skiers, it’s about skill building and making sure everyone has fun.”
Steward did both this year as the Jaguars had their most successful season.
A former skier for Minnechaug Regional in Massachusetts (Class of ‘92), Steward knows the basics. She is PSIA Level 1 certified, worked as a ski instructor for four years at Mount Sunapee and then coached the Mighty Mites team at Sunapee for five years.
In addition to her knowledge of skiing, Steward is an avid skiing enthusiast who is constantly selling the sport, trying to get more students involved. She’s also the mother of four children ranging from age 4 to 10. Her 9- and 10-year-old sons attend every practice.
”They like to consider themselves assistant coaches,” she said.
Previous Coaches of the Year
2012: Kim Rouleau, Londonderry; 2009-11: Tom Busta, Andover; 2008: Mary Beth, Peter Torosian; 2006-07: Jerry Marchegiani, North Andover; 2005: Tom Busta, Andover; 2004: Mary Beth, Peter Torosian, Timberlane; 2003: Tom Busta, Andover; 2002: Jerry Marchegiani, North Andover
Gymnastics: Sirois led Andover to first title since 1970
Steve Sirois has coached Andover boys gymnastics a long, long time — 32 years to be exact.
One thing that had eluded him was a state title. That is until this winter.
Sirois helped lead the Golden Warriors to their first title since 1970.
“This group of kids, they have kept working hard and they were in constant communication with the coaches and their teammates and they just wanted to work hard,” Sirois said.
“As far as the wins and the losses in sports, we always have that expression, ‘It’s not the championship you remember. It’s the climb to get there.’”
Andover had some terrific individual athletes, including Penn State recruiting Brian Manning who won every event at the state meet.
“As far as the championship, that’s great for the town and the school and that’s what they did it for,” said Sirois, who is a general contractor. “Gymnastics is a very selfless sport. As individual as it is, they really work for the team and their school. And so we’re proud of them.”
With only seven boys programs left in the state, the MIAA will no longer sanction the sport.
“That doesn’t mean that anyone is dropping the sport,” Sirois said. “Right now, we’re getting picked up by the Olympic Federation, which is higher than the MIAA.”
Previous Coaches of the Year
2011-12: Chelsie Veilleux, Pinkerton; 2010: Gina Kegler, Pinkerton; 2009: Kristen Vadala, Andover; 2008: Ginnie LaVallo, Salem; 2007: Kristen Vadala, Andover; 2006: Wendy Beard, Masconomet; 2005: Ginnie LaVallo, Salem and Lindsay Moran, Pinkerton; 2004: Wendy Beard, Masconomet; 2002-03: Julie Chapman, Andover
Wrestling: Positive-thinking Takesian keys Whittier turnaround
You’ve got to hand it to Winchester coach Larry Tremblay, who has won over 600 meets during his career.
After he was named Division 2 North Coach of the Year, he immediately handed the award to Whittier Tech’s Harry Takesian, saying that he was the one who deserved it.
And there is little doubt about that. In just his second year as head coach, Takesian led the Wildcats to a remarkable turnaround.
After finishing near the bottom of the Commonwealth Conference a year ago, Whittier came within one win of unseating mighty Shawsheen as league champion, finishing with a 16-7-1 record. At one point, the Wildcats clipped off 12 wins in a row.
A former wrestler at Whittier, who started wrestling as a 12-year-old in the Haverhill youth program, Takesian has a basic formula: “My philosophy is simple — hard work pays off.
“I always tell them that winning means you’re willing to work longer and harder and give more than anyone else. The team has really bought into the program.”
Takesian also is a believer in positive thinking and always believes that his kids will prevail, often giving them the needed confidence to succeed.
A 10-year assistant under Rich Durkin before taking over the program two years ago, Takesian is also bursting with enthusiasm, an attribute that rubs off on his wrestlers.
Previous Coaches of the Year ... Howard “Tug’’ Crozier Award winners
2012: Tom Darrin, Windham; 2011: Rob Niceforo, Lawrence; 2010: Dennis King, Central; 2009: Rich Gorham, Phillips; 2008: Barry Chooljian, Timberlane; 2007: Tony Sarkis, Greater Lawrence; 2006: Rob Niceforo, Lawrence; 2005: Dave Castricone, North Andover; 2004: Tony Sarkis, Greater Lawrence; 2003: Mike Shaw, Salem; 2002: Barry Chooljian, Timberlane
Swimming: Raiders aren’t just about basketball anymore
For years, the platinum swimming program of the MVC has been Andover. Multiple league titles, swimmers like Nick D’Innocenzo who have succeeded nationally.
The Warriors are still riding at the top of the food chain but they could be receiving a challenge from a familiar foe. Scott Young has built a growing program at Central Catholic.
Eagle-Tribune MVP David Kitchen was a force, but it takes more than one person to lift a team.
Senior Dan Lefebvre was a major contributor all winter, scoring points in the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke at divisional states while pitching in on the 200 medley relay. Freshman Will Pannos stepped up in the 100 butterfly, placing at states after winning the MVC crown. Both were named All-MVC. And sophomore Griffin Andersen earned league All-Star honors.
Although the Raiders still finished behind Andover and perennial power Chelmsford this year, the gap has closed. Under this year’s swim Coach of the Year — both for the Eagle-Tribune and the MVC — Central could challenge the league’s elite next season.
Young, who holds degrees from Central, Duquesne and Fitchburg State, is the head of the math department at North Andover High.
Previous Coaches of the Year
2012: Mark Taffe, Andover; 2011: Paul Murphy, Phillips; 2010: Jacques Hugon, Phillips; 2009: Mark Taffe, Andover; 2008: Tim Troy, North Andover; 2007: Becky Pierce, North Andover; 2006: Mark Taffe, Andover; 2005: Paul Murphy, Phillips; 2004: Chrystena Ewen, Londonderry; 2003: Paul Murphy, Phillips; 2002: Chrystena Ewen, Londonderry
Hockey: Ries makes Brooks a champion
With hockey season in the books, Brooks goalie Max Prawdzik hasn’t run into coach Dave Ries in recent weeks. So it remains a mystery if Ries followed through on his postseason promise.
“He told us that if we won New Englands, all the coaches would shave their heads,” said Prawdzik, an Andover resident. “I haven’t seen him so I don’t know if he really did it. Maybe he didn’t want to be bald for his vacation.”
A meeting with a barber may in be the cards for Ries because his Brooks squad came through with a title run this winter.
The Green and White won the N.E. Prep Piatelli-Simmons championship, beating Kents Hill 4-1 in the title game to finish 18-7-5.
In seven years as Brooks coach, the 2002 Holy Cross grad is 65-89-5, including 45-27-7 over the last three seasons. He used to coach alongside wife Jenelle, the Brooks girls coach. She, however, stepped down prior to this season to care for their growing family.
“Coach deserves more credit than he gets,” said senior Andrew Bruno, also of Andover. “He has done so much for this program. Look at where it was to where it is now. He watches film, he studies opponents, and without him we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Ries is a former goalie coach at Tufts.
Previous Coaches of the Year
2012: Casey Kesselring, Pinkerton; 2011: Mike Jankowski, Central; 2010: Denny Egan, Methuen; 2009: Andrew Merrick, Timberlane; 2008: Mario Martiniello, Andover; 2007: Mike Jankowski, Central; 2006: Frank Golden, North Reading; 2005: Denis Barrette, North Andover; 2004: Mark McGinn, Salem; 2003: Bill Burns, Pentucket-Georgetown; 2002: Scott Hentosh, Amesbury
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