EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 24, 2012

Saluting 'Big-shot Baiguy' and unstoppable Baladi

Boys Soccer
Christopher Smith

---- — Windham won its first state title in just its third varsity season and North Andover made an exciting run in coach Bill Tarbox’s final season as coach.

And then there is junior Salah Baladi, who scored 25 more goals than he did as a sophomore and Windham junior James Baiguy, who had to take the biggest shot of the year.

Overall, it was an exciting boys high school soccer season. Without any further delay, here are the awards:

BEST MASS. TEAM:

North Andover

In their first season in the MVC, the Scarlet Knights went 13-0-2 in conference and outscored their opponents 62-13.

With coach Bill Tarbox in his 22nd and final year at North Andover, the team won the Division 2 North tournament before losing 3-0 to Medway in the state semifinals.

It was a great run for the team and a terrific 40-year overall coaching run for Tarbox.

BEST N.H. TEAM:

Windham

Windham’s boys soccer program earned its first-ever victory Sept. 7, 2010. Less than 26 months later, it won its first Division 2 state championship, posting a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Hollis-Brookline in the title game Nov. 4.

The championship went to a dramatic best-of-five shootout.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

Connor Merinder

The Andover sophomore keeper had a strong season, including a 22-save effort in a 2-1 victory over Danvers. The 6-foot-5 basketball standout shut out Haverhill twice, combining for 14 saves.

MOST IMPROVED:

Salah Baladi

Baladi scored just three goals last year after he and his family moved to Methuen all the way from Morocco, where he had not play organized soccer.

Baladi, a junior, was the MVC Division 2 MVP this fall, scoring 28 goals with seven assists.

NAME OF THE YEAR:

Kristoff Gonzalez

The Greater Lawrence senior midfield not only has a cool name, but he scored 10 goals, which was tied for the team lead with Douglas Leiva.

COMEBACK PLAYER

OF THE YEAR:@headNotebook:

Andrew Pesci

The Windham senior suffered a posterior cruciate ligament tear five games into the 2011 season.

Pesci, who is expected to graduate early from Windham and play college soccer at Southern New Hampshire University, posted 12 shutouts this fall including a 17-save performance in a 3-0 victory over Souhegan.

He made seven saves and also a huge stop during the shootout in the Division 2 title game.

MOST IMPROVED TEAM: Timberlane

After going 3-13 in 2011, the Owls went 9-6-3 and made the quarterfinals this year.

First-year coach Mitch Mencis did a fantastic job and the seniors pushed everyone to work hard from the end last season through this season.

BEST STORY:

Ranger renaissance

Coach Jeff Lamy has completely turned around the Methuen program.

Methuen posted a combined 2-45-5 record from 2008-10, and entered Lamy’s second season (2011) with a 20-game winless streak (0-16-4). The Rangers went 4-13-1 last year and then improved to 11-7-1. They won their Division 1 North first round game as the No. 14 seed over previously-unbeaten Chelsea, the No. 3 seed, this fall.

OUT OF NOWHERE AWARD:

James Baiguy

With Windham leading its best-of-five shootout 3-2, the junior backup entered to shoot the fifth penalty kick.

He finished off Hollis-Brookline, pounding one past keeper Linds Cadwell.

Baiguy, who moved to New Hampshire from Costa Rica five years ago, hadn’t taken a penalty kick in a game since moving to the U.S.

He was not originally scheduled to take the shot but David Carbonello was out with an ankle injury.

TOP UNDERCLASSMAN:

Cody Sedler

There are several talented keepers to pick from but Cody Sedler had the best season of all.

The Pentucket sophomore posted 12 shutouts, including an 11-save performance in a 1-0 victory over North Andover.

UNSUNG HERO AWARD: Steven O’Callaghan and Andrew Ayres

O’Callaghan, a Sanborn senior, didn’t receive much ink this year. But he had quite a season with 12 goals and seven assists to lead Sanborn to a 9-7-1 record. He was the team MVP this season.

Ayres, a Central senior defender, also flew under the radar but had quite a strong season and was voted All-MVC.

BEST REGULAR

SEASON GAME:@headNotebook:

Hart scores four

Londonderry’s Rob Hart had several strong games. After all, he netted 22 goals. But his best was a four-goal game against a legit Pinkerton team in a 5-1 Lancers’ win Sept. 29.

POSTSEASON PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR:

Chris Ulbrich

The Windham senior striker scored three goals and also added a shootout goal in three playoff games.

BEST BROTHER COMBO: Righini brothers

Darren and Todd Righini of Salem were a strong combination. Darren is considered the team’s midfield general by coach Tony Karibian. He unanimously was voted captain by his teammates and the coaching staff for next year. Meanwhile, it is difficult to find a Salem goal that Todd, a striker, didn’t figure into this season, Karibian said.