High schools

10 moments to remember from high school sports this spring

06/24/2017 DEVENS, MA L-R Austin Prep's Logan MacDonald (cq), Milford's Ali Atherton (cq), and Norton's Kelly Nelson (cq) pose for a photo at Willard Park in Devens. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Austin Prep's Logan MacDonald, Milford's Ali Atherton, and Norton's Kelly Nelson.

HERE WAS RAIN, AND NO SHORTAGE OF THE ACCOMPANYING POSTPONEMENTS. And there were defending state champions that reigned once again. The Lincoln-Sudbury boys’ lacrosse program and coach Brian Vona can take a bow for their three-peat in Division 1. Ditto for the juggernaut Martha’s Vineyard girls’ tennis program in D3. And a tip of the cap to the Andover, Milton, and North Reading girls, along with the Burlington boys, who teamed up for repeats in track and field. The BC High boys ruled the turf in rugby once again. Once the skies cleared, it was a glorious spring. The Greater New Bedford baseball squad celebrated, tearfully, a state championship in memory of two fallen former players. Unheralded Wellesley and Dover-Sherborn made heralded runs to the state final. The Milford softball team erased an early 3-0 deficit in the state final. There were historic finishes for Cohasset girls’ lacrosse, and on the court at Acton-Boxborough, Sharon, and Wayland. Stellar seniors Erick Duffy, Danny Renwick, Brooke-Lynn Williams, and Clare Martin left their final marks on track. The spring season produced magical moments and stirring finishes. Here are 10 that made us take notice.

1. Emotional end for Greater New Bedford

A Division 2 state championship delivered more than just a trophy to the Greater New Bedford baseball program. It was part of the healing process. Last June, teammate AJ DaSilva, a 16-year-old sophomore from Dartmouth, died of cancer. In 2012, former player Andrew McCann was killed in a car accident. After the Bears beat Danvers for the title, coach Rick Avila pulled out a button with a photo of McCann. He had visited his former player’s grave twice earlier in the day. “I keep this button in my pocket every game, every practice I go out,” said the tearful coach after the 6-2 win over Danvers, the program’s first title.

2. Nelson and White make their pitch

The numbers were staggering: 183 pitches. 147 strikes. 28 strikeouts. A perfect game through seven innings. Norton High junior ace Kelly Nelson was dealing from the circle like she had done all season. Dracut, though, had a weapon of its own in the Division 2 state semifinal: Ryley White. The sophomore righty tossed shutout ball for 13 frames — fanning 12 Norton hitters while scattering seven hits. Her Middie teammates pushed across four runs in the top of the 13th for a 4-0 victory to lock up Dracut’s first trip to the state final since the program won back-to-back titles in 1997-98. “This is one of the best games I have ever been part of,” exclaimed an exhausted Dracut coach George Roy .

3. National title for North Andover’s Duffy

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It’s not a leap to suggest that Erick Duffy will soar to great heights at Harvard. The North Andover senior entered his final campaign as the state record-holder in the pole vault. As a junior, he had jumped 16 feet, ¼ inch at the Division 2 meet. This season, he won the Division 2 crown by three feet. In the All-State meet at Bridgewater State, he produced another record (16-7). He also sprinted/jumped to a first-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles, knocking off the state’s pentathlon champion, Danny Renwick of Old Rochester. At the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., he capped off his high school career, clearing 17-1. Now he’s off to Harvard. For the record, the Crimson’s top pole vaulter in May at the ECAC/IC4A meet, senior Andrew Roney, jumped 15-11.

4. Needham girls were dedicated from start

Mary Schwalm for The Boston Globe
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A seemingly comfortable five-goal cushion had been sliced to two with 9:36 left in the Division 1 state final. But no obstacle was insurmountable for the Needham girls’ lacrosse team this season. They were playing for something bigger than themselves. In December, Joe O’Brien, the husband of 14-year head coach Beth O’Brien, died of cancer. He had been a visible presence at every game. The players dedicated their season to Joe O’Brien. So in those final minutes, senior goalie Liz Vallatini delivered two huge stops and sophomore Maeve Barker netted her second goal with 1:28 left. “For me, it’s obviously such a great thing after such a tough year,” O’Brien said. “But, more importantly, I wanted it for these kids. That’s all I cared about and I couldn’t be happier because they truly earned it on and off the field.”

5. A run of perfection for Milton High girls

Three seasons — cross-country, indoor, and outdoor track — since September for the Milton girls, and not a single loss. The Wildcats ran the table, claiming a Division 2 state title on the trails in November, D4, and All-State crowns at the Reggie in February, and D3 and All-State championships last month. “These girls routinely performed under very stressful conditions, and in the cases where some didn’t, the others would pick up the slack,” said coach Thomas Shaw. “And I think it all comes back to these kids caring about the team, which means caring about each other.” Entering the final event, the 4x400 at the All-State meet, the Wildcats were unaware that they had clinched. But a foursome checked in, and got ready for the run of their lives. “We never took any moment for granted until we knew we had won,” said Shaw.

6. Drama was par for the course in Charlton

Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

An eight-hole playoff for the MIAA girls’ golf title, between two freshmen. It was certainly high drama at Heritage Country Club in Charlton last month. The coolest individuals on the course that long day were likely the competitors, Concord-Carlisle’s Gabrielle Shieh and Boston Latin’s Anne Walsh, who were tied at 6-over par 78 through 18 holes. “I was pretty impressed how calm both players were,” said C-C coach Josh Gianotsos. “That was some of the finest golf I’ve seen at pretty much any level.” On the eighth hole, both players drove the center of the fairway. But Walsh’s approach shot sailed past the green. Shieh then two-putted to win the individual title. “[I’ve never been in a match] that challenging, nowhere near,” said Shieh.

7. Four years in the making, A-B boys finally feast

Four years ago, Kevin Curley made a promise to his four freshmen on the Acton-Boxborough boys’ tennis team: he’d take them out for a steak dinner if they won a state title. The coach kept his word, at scrumptious 111 Chophouse, no less. The Colonials finally feasted after recording a 4-1 victory over defending Division 1 champion Westborough. Curley’s crew entered the North bracket as the fifth seed. But the Colonials registered back-to-back 3-2 wins — including handing top-seeded Lexington its first loss in the semis. “We felt like we were unstoppable at that point,” said Curley. Lincoln-Sudbury fell, then Wellesley (5-0), and Westborough. What carried the Colonials? “Confidence and momentum is everything in athletics,” said Curley of the team’s first ever state title.

8. Ryan rocketed into record book at Mystic Valley

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In the final game of his storied six-year lacrosse career at Mystic Valley, Jack Ryan made history. The Medford teen netted the 59th goal of his senior season in a 10-5 loss to Revere, tying former Mount Greylock stalwart Mike McCormack (2012-2015) atop the state’s career scoring list with 362 career goals. The UMass Boston recruit also handed out 50 assists, raising his career point total to 523. He joins North Andover’s Jim Connolly (523), Billerica’s Grant Whiteway (529), Duxbury’s Max Quinzani (577), and McCormack (611) with 500-plus career points. Ryan, who scored 46 of his career goals while in middle school, set program records for points in a game (15), points in a season (121), and goals in a season (92).

9. A season of firsts for MIAA rugby

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

What’s it like to be ‘the first’? Ask the first MIAA boys’ rugby champion in Division 2 (Hanover), or Division 1 (BC High), or the inaugural girls’ Division 1 champion, Belmont High (take a bow for that 12-point, second-half rally!). On the second Saturday in June at Endicott College, all three state champs held up their MIAA championship banner with unbridled enthusiasm. Championships have been awarded in the past, but this year, rugby was recognized by the state association for the first time. “As the first state to formally adopt rugby under the high school athletic association, we are now a model and exemplar for the rest of the US,” said Jeff Sperling, chair of the state’s rugby committee.

10. Sharon girls net first tennis title

Perfect. That’s the only way to describe the tennis season for the Sharon girls. A 20-0 regular season netted the top seed in the Division 1 South tourney. The Eagles then dispatched Natick (5-0), Brookline (4-1), Weymouth (5-0), and Wellesley (3-2) for the sectional crown. Westford (4-1) was no match in the state semis. In the final against Longmeadow, junior Rithika Neti and sophomore Sophia Fein earned the clinching third point at second doubles, rallying for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory. Screaming and cheering followed for the program’s first state title, ending a season in which the Eagles were playing in Division 1 for the first time. “We’re a part of history,” said coach Diane Micheroni, who has all seven starters back next spring.