A legendary coach retires, a game-winning drive, and other top moments from this fall
1. Celebratory call in Andover
On the third Sunday in November, from the pool deck at Harvard, Marilyn Fitzgerald once again placed a call to the dispatch line at the Andover Police Department, requesting an escort down Main Street for her Division 1 champion girls’ swimming & diving team. The Warriors had just convincingly captured their fifth straight championship, and 18th overall, under the tutelage of their legendary 27-year coach. It was the 60th straight victory for the Andover seniors. But it was the last for Fitzgerald. Two weeks later, at the season-ending banquet, she announced her retirement, joining Haverhill 40-year mentor Rick Battistini in stepping away. Fitzgerald, a cancer survivor, said she is still in good health at 76. But after 48 years of coaching, “it was just the right time.” She never dreaded one moment. “Pretty much when the girls walk in the door each day it’s like my day begins.”
2. Scituate’s surge to glory
Before Aidan Sullivan zipped three touchdown passes across the Gillette Stadium turf and junior tailback Will Sheskey rushed into the Scituate record book, the Sailors faced a monumental task in their Division 5 South quarterfinal against defending state champion Dennis-Yarmouth on Oct. 26. Trailing 27-20, Scituate needed a goal-line stand to keep the game within reach in the fourh quarter. On four straight plays, the Sailors denied the Dolphins from the 2 with less than three minutes to play. Then Sullivan and Co. went to work, marching 98 yards, with the senior slinger connecting with Jack Ruble on a 10-yard scoring pass to make it a 1-point game. Sullivan surged in on a keeper for the conversion, and a 28-27 win. Five weeks later, the Sailors capped a 12-1 season with a 35-14 victory over Nipmuc for the program’s first Super Bowl title.
3. James just kept jammin
Riley James set a number of records in her dominant run for the Barnstable girls’ volleyball program. But on Nov. 8, in a 3-0 win over Dartmouth, in the final home match of her stellar career, the Bryant-bound senior hitter became the state’s all-time leader in career kills. The 5-foot-10 James notched 19 kills to surpass former Weston standout Athena Ardila’s mark of 1,642 set from 2013-16, receiving the game ball from coach Tom Turco for her accomplishment. “This community is the best volleyball community I think in Massachusetts, and all the fans that come every game make it such a great atmosphere,” James said. “So it was really fun.” James finished her career with a whopping 1,729 kills, averaging 18.2 per match while helping the Red Raiders to a staggering overall record of 91-4 overall and two Division 1 state titles.
Where would the St. Mary’s of Lynn golf program be without the Emmerich brothers? Christian, or ‘Kitchy’ to his followers, and Max, sparked the Spartans to the 2017 Division 3 crown at Wyantenuck Country Club. Max moved on to McDaniel College, but Aiden, the third sibling from Swampscott, stepped up to the tee as a freshman. Christian, the Globe’s two-time D3 player of the year, edged his little brother by four strokes in the North final at Far Corner GC. And in soggy conditions in the state final at Black Swan CC, Kitchy carded a 72 with Aiden a stroke behind, propelling coach Jay Fiste’s club to a one-shot victory over Dover-Sherborn, 323-324, for back-to-back championships. “Today we won by one. In the sectionals, we beat Weston by one shot. It gives the kids a little more thought and helps them concentrate on every shot,” said Fiste.
5. Connolly in cruise control
Stepping to the starting line at a cold and muddy 5-kilometer course at the Wrentham Developmental Center on Nov. 11, Natick senior Grace Connolly was the two-time defending EMass Division 2 cross-country champion. Connolly was not only determined to three-peat, but the Stanford University commit was sizing up a bigger goal: a course record. Connolly and her head coach, Ashley Davidson-Sloan, were unsure the slippery grounds would cooperate, but that thought quickly changed from sound of the gun. The senior distanced herself from runner-up, and Bay State Conference rival, Maggie Donahue, speeding around each corner and firing up every hill. Connolly clocked a sizzling 17 minute, 4 second-finish, shattering the course record by 23 seconds. And the Redhawks ran off with team honors too.
6. Central casting
Everything needed to break right for Central Catholic football to defeat top-seeded, undefeated, and two-time defending D1 state champion Everett in the North semifinals. And in the fourth quarter, everything did. The Raiders received incredible defensive plays from senior defensive end Cam Boes, efficient play from junior quarterback Jared Silverio, an incredible 49-yard catch and run from senior Michael LeFebre on a screen pass, and a fortunate personal foul called against the Everett defense to gift a new set of downs on fourth and goal from the 8-yard line. The Raiders capitalized, as A.J. Caggianelli scored the game-tying touchdown, LeFebre came up with an interception, and Nick Mazzie (the son of Everett police chief Steven Mazzie) nailed a field goal in the final minute to earn a 23-20 win. Not a bad finish for a young Central squad that lost two of its first three games with just three returning starters.
7. What a finish for Wellesley
The Wellesley boys’ soccer team won two of its first seven games in September. Yes, there were a pair of draws in the ledger. But according to coach Tim Mason, it was not “panic status.” “It seemed worse than it was. We changed formation, and I think that gave the boys something else to focus on.” The “changes” worked. Starting with a 2-0 win over Bay State Conference rival Natick on Oct. 2, the Raiders rode a 13-game winning streak into the Division 1 state final. Mason’s squad received superb play from junior Oskar Haeberlein, who scored 14 goals and 11 assists, punctuated by a dominant hat trick in the state semis against Lincoln-Sudbury. Senior Ethan Liss-Roy closed the regular season with seven consecutive shutouts. He also blanked L-S in the semifinal, while he watched Haeberlein rip three goals through 13-degree winds to win the EMass title.
8. Run Ryan, run
No runner in the state of Massachusetts had a chance at catching Ryan Oosting this fall. At the MIAA EMass Division 2 championships, the Arlington senior shot ahead of the pack from the gun and dominated the race through the first two miles at the Wrentham Developmental Center. In the final 800 meters, Oosting delivered quite the finishing kick to finish with a blazing time of 15 minutes, 8.33 seconds, breaking a five-year course record held by former Burlington and current UMass Lowell standout Paul Hogan in the 2013 EMass D4 race (15:08.60). Oosting, who is committed to Stanford University, followed that performance with a convincing All-State victory to conclude his stellar high school cross-country career. He was the only runner to finish was a sub-16:00 mark (15:52.75) while fighting through the snow at Stanley Park.
9. Natick freshman is a keeper
After seizing a 2-0 lead in the Division 1 South girls’ soccer final, 10th-seeded Natick was six minutes away from the first sectional title in program history. Newton South’s Larissa Williams, however, scored in the 74th minute to halve the lead. Natick freshman keeper Allison Jeter spent the next few minutes defending the 2-1 lead, staving off a flurry of pressure and making several key stops to preserve the victory for Natick and first-year coach Dave Wainwright. “She kind of thrives on action,” Wainwright said of Jeter. “The more activity she gets, the better she plays . . . goalies are a different breed and she fits the mold.” Natick pushed past Bay State Conference foe Brookline, 1-0, in the state semis before its quest for the program’s first championship was denied, incredibly, in the eight round of a shootout, by defending champion Wachusett Regional. Jeter, again, was immense, with 11 saves. “This is an experience that’s going to echo for a lifetime for [Jeter], and for her future for our program,” Wainwright said. “We’re very excited.”
10. No denying D-Y
The Dennis-Yarmouth field hockey team was thirsting for a rematch against Watertown. The nine-time defending Division 2 champion Raiders had dealt D-Y a 1-0 loss in the 2017 semis. Watertown was shooting for its 50th straight win dating back to the 2009 season. The Dolphins got their revenge on Watertown in the D2 state semifinal, handing the Raiders their first postseason loss since 2008 after falling to them in the same round of the tournament last season. Senior Lucy Agurkis put the Dolphins on the board in the 12th minute, and junior Abigai Hicks broke a 1-1 stalemate with three minutes remaining in regulation on a rebound off a Kayla McGaffigan shot for a riveting 2-1 win on the frigid turf at Braintree High. “They wanted to get back to this game,” said coach Mary O’Connor. “They wanted to get back to Watertown after last year’s loss, and that’s all they’ve really been focused on.” Four days later, O’Connor’s crew capped a 21-0-3 season with a 3-2 win over Greenfield for its first title since 1987.
Compiled by Jenna Ciccotelli, Trevor Hass, Matt MacCormack, Dan McLoone, Joe Rice, Josh Schafer, Dan Shulman, Nate Weitzer, Charlie Wolfson, and P.J. Wright.