Recorder: "Greenfield girls celebrate historic 2018 season"

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Greenfield girls celebrate historic 2018 season

Buoyed by one of the great senior classes in Greenfield High School history, 2018 was a historic calendar year for the Green Wave girls athletic programs.

Now, the school has had its share of excellence on the girls’ side. The Greenfield field hockey team won state titles in 1989 and 1999. The girls basketball team went to its only WMass title game in 1990. The softball team took home sectional crowns in 1982, 1985 and 1986. But in terms of all-around success, few years compare to the results from 2018.

“It’s got to be right up there,” said Greenfield girls basketball coach John Hickey of the 2018 success compared to other years. “Just across the board, it’s pretty amazing what the girls in just about every sport have been able to do up to this point.”

Greenfield softball coach Rian Lovett, who graduated from GHS in 2005, agreed.

“There have been some good years for a certain sport or a couple of them, but I don’t think there’s been anything quite like this for the whole school,” she offered. “It was an amazing year from fall to spring.”

Field hockey coach Erin Thayer’s team won its third consecutive WMass title this fall. With the senior class at the forefront, she knows the Class of 2019 could have quite the hardware when all is said and done.

“This group of kids could rack up quite the championship count,” she said.

Late winter

It began early in 2018. The girls basketball team was riding high, putting together one of its best seasons in program history. With juniors Raegan Hickey and Samantha Smith, joined by freshman Katie Haselton, leading the way, the Green Wave posted a 21-2 overall mark in the 2017-18 campaign. The basketball team went 17-1 in 2018 when the calendar turned over — the lone loss coming in the WMass Div. 3 semifinals to Hampshire.

“I think you saw it coming,” said Hickey of the build up to success over the past few seasons. “They all started at a young age. Basketball-wise, we started this group young playing Rec ball, then did an AAU circuit with them in fifth and sixth and then seventh and eighth grade. You could see there was a good core group of kids.”

Once a bottom-dweller in the Franklin County League, Greenfield has risen to the position of undisputed king of the local mountain. The Wave have won three straight league titles and are the heavy favorites to make it four straight.

“We’ve got a good wave of kids coming through,” began Hickey. “That’s how it starts. You have to have a starting point. We still only have 18 kids between JV and varsity, but that’s a sign of the times. Numbers are down. But I’ll tell you, it doesn’t hurt to have success in order to attract players. That definitely helps.”

Greenfield reached Curry Hicks Cage and the semifinal round for the first time since 1990. That year, the Wave made its only WMass final appearance in program history, losing to Rebecca Lobo and Southwick, 65-34, in a game played at the Springfield Civic Center.

The March battle with Hampshire at the Cage was a heavyweight fight. Greenfield led 53-50 with 25 seconds remaining, but Hampshire’s Maddie Pond hit a 3-pointer that forced overtime. The Wave scored the first four points of the extra session but couldn’t hang on, and the Red Raiders snagged a 63-59 win that ultimately propelled them to a WMass title and a berth in the state championship game.

“You look back and can say a lot of things about what we could’ve done or should’ve done, but it happened,” said Hickey of the end to his team’s season. “So you take the good and the bad with it and move forward. At the end of the year, it really comes down to kids making plays. Every team is going to be good, so it's a learning experience, either way. We need to take something from last year and try and see if we can make a few more plays at the end of this season.”

So far this winter, Greenfield has looked the part of a title contender. The team won its first four games of the year, including wins over Div. 1 foes West Springfield and Chicopee Comp. It then played in the Hoosac Valley Holiday Tournament and defeated another WMass title contender in South Hadley, before getting edged by eastern Division 1 Whitman-Hanson, which has the Wave sitting at 5-1 as it heads into 2019.

Spring

While the disappointment of an abrupt end to the basketball season certainly stung, the Wave rebounded in a big way come spring season.

For the first time since 1986, Greenfield won the WMass Div. 2 title, when junior hurler Olivia Joy spun a gem and the team put together timely hits to capture a 2-1 victory over Wahconah at Sortino Field on the campus of UMass. It was the fourth title in program history, the others coming in 1982, 1985 and 1986.

“I’ve been in the losing seat many times. It’s hard to win,” Lovett said of the breakthrough title. “But the girls on that team, they knew how to win. They knew how to grind out games and really, they just knew how to compete. They’re versatile.”

Greenfield had eyes on a sectional title in 2017. The Wave reached the semifinals, but a showdown with rival Turners Falls yielded a disappointing 8-0 loss. Again, Greenfield bounced back.

“People had seen the potential for a long time,” said Lovett. “The year prior (in 2017), there were a lot of people who expected to win that game against Turners. I think there was a letdown from the community, the kids, all of us, when we couldn’t get the job done. But to come back in the spring, the kids were a year older, a year stronger, and they had that experience from the year before. And going back to basketball, they had that drive from losing to Hampshire where they wanted to come out and win. They weren’t going to be denied.”

Greenfield finished 19-3 overall, losing in the state semifinals to Leicester, 4-2.

Lovett, who has been the varsity coach at GHS since 2013, said being an alumna made the championship season that much more memorable. She played on some good teams, herself, in the early 2000s, but none of those squads took home a title.

“I think what’s really cool at Greenfield is you have the alumni support behind you, especially as an alumni coach,” she began. “I had girls I hadn’t talked to in like 10 years reaching out to me during our run, saying they were going to be there at the games and following along. We have an amazing community here. We really do. People support the teams no matter what their connection is or isn’t.”

The softball team wasn’t the only standout from the spring. Greenfield’s girls tennis team, led by the senior trio of Lilya Georgitsa, Jenna Silk and Leah Bosco, posted an undefeated regular season to capture the Tri-County League North. The Green Wave won a postseason match before falling in the WMass semifinals to Lee. The spring ended with an outstanding 16-1 record.

Senior Amy O’Sullivan also closed out her stellar distance career by taking fourth in the 2-mile at the 2018 Central/West Division II Track & Field championships. She was one of just a handful of area runners who punched tickets to the All-State meet.

Fall

Senior year for the Class of 2019 kicked off in dominant fashion.

The two-time defending WMass champion field hockey team marched through an impressive season and made it three straight crowns with a 2-0 win over Frontier in the title game. The Wave had another gear left, breaking through to the state final thanks to a 2-0 win over Oakmont in the state semis. The ride came to an end with a wild 3-2 loss to Dennis-Yarmouth at WPI for the Div. 2 state title, ending the field hockey careers of the senior trio of Hickey, Smith and Audrey Bresciano.

“When I look back at this team, first of all their athletic ability was outstanding,” began Thayer. “But their desire to win, their drive is just something you don’t see much anymore. Their fierce competitiveness just stands out. That’s something that’s missing a lot. Kids want to play, but they don’t necessarily have that same fire in them. Kids are different today but these guys have brought back that tradition of excellence for us.”

Hickey became the program’s all-time leading scorer, passing Kelly Doton, and also became the first GHS player ever to score 100 goals. She finished with 55 points in the 2018 campaign, while Bresciano wasn’t far behind with 41 (24 goals, 17 assists). Smith made 146 saves on the year, as Greenfield wound up 20-3 overall.

For Thayer, who like Lovett, is an alumna (class of 1991), the feeling of helping her team to another championship season is second to none. Thayer was a midfielder on the 1989 state championship at GHS.

“When I think about it, and I look at those banners, the fact that I’ve literally been part of that program as a player and a coach since 1984 — and the only seasons I missed were the ones when I was in college — that I’ve been a part of every one of those titles as a player or a coach… I don’t even know if I can put that into words,” she said.

While field hockey highlighted the fall slate of girls teams at GHS, there was plenty to be excited about outside that program. In particular, the girls soccer team broke through and reached the postseason for the first time since 2003 after an impressive year where the Wave posted a 7-8-1 overall mark. New coach Tina Riddell helped her team punch a tourney ticket, where Greenfield fell in the Div. 3 opening round to South Hadley.

Multi-sport stars

One dominant theme throughout this remarkable 2018? Multi-sport athletes. Greenfield’s got plenty of them, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve been right in the middle of the school’s athletic successes.

“I’ve always instilled in my own kids that you only go through high school once,” Hickey said. “If you’re able to play a sport each season, have some success and learn some lessons, then you should do it. You don’t want to look back at 25 and have regrets. Plenty of people now as adults look back and say they wish they had played this sport or that sport.”

Hickey and Smith are stars on the field hockey, basketball and softball teams. In addition to pitching Greenfield to WMass titles, Joy also plays field hockey and basketball. Bresciano is one of the school’s best athletes and plays field hockey and softball.

“These seniors are just so talented,” said Lovett of the Class of 2019. “They’re athletes. They aren’t sport-specific or driven by one thing. They love the game, whatever game it is that season. They want to do well.”

Haselton is a three-sport starter in field hockey, basketball and softball, while youngsters like Racquel Provost, Madyson Kuchieski, Lillia Kachelmeyer and Kelsey Richardson are the next wave of multi-sport stars ready to lead the Wave programs.

Encore in 2019?

There’s no reason to think that Greenfield’s athletic successes won’t continue in 2019. With basketball well on its way and softball expecting the bulk of its roster back, expectations remain high in the emerald city.

“Someone said to me the other day, ‘One down, two more to go,’” Lovett said of following the school’s field hockey title with basketball and softball crowns. “It’s never expected, but there’s the potential for another special year here.”

Hickey, who is coaching his daughter Raegan on the hardwood for one final season this winter, knows people in the community have similar thoughts.

“I hear the talk out there, WMass titles in three sports,” he began. “And that’s great. It’s something the kids should strive for and set their goals for. We’re going to try and do that this season. But bottom line, the kids are going to give it their all and either way, we’ll be very proud and honored to be a part of this group of kids and the run they’ve been on. I’ll cherish it as a coach and as a father.”

Here’s to another landmark season on Barr Ave.