Franklin Edges Attleboro in Back-and-Forth Battle

Gabby Colace reached base three times and scored a pair of runs, as Franklin pulled out a 7-6, come from behind win against Attleboro on Sunday morning. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Both teams had already qualified for the postseason and Sunday morning’s matchup felt like preparation for the upcoming state tournament. It was a game in which both teams battled back multiple times and both learned what they will need to work on to make a playoff run.

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In the end, Franklin made enough plays to pull out a 7-6 victory over Attleboro. Senior Emily Valentino came off the bench to pitch 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief and drove in the game-tying run with a fifth inning single.

“Emily Valentino came in and kind of slammed the doors, so to speak,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “She did a nice job out there.”

She also praised the Bombardiers for being aggressive and putting pressure on the Panthers. Fallon said, “They put a lot of pressure on us today. They came here swinging and trying to take some names. They put up a nice performance against us today and redeemed themselves from the first game (a 14-0 Franklin win).”

Attleboro was playing its third game in the span of 24 hours. The Bombardiers completed a rain delayed game with Taunton on Saturday morning and then drove 90 minutes to play Marblehead. Attleboro beat the Magicians to qualify for the tournament and carried that momentum to Franklin.

“They could’ve laid down coming into this one but they didn’t,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer about his team’s attitude on Sunday morning. “We’ve had some pretty bad injuries, so we had three freshmen out there today. They’ve been doing a good job up and down the lineup.”

Meghan Gordon led off with a single to right, followed by a swinging bunt from Lindsey Perry that turned into an infield hit. After a groundout moved both runners into scoring position, Lora Woynton brought in a run with a deep sac fly to center and Natalie Mansur singled to left and drove in a second.

The Panthers cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first. A one-out triple by Gabby Colace was followed by a sac fly to left by Ally Shea. Gordon made a nice running grab for the out, sliding past the foul line, but it allowed Colace to come home without a throw.

There were no clean innings on Sunday. Even scoreless frames included at least one base runner. Franklin starter Jackie Cherry pitched out of trouble in the second and third innings to keep the Panthers within one. Colace turned a double play when she snagged a line drive at second and tagged the runner to end the third.

Franklin grabbed its first lead in the bottom of the third. Anna Balkus bunted her way on to lead off and stole second. A passed ball moved her to third and Colace reached when her bunt was unable to be fielded cleanly. An error brought in the first run of the third to tie it and Maddy White lined a single to put Franklin in front. Sarah Jackson added a third run with an RBI-groundout.

Attleboro starter Jenna Gittle managed to limit the damage with a strikeout and a pop up to first, but the Panthers were up 4-2.

The lead was short-lived. The Bombardiers rallied for three runs in the fourth. Autumn O’Connell got it started with a single and, after Cherry retired the next two batters, Perry drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive for power hitter McKenzie Bergdoll. She crushed a three-run homer over the fence in left-center to put the visitors back on top.

“That’s what McKenzie Bergdoll’s got to do,” said Homer. “That’s her job. She’s one of the better hitters in the league, she’s a power hitter, but it’s also the set up before that getting people on base. We weren’t doing that earlier in the season.”

In the bottom half of the inning, Franklin bounced back again to tie it. Maggie Hobby walked and advanced to third after a pair of passed balls. Balkus hit a sharp grounder to short but the throw to the plate was not in time and the game was evened up at 5-5.

The back-and-forth game continued to ebb and flow with the Bombardiers grabbing the edge in the fifth. Colace threw ahead of the lead runner to get a big second out for the Panthers and it looked like they may escape the jam but Hailey Perry singled to right to bring in Kayla Battisti. Valentino came in with runners at second and third and got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, Valentino helped her own cause. With one out, he dropped a single into right that scored White to tie the game again. Battisti kept the game tied when she was able to field a Hobby bunt and flip to Woynton at the plate to cut down the potential go-ahead run. Gittle got a big break when Balkus’ two-out single to left, which scored two runs, was nullified by the home plate ump saying she stepped out of the box as she hit it.

Valentino managed to get out of a jam in the sixth and Franklin scored the eventual game-winner in the bottom half. Battisti made another play at third to get a runner at the plate, but with two outs a grounder was mishandled and the go-ahead run scampered home.

After an error put the lead runner on in the seventh and a sacrifice bunt moved the runner into scoring position, Valentino got a pop up to Hobby behind the plate and then a fly ball to herself in the circle to close out the win.

“We came out on top,” said Fallon. “We pulled it together and we also learned a few things that we need to clean up, to work on heading into the tournament.”

Despite the loss, Homer was also positive about his team’s performance. He explained, “This was a great game for us, in this part of the season, because they battled all week. It would’ve been great to win, it always is, but I like where we’re at right now. For us to go to the distance and battle them right to the end, I’m okay with that because we’ll probably meet one of those six other [Hockomock League] teams in the tournament.”

Franklin (13-5, 12-3) has two more games this week to prepare for the tournament, starting with Canton on Tuesday. Attleboro (9-10, 8-7) will close out the regular season on Tuesday against North Attleboro.

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KP’s DeLuca Ends Record-Setting Career at Illinois Tech

Alyssa DeLuca
King Philip grad Alyssa DeLuca wrapped an impressive career at Illinois Tech as the program’s all-time leading scorer and as a four-time first team all-conference selection. (Stephen Bates, WCS Photography)

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The email from Illinois Institute of Technology coach Kirk Lamitie came as a surprise. Alyssa DeLuca was playing in a club lacrosse tournament in Virginia with the Mass Mavericks, but, the King Philip alum admitted in a phone call this week, the game that the coach saw was not her best.

“I literally fell and lost my stick and my goggles and everything went flying,” she said with a laugh. “I was so shocked that I got an email from any of the coaches for that game.”

It may not have been her finest moment on the field, but it couldn’t have turned out any better. DeLuca had never heard of Illinois Tech, which started the transition from an NAIA program to an NCAA Div. III program in 2015, but she went for a visit to the Chicago campus. It was an instant connection with the school, the team, and her future teammates.

“I could really see myself playing with those people for the next four years,” she explained. “That was pretty exciting. It just kind of felt right when I went out there. The cards just got dealt really well in Virginia. I was very lucky.”

Illinois Tech was very lucky as well. DeLuca made an instant impact with the Scarlet Hawks, scoring 50 goals her freshman year, and she went on to become the program’s most decorated player and its all-time leading scorer. She scored 221 goals in four years and was named to the Midwest Women’s Lacrosse Conference (MWLC) First Team all four years of her career.

She reflected, “It’s honestly kind of unreal to think I was able to make an impact in the conference and on my team for four years.”

Her season and playing career had come to an end just a couple of weeks before and she struggled to put into words how it felt. “It’s special because when you pick a program that you want to play for, sometimes you might not get a lot of minutes…being able to come out and play every minute of every game…thinking back on it….it was so rewarding that I put in so many hours in the sport over the years and I just feel honored to be recognized.”

Making the transition from high school to college is always difficult, especially when you have to balance athletics with academics and especially when you are traveling halfway across the country, but DeLuca believes that her being on the lacrosse team and having that instant cohort of friends made the move to Chicago considerably easier.

She said, “It definitely allows you to assimilate better into the school and my roommate that I lived with was also on the lacrosse team and on the same floor as all the other freshmen, so we got really close and it helped us. We were all very far from home.”

On the field, the freshman class was given plenty of opportunities during fall ball to learn the new system, become comfortable with each other, and to be ready to start the spring season. The preparation worked, as DeLuca stormed onto the scene, starting all 15 games and leading the team with 50 goals as a rookie.

“When we went out on the field we were playing like we’d been playing together for all four years of high school,” DeLuca said of her freshman campaign. “That whole fall ball and right up to our first game, we were set up with the right amount of fun and the right amount of discipline.”

Although she felt comfortable getting out on the field, she surprised evev herself with the level of success that she achieved that spring. “Halfway through the season, you look at the conference stats and you go. ‘Holy crap, I’m leading the conference in goals? I’m only a freshman, what is this?’”

If her freshman year was a warning to the conference of what she and Illinois Tech were capable of, then her sophomore season took it to another level. DeLuca scored 77 goals in 17 matches that spring and the Scarlet Hawks put together a record of 15-2, sharing the regular season conference title.

The only thing missing from that season was the opportunity to play in the conference tournament. Because Illinois Tech was in the midst of the five-year transition process to NCAA DIII standing, the Scarlet Hawks couldn’t play in the postseason. While this was obviously a disappointment, DeLuca also saw the positive side of things. The team always ended the season on senior night, always played at home, and also won each of those games. It was far different from the abrupt ending of a tournament loss on a random field.

“Everyone’s dream when they come to college is to get the chance to play in the NCAAs and it was definitely a little frustrating that we weren’t allowed to play,” she admitted. “It was humbling to say now we need to just start focusing on next year but it also offered a nice closure to a season.”

This past summer, Illinois Tech officially joined DIII, which meant that the Scarlet Hawks would compete for the first time in the MWLC Tournament. DeLuca said there was a noticeable increase in the team’s energy knowing that for the first time the Hawks had something to play for beyond the regular season.

“We had something to play for this season and every win or loss mattered so much more,” she said. “You fight a little bit harder for every ground ball and you maybe pick your feet up a little faster in the midfield to get back quicker on defense and it definitely added that little bit of a spark that drove us really hard.”

They went 10-5 in the regular season and entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed. DeLuca wasn’t the team’s top scorer this season, although she still finished with 47 goals and 11 assists but she showed off her all-around game, leading the team in caused turnovers with 44, and also grabbing 52 ground balls and 32 draw controls. Illinois Tech led at halftime against No. 3 Aurora but the Spartans dominated after the break to pull away and advance to the conference finals.

Even though her scoring numbers were down a little this spring, DeLuca was once again recognized as a first team all-conference performer. “I tried to step up as more of a go-getter, causing turnovers and getting those ground balls and still being recognized for all that hard work it made me realize you get what you give to the sport,” DeLuca remarked.

DeLuca, who has one more year left to get a Master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, played in 63 of a possible 65 games during her four years. It may have started with a chance encounter at a club tournament four years ago, but her collegiate career turned into a positive experience for her and for the Illinois Tech program.

“It was a lot more fun because you’re playing with people who love playing and not because it’s easy to play after school,” DeLuca explained. “It’s definitely more people who are really passionate about the sport and the traveling was a lot of fun. I got to see a lot of different places in the Midwest and across the country. I think it was a more challenging experience than playing in high school and more rewarding.”

Hockomock Loses Legend in Sharon’s Davenport

Dudley Davenport
Former Sharon boys basketball coach and athletic director Dudley Davenport, pictured here in a Sharon yearbook from early in his career, passed away suddenly last week at the age of 81. He was recognized for his impact on the Hockomock League with the naming of the Davenport division in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Sharon High)

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In 1961, then Sharon High principal James Dowd brought in a young science teacher and handed him the reigns to the school’s boys basketball program. The new coach, who held the Westport High scoring record of 1,529 points and played at the University of Rhode Island, would spend 23 years on the Sharon bench and amass an impressive record of 328-114, turning the Eagles into a perennial power not only in the Hockomock League but across the state and making Sharon basketball games must-attend events for the whole school.

Under his guidance, the Eagles won five league titles, made the tournament 19 times, reached 10 semifinals, and the got to the finals four times. He stopped coaching after the 1982-83 season and six years later was inducted into the Mass. Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Hall of Fame. On top of his coaching duties, he also spent nearly 30 years as the school’s athletic director and oversaw numerous changes in Sharon’s sports programs, including the introduction of a football program and the expansion of girls’ sports offerings.

But the legacy of Dudley Davenport extends far beyond the basketball court and even beyond the town of Sharon. His legacy encompasses the entire Hockomock League, which he promoted for five decades, and the countless people that he impacted in his roles as coach, teacher, athletic director, camp counselor, and league executive secretary. Even more than his accomplishments in sports, what most people mention is his sense of humor, his larger than life persona, and the encouragement he exuded.

On May 15, Davenport passed away unexpectedly in his Westport, Mass. home at the age of 81. It is a loss not only for Sharon but for the whole Hockomock community.

“Dud was a Hockomock League giant in just about every way,” said Canton athletic director Danny Erickson, who knew Davenport from his days as a player, as well as coach and AD. “You can’t meet Dudley and not be impressed with the magnitude of the person and personality that he is. He makes everybody feel valued and he makes everybody feel good.”

Joel Peckham came to Sharon a couple years after Davenport, who had already established himself as the varsity basketball coach. Peckham took over the baseball program from Davenport (who joked at Peckham’s final home game in 2015 that the job had been stolen from him) and also joined the basketball staff as coach of the freshman team. “I was the wise young guy who showed up who they had to put in my place,” Peckham said this week about Davenport and fellow assistant coach Basil Cronin (who passed away last summer). “He was a tremendous figure, in some ways a father figure for me. It’s an incredible loss.”

Former Mansfield High boys basketball coach Stu Hershman played for Davenport during those heady days when Sharon was a consistent presence in the annual Tech Tournament and made several trips to the Boston Garden, including a state final appearance in 1972. His family also ran the Sharon Country Day Camp where Davenport spent summers as the athletic director.

“He wasn’t just a coach,” said Hershman. “He was a teacher and a friend and he really cared about you. You felt it. After the basketball games, it was like a big family and he would invite everybody back to the house, parents, everybody, and it was just a nice atmosphere.”

The Hornets qualified for the tournament under Hershman in the days when teams needed to win 70 percent of their games to get in and Davenport attended the first playoff game that Hershman coached. “When I got into coaching, I wanted to be just like him,” Hershman said. He added with a laugh, “It didn’t turn out that way with the record.”

“He was king and he had so much success,” Peckham said. What he recalled most was all the fun moments that the coaches had getting together after every game at Davenport’s house, win or lose. “Always with good cheer, even in some of the worst losses, where we would lose big games, we would laugh and have a good time,” he explained.

Davenport is pictured at an award ceremony later in his career as athletic director. (Courtesy of Sharon High)

Former Sharon field hockey and girls lacrosse coach Peg Arguimbau has been connected with the Davenport family for decades. Her father was James Dowd, who hired Davenport at Sharon High. She had Davenport as a science teacher as a freshman, was a babysitter for the Davenport’s children, was a counselor with Davenport at the Sharon Country Day Camp, and he even convinced her to begin officiating basketball and field hockey, something that she continued for more than 20 years. Their relationship was closer to family.

“He just had an upbeat positive outlook,” Arguimbau said. “He had a great basketball record and people respected that but I think they also respected just how he treated people.” When asked what he was like as an athletic director, she replied, “As a coach, you need someone to support you when you hit the bumps in the road, whether it be athletes or parents or other coaches or whatever, and you could always go to him. His door was always open.”

She explained that Davenport would do things like grow his hair out until the team qualified for the tournament and would walk the halls with a “shaggy buzzcut.” It was the little things that endeared him to the school community. “It was a good time to be involved and he was the head of it,” she said. “I was just fortunate to be able to know him on so many different levels.”

Oliver Ames principal Wes Paul first met Davenport while playing in the Championship Basketball School, which Davenport was a counselor at during the summers. When Paul got into administration at OA, Davenport was the league’s executive secretary and Paul leaned on him for historical perspective and guidance when making decisions that would impact the league. “The Hockomock League was great not because of us,” he said. “It was on the backs of Dudley’s generation and before. He’s been in this room, he needs to be heard, and he needs to weigh in on this.”

When the league made the decision to expand in 2011, adding Attleboro first and then Taunton and Milford the following year, the athletic directors and principals decided to honor Davenport’s impact on the league by naming the small-school division in his honor. “It was absolutely a slam dunk,” said Paul. “It was like, that’s not even enough, but it’s a great start to pay tribute to his legacy.”

Former Franklin athletic director Brad Sidwell was one of the leading proponents for the naming of the Davenport division, crediting Davenport for explaining the league’s traditions to the young ADs. “He was always just very positive,” Sidwell said. ”He was just a great guy who got it. He really enjoyed the camaraderie between the ADs and the schools and the communities.”

A banner that hangs in the Sharon High gym honoring Davenport’s hall of fame coaching career and tenure as AD. (Courtesy of Sharon High)

Erickson also praised Davenport for setting him straight when he came into the league wanting to make instant changes. “He was not ever opposed to change but he made someone like me, who was really anxious to make some moves, really take a breath and go about things in a more thoughtful way,” Erickson said. “Looking back on that years later, he was a big part in my own growth on how to implement change in a positive way.”

Even up until a few days before he passed, Dudley Davenport was sharing messages, commenting, and liking posts on Facebook, remaining in touch with the numerous people who he had come into contact with during his long career. He continued to be a presence, a “giant” that the league would greatly miss.

“He was just a really good example of someone who believes that athletics are very educational and they are great for our kids,” said Sidwell. Paul added, “It’s hard to find the complete package and that’s why he’s a legend. He had the focus on others, not on himself and that’s a really special quality.” Hershman said, “It wasn’t just the coaching. There was something about him that made him special. He’s a great role model. It wasn’t about him, it was always about the kids.”

While talking about Davenport’s legacy, Peckham paused, taking a second to reflect on his time with his friend and said simply, “I miss him.”

Peckham continued, “He was a close friend and a really wonderful supporter. He helped me a lot. He helped me grow up. I came here as a young guy, full of piss and vinegar, and Dud was the one to suggest to me that I could be a little different at times.

“His legacy is one that no one will ever completely live up to. Others may establish their own, but he had it all going for him.”

(Editor’s Note – Donations in Dudley Davenport’s memory can be made to the Davenport Scholarship Fund c/o Sharon Credit Union, 30 Pond St. Sharon, MA 02067.)

Hornets Outscore Sharon to Close in on Playoffs

Mansfield girls lacrosse
Katy Garvin (17) scored eight goals and assisted on three others to lead Mansfield to a win over Sharon in a shootout at Alumni Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was a game that saw two players reach career scoring milestones and another get significantly closer to one, as Mansfield and Sharon put on an attacking clinic Tuesday night at Alumni Field. The two teams combined for 33 goals in a game that was restarted after Monday’s storms washed out the first attempt to play it.

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Katy Garvin scored eight goals and recorded three assists, moving to within seven goals of 200 for her career, and Lauren Whitman scored five times, including the 100th of her career, to power the hosts to a 19-14 win. The Hornets now need one win in their final three regular season games to qualify for the tournament.

“We’ve been trying to hammer that down the last few practice because trust me, last week they didn’t look like that,” said first-year Mansfield coach Lauryn Wilkie. “They really took it to heart. They meshed well tonight, they found the net, their passing, their movement, all come together.”

Emma Eberhardt also scored eight times, reaching 200 career goals for the Eagles exactly a year to the day after she reached the 100-goal milestone. The Hockomock League leading scorer and Lehigh University-commit has nearly 90 goals this season alone.

On Monday night, Mansfield jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the opening three minutes only to have thunderstorms end the game early. Twenty-four hours later, the Hornets got out to the same fast start, grabbing a three-goal lead inside 10 minutes. Eberhardt opened the scoring but Garvin, an Endicott College-commit, scored a hat trick to give the Hornets a lead they would never relinquish.

Cass Barbera got one back for the Eagles but then Mansfield caught the Eagles in transition. Abby Varricchione started the break and fed the ball to Hayleigh Crawford, who in turn found Whitman right in front for her first of the night. After Eberhardt cut the lead to two, Rose Wald (seven saves) made a big stop on Crawford to keep the deficit at two but Caitlin McCarthy (nine saves) answered back by denying Eberhardt from a free position.

Mansfield took advantage of the stop to double its lead. Crawford got back-to-back goals for the Hornets, both of them assisted by Olivia Murray. Eberhardt scored with a pair of bounced shots to get Sharon within two but the Hornets closed the half with three straight goals, two by Garvin and one from Crawford, to take control.

The Eagles got the first of the second half, with Eberhardt picking out Jenna Goldstein for a goal that made it 10-6, but then the visitors found themselves playing down a person for a long stretch after three yellow cards.

Garvin scooped a loose ball and scored a man-up goal and, after Eberhardt scored her milestone goal, she flicked a pass to a cutting Whitman for a 12-7 lead. Kerry McCabe added another and the lead was six goals. Bridget McManus scored while down a player to make it 13-8, but she also suffered an injury in the second half that knocked her out of the game.

“We’re hoping it’s nothing too serious, but she’s a really big presence everywhere on the field for us, so that was tough for us too,” said Sharon coach Shara Ginthwain.

Goals were flying in at both ends of the field. McCabe assisted on a Whitman goal but was answered by Eberhardt from a free position. Goldstein got her second and third to get back within three again but Garvin got a free position and made it count.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Ginthwain said. “All season this team has done a really good job of pushing to come back and it didn’t happen today but they didn’t give up and that’s huge.”

Once again Eberhardt had the response, bouncing in a shot to make the score 15-12. Garvin assisted on a Whitman goal to get it right back for the hosts but Eberhardt was there again for the Eagles. Down by three, Goldstein had a chance in front but was stuffed by McCarthy. On the other end, Whitman got a chance at a free position and put it away to reach a century of goals for her career.

“Big saves at crucial moments,” Wilkie said of McCarthy. “It’s no secret that Emma is a terrific attacker. We shut down almost everyone else on the team but Katie came up big a lot.”

When asked about Whitman’s career scoring milestone, Wilkie added, “She’s been waiting for that. Lauren is the type of player that you put anywhere on the field and you trust her there. Defense, transition, midfield, those are her strengths, so for her to pull off 100 goals while she’s good at all that other stuff is just phenomenal.”

There was still three minutes left, plenty of time for a few more goals. Barbera got her second and then the Hornets finished it off with Emily Vigeant and Garvin each finding the back of the net in the closing minutes to round off the scoring.

“It kind of shows where we’re at,” Wilkie said of the win. “[Sharon] beat Bishop Feehan, beat North, and we lost to both those teams, so this shows them what kind of caliber we can be and I think it was really a good moment to get this win.”

Mansfield (8-7, 6-4) will travel to Watertown on Wednesday with the chance to clinch a playoff berth. Sharon (12-6, 6-4) will travel to Ursuline Academy looking to avenge a double overtime loss from earlier this season.

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