MILFORD, Mass. – Holding onto a seven-point lead with a little more than a minute remaining in Tuesday night’s game against Davenport division rival Canton, Milford moved the ball around the perimeter to run clock. Despite the pressure from the Canton guards, the Hawks were able to keep the ball moving until it got to senior guard Kate Irwin on the left wing.
The lefty point guard took two hard dribbles to get space and pulled up from just inside the three-point line. Irwin got a clean look and hit nothing but net on the last of her game-high 26 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
Irwin’s jumper effectively sealed a 49-38 victory for the Hawks, who move into a tie with the Bulldogs for second place in the division ahead of the visit of league leading Foxboro on Friday.
“We played that to perfection,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver of the team’s penultimate possession. “I’m happy to see that because when we played Stoughton we didn’t handle the end of game situation well and that bucket there is the difference in the game. We ran 25 seconds off and made a bucket.”
Irwin had only two points in the first quarter, as Canton junior Maggie Connolly made her work for every shot. The imposing figures of 6-foot-3 Erin Devine and 6-foot-1 Hannah Jerrier in the paint also made it difficult to find good looks at the rim.
Senior guard Emily Piergustavo picked up the slack for the Hawks in the first with seven of her nine points, including a a three and a basket from an offensive rebound. Devine led the Bulldogs with four and it was a three-point edge for the Hawks heading to the second.
That was when Irwin started to catch fire. She opened the second with a traditional three-point play off a steal, scored off a Piergustavo offensive rebound and assist and then got another steal and transition basket.
“Getting to the hoop in the half court was going to be difficult,” said Dolliver about his team’s desire to run at every opportunity, “so luckily we got our good looks in transition and we were getting to the hoop.”
Canton continued to keep the game close, despite only getting four points from Jerrier. The team’s leading scorer was blanketed by Milford’s 2-3 zone with all of the Hawks making sure to know where the senior was at all times. The zone opened up opportunities from the outside and junior guard Julia Hamilton (nine points) made a pair of threes, the second of which tied the score at 24-24 in the third quarter.
“We get into a lot of situations where we defer to the bigs because they’re talented and it’s part of our game plan to utilize them, so it’s nice to have Julia do one of the things she’s good at and help our team get us ahead in that area,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette.
Jerrier (10 points and 11 rebounds) scored off a Connolly assist to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead, but Milford went on a 9-2 run to finish the third with a five-point advantage. Irwin scored eight of those final nine points, hitting a pair of pull-up jumpers and scoring twice off of steals.
“She always makes the difference,” said Dolliver of Irwin. “She’s a tough kid too. I get on her now and then and she handles it well.”
The game remained tight in the fourth quarter. Jerrier scored on a putback to start the fourth, but Gillian Valanzola scored off an Irwin assist to answer. Hamilton got the ball into Devine for a basket at the rim and, after Jess Tomaso scored to push the lead back to four, Molly Ludwig scored off another Hamilton assist to make it 37-35.
Again, the Hawks were able to close a quarter strongly. Kate Lobisser rattled in her only basket of the night to get the run started and Irwin added three more with a finish, plus the contact, following a steal. After the teams traded a series of free throws, Irwin got open in the corner and hit the dagger jumper to ensure the win.
“We didn’t execute enough to win,” admitted Choquette. “You have to give credit to Milford…at the end of the day, they just made more of those little things that they had to right. The score’s not as close as the game was, but in a close game it comes down to the team that makes the extra play.”
Milford’s ability to compete with Canton’s size on the glass was also a factor in limiting the Bulldog’s offense. Tomaso and Valanzola each finished with six rebounds, while Irwin and Juliana Tracy each finished with five.
Dolliver explained, “I don’t know how many offensive rebounds they had but they had their fair share and they’re going to get their fair share in every game, but that was a point of emphasis before the game because that’s where a lot of their points come from.”
Milford (5-2, 3-2) will host league leading Foxboro on Friday night. Canton (4-2, 3-2) will be back home on Friday to face Sharon.
Stoughton, 53 @ Milford, 68 – Final – Milford seniors Kayden Kelley and Andrew Fraioli both recorded double-doubles to help the Scarlet Hawks take down the Black Knights. Kelley had a team-high 14 points along with 10 rebounds while Fraioli had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Juniors Brendan White added 10 points and junior Brendon Sailer netted a career-high 10 points in his first career start.
Canton, 64 @ North Attleboro, 57 – Final – Canton’s Hannah Jerrier had a monster night, scoring 30 points while hauling in 15 rebounds and dishing out four assists.
Stoughton, 32 @ Milford, 37 – Final – Kate Irwin was the top scorer for the Hawks with 19 points, while Jess Tomaso chipped in with seven and Emily Piergustavo had six.
King Philip, 2 @ Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 1 – Final – King Philip’s Avari Maxwell shorthanded goal at 11:22 of the third period – which turned out to be the game-winner – helping the Warriors secure two points in a key league game. MOA took the lead in the first off a goal from Mackenzi Fraser (assisted by Isabelle Shanteler and Cat Luciano) but the Warriors tied the game with just 26 seconds left in the period on a goal from Nicole Connor. KP head coach Jake Unger credited the defensive play of Jessica Daniels and Katie Crowther, as well as the strong play of goalie Lilly Potts.
Attleboro, 61 vs. Bishop Feehan, 48 – Final – Attleboro had six players scored eight or more points, and used a mini-run in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Shamrocks. Up 49-42, the Bombardiers put together a six-point surge that put the game away with just over two minutes to play. Sophomore Bryant Ciccio had a team-high 15 points while classmate Qualeem Charles had eight points and 17 rebounds. Junior Dom Victor added 12 points and eight rebounds, senior Nate Douglas and junior Mason Houle each scored nine points and senior Elvin Sam chipped in with eight points.
Foxboro, 48 vs. Shaler Area (PA), 37 – Final – Foxboro limited Shaler Area to just 14 points in the first half and just 25 points through three quarters to win its bracket in the KSA Holiday Tournament at Disney. Senior Joe Morrison dropped a team-high 14 points and was named tournament MVP. Bobby Harrison added eight points and sophomore Ryan Hughes chipped in with seven points in the win.
King Philip, 48 vs. Braintree, 66 – Final
North Attleboro, 64 @ Lincoln-Sudbury, 59 – Final – North Attleboro saw its eight-point lead shrink down to just three with 20 seconds to play, but junior guard Josh Montague hit a pair of free throws to tie a career-high with 25 points, helping the Rocketeers win the Warrior Winter Slam championship game. North led 34-27 at the half and 46-38 heading into the final quarter. Montague earned tournament MVP honors while Chad Peterson (14 points) and junior Jake Petersen (six points) were named to the all-tournament team.
Attleboro, 26 @ Bishop Feehan, 54 – Final
Milford, 55 @ Hopedale, 27 – Final – Kate Irwin scored 15 points and had five assists for the Hawks, who picked up a big win over their neighbors. Jess Tomaso scored 10 points and pulled down nine rebounds and Gillian Valanzola had nine points and 13 boards for Milford.
North Attleboro, 30 vs. Westwood, 28 – Final – Julia Feid was the top scorer for the Rocketeers with 14 points to lead North to its first victory of the season.
Foxboro, 3 @ Saint John Paul II, 1 – Final
Franklin, 2 vs. Bishop Guertin, 1 – Final
Lowell Holiday Tournament (Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Stoughton) – Franklin had the best showing among Hock teams, placing seventh overall with 112.5 points. Jordan Carlucci (126) placed fifth overall and TJ Remillard (132) took seventh in his bracket. For Foxboro, senior Phil Dure was eighth overall in the 126 bracket and the Warriors earned 64 points. Canton earned 50 points and Stoughton had 31 points.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”
WORCESTER, Mass. – While the Hawks had not trailed at all in their playoff run and rarely trailed over the course of the season, Milford coach Steve DiVitto insisted after each game that his team knew how to bounce back and overcome a deficit to win.
Milford (25-1) waited until the final game of the season to prove him right.
Despite falling behind by three runs in the second inning of Saturday evening’s Div. 1 state championship game at Worcester State University’s Rockwood Field, the Hawks’ confidence never wavered. Senior pitcher Ali Atherton retired 16 of the final 19 batters she faced and the prolific Milford offense found its swing to pull out a 7-3 victory and earn the program’s first state title since winning the second of two straight titles 2013.
“They came out early and threw the first knockout blow,” said DiVitto, “and we responded and that’s what championship teams do. In big spots and big moments, you respond.”
He added, “You’ve got to be able to ride those peaks and valleys as this game goes on and they did just that and we’re back on top.”
Atherton said, “After the second inning, I said that I really didn’t want to lose my last game wearing a Milford uniform, so that’s what pushed me through the last innings. I didn’t want to lose my last game at Milford High.”
Milford had gone 15 innings without allowing a run (since the seventh inning of the South semifinal against Hopkinton) before the Mountaineers came to bat in the top of the second. The Central champions, making their first state title game appearance, seemed to figure out Atherton.
A single and an error put the first two hitters in scoring position and senior catcher Lizzie Miles drove a single to right that scored both runs. Kiana Lloyd followed with a hit to left, but Maggie Farrell fired to the plate and Emily Hartman just hung on to cut down Miles trying to score. Lloyd moved up to second on the throw and then to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Paige Arvidson infield single.
Atherton explained, “In the second inning, they adjusted. They were crowding the plate and hitting my curve ball so hard. That hadn’t happened to me all season, but I realized I needed our catcher to set up more outside and my curveballs were more effective off the plate.”
Milford bounced right back in the bottom half of the inning. Hartman was hit by a pitch to lead-off and Kelley Reichert beat out an infield single. With one out, Shannon Cormier reached on an error to load the bases for Kate Irwin and the energetic centerfielder got the Milford bench going with an infield hit to score one. Hockomock League MVP Emily Piergustavo drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and the lead was down to one.
DiVitto said, “We told the girls, let’s not panic, let’s stay within ourselves and play our game. We know what we’re capable of doing, we’ve done it for 25 straight games, and they’re just a team that competes.”
Atherton allowed only two Wachusett hits over the final five innings, as she started to look more like the pitcher that had thrown back-to-back shutouts to reach the final.
When asked about Atherton’s performance in the final, DiVitto said, “Today? How about Ali for the last six games of the playoffs? She has been outstanding. She has been a rock.”
“Once probably the fourth inning came, I felt like I was in a groove but I had to stay up and stay focused,” Atherton explained. “I knew that the mentally strong pitcher was going to come out on top today, so I had to stay grounded.”
In the bottom of the fourth, Milford took the lead. Cormier worked a one-out walk and two batters later Piergustavo drove a ball that one-hopped the centerfield fence for a game-tying double. Farrell, another of the team’s three seniors, followed with a single that plated Piergustavo with what turned out to be the game-winning run.
“Our mentality was to bounce back,” said Piergustavo of the comeback. “If you get punched, then punch back harder. There’s no better feeling than the way we came back.”
Wachusett tried to put together a rally of its own in the sixth inning. Brigid Griffin singled to left just past the dive of Piergustavo, but was forced out at second on Courtney Lanpher’s grounder. Lanpher then went first-to-third on a grounder back to the pitcher to put the tying run only 60 feet away with two outs.
A fly ball to Cormier in right ended the threat and allowed Milford to breathe a sigh of relief. In the bottom half of the inning, the Hawks broke the game wide open and calmed nerves both on the field and in the bleachers.
Cormier, Irwin, and Piergustavo each singled to start the sixth and load the bases. Farrell drove in her second run with a sac fly to left and junior Jess Tomaso brought in another with a single to right. Senior Kaitlyn DeCapua made it 7-3 with another sac fly and the trophy felt like it was in Milford’s grasp.
A comebacker to Atherton and a leaping grab on a line drive by Cormier put the Hawks on the brink and fittingly it was DeCapua who would record the final out, pulling in a foul pop fly to seal the championship that she and the other seniors had been dreaming about for four years.
“I knew one day we’d make it here,” DeCapua said. “I remember being a seventh and eighth grader watching the state championship and I just knew one day I’d be here. It’s amazing; words can’t describe it.”
Piergustavo, whose sister Allie was a starter on the 2013 championship team, added, “It’s amazing. We had wristbands that said ‘Rise Together’ and we rose together to win this championship. There’s no better feeling right now. Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team.”
The seniors were not the only newcomers to the team four years ago. DiVitto also took over as the new head coach that spring and immediately had to answer questions about how to replace a class that won three state titles. He had his answer on Saturday.
“Four years ago, this journey started with these four seniors,” DiVitto remarked, “and four years ago it was the question of where is this program going to go because of the great graduating class in 2013 and how are you going to replace all of them?
“Take a look at the scoreboard and that’s how you replace them; by a team that sticks together, by a team that believes in each other and that’s what it’s all about.”
Below are the official 2017 Hockomock League Softball All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Emily Piergustavo, Milford
Hockomock League All Stars
McKenzie Bergdoll, Attleboro
Hannah Davis, Foxboro
Ally Shea, Franklin
Jenn Hutnyan, King Philip
Meghan Gorman, King Philip
Mady Bendanillo, Mansfield
Emily Piergustavo, Milford
Jess Tomaso, Milford
Ali Atherton, Milford
Maggie Farrell, Milford
Kate Irwin, Milford
Megan Barlow, North Attleboro
Bella Erti, North Attleboro
Victoria Ziner, Oliver Ames
Clara Cook, Sharon
Gina Carafa, Stoughton
Courtney Fisher, Taunton
Jaime Brown, Taunton
Kya Enos, Taunton
MacKenzie Handrahan, Taunton
McKenzie Killough, Attleboro
Evelyn Carrington, Canton
Lexi Buckner, Foxboro
Jackie Cherry, Franklin
Hailey McCasland, King Philip
Kara Bendanillo, Mansfield
Kaitlyn DeCapua, Milford
Liz Morehouse, North Attleboro
Caroline Mahoney, Oliver Ames
Samantha Marglous, Sharon
Jordan Lyons, Stoughton
Hanna Aldrich, Taunton
For a history of recent Hockomock League Softball All Stars, check out our history section. You can also see all stars from other sports in our history section. Attleboro Canton Foxboro Franklin King Philip Mansfield Milford North Attleboro Oliver Ames Sharon Stoughton Taunton Attleboro Canton Foxboro Franklin King Philip Mansfield Milford North Attleboro Oliver Ames Sharon Stoughton Taunton Attleboro Canton Foxboro Franklin King Philip Mansfield Milford North Attleboro Oliver Ames Sharon Stoughton Taunton Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Attleboro Canton Foxboro Franklin King Philip Mansfield Milford North Attleboro Oliver Ames Sharon Stoughton Taunton Attleboro Canton Foxboro Franklin King Philip Mansfield Milford North Attleboro Oliver Ames Sharon Stoughton Taunton Attleboro Canton Foxboro Franklin King Philip Mansfield Milford North Attleboro Oliver Ames Sharon Stoughton Taunton Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League Hockomock League
TAUNTON, Mass. – On Saturday afternoon, Milford played a near perfect game to hand Silver Lake its first loss of the season and win the Div. 1 South title. On Tuesday night in the state semifinal, back at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field, the Hawks showed that even when not at their best, they have enough grit to come out on top.
Despite Newton North putting runners in scoring position in five of the seven innings, Milford escaped unscathed each time and scored a pair of unearned runs to grind out a 3-0 victory and advance to the state championship game for the first time since winning the Div. 1 title four years ago.
“It’s great to know that maybe the bats aren’t at their best and our defense at times wasn’t at its best and Ali [Atherton] in a couple of innings maybe wasn’t at her best, but when push came to shove, man did they step up,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto, who joined the program along with this senior class and will be making his first state final appearance this weekend.
Atherton, the senior pitcher, tossed a one-hitter in the South final against the Lakers, but the Tigers beat that total in the top of the first. With runners at second and third and two outs, Atherton struck out her opposite number Madison Schaefer to get out of the jam.
The Hawks took the lead in their first at-bats. Emily Piergustavo drew a one-out walk, followed by a Maggie Farrell single to right. Jess Tomaso lined a single to right that brought in the opening run and moved Farrell to third. Schaefer avoided a big inning by getting a bouncing ball right back to her and a strikeout to end the threat.
The Tigers put the lead-off runner on in the second on a rare Milford error. After a strikeout and a sliding catch by centerfielder Kate Irwin on a sinking line drive, the Tigers loaded the bases with back-to-back singles. Again, Atherton was able to bear down and get a fly ball to end the inning.
Milford doubled its lead in the bottom of the second. Maddy Bonvino drew a one-out walk and, after a fly ball out, stole second to get into scoring position for Irwin. The junior lead-off hitter singled to center and the ball bounced by the fielder to allow Bonvino to score easily.
“It’s nice to be in the lead,” DiVitto said. “It’s better than the other way around because the nerves settled in a little bit and it was big for our girls to get those runs early. But, we’ve been behind a couple times this year and been able to battle back, so ahead, behind, they just have a great mindset.”
Atherton settled down with the lead and allowed only one hit over the next three innings. The Hawks added a crucial insurance run in the fifth. Irwin reached on an error and stole second. Piergustavo popped it up in foul territory near the Tigers bench and, after making the grab, the first baseman attempted to pick off Irwin at second, but the throw got away.
Irwin flew home with the third run and her energy fired up both her teammates and the traveling Milford support in the bleachers.
“She was huge for us tonight,” said DiVitto of Irwin. “That play at second base, we work on that all year. Take a couple jab steps and force a throw and she forced a throw and that’s a huge insurance run going into the seventh inning; 3-0 is a big change from two.”
Holding a three-run lead in the seventh, Milford had one foot in the state final, but the Tigers would not go quietly.
With one out, Holly Chin singled and an error brought the tying run to the plate. Atherton reached back for a little extra to get a strikeout, but then walked the next hitter to load the bases and bring a potential go-ahead run up to bat. With the Tigers faithful as loud as they had been all night, Atherton induced a comebacker to put an end to the rally.
When asked what he was thinking as the Tigers loaded the bases, DiVitto responded, “Ali was going to find a way to get three outs. I have a lot of confidence in her. Four years of her in the circle, she is a warrior and she has been for four years.”
He added, “That’s what a winner does. That’s what a girl who’s got guts does. [Ali] was great on Saturday, no girls on base, she was cruising. Tonight she ran into a little trouble but the same demeanor on the mound. She was locked in.”
The Hawks have had a target on their backs since the beginning of the season, as they entered as heavy favorites in the Davenport division and as one of the favorites in Div. 1 South. DiVitto tried to explain what carried the Hawks to this point.
He said, “These girls play for each other and they’re excited for each other. Whenever anything happens with their teammates, they’re excited for them. A girl could go 0-for-4 but still be excited we won and that’s big.”
Milford (24-1), riding a 24-game win streak, will face Central champion Wachusett on Saturday at Worcester State University (time to be determined).
TAUNTON, Mass. – In each of the past two seasons, Milford and Silver Lake have met in the Div. 1 South quarterfinal and each time the Lakers had come out on top. On Saturday afternoon, the two teams met again, but this time the sectional’s top two seeds faced off at Taunton High’s sun-drenched Jack Tripp Field with the South title on the line.
For the Milford seniors, whose careers began just a year after the program won the second of back-to-back state titles, this was not just a chance to get revenge on the Lakers, but also an opportunity to add to the program’s legacy of success.
It was an opportunity that those seniors would not let slip away.
Ali Atherton tossed a one-hitter against the potent Silver Lake lineup, which had put up 18 runs in two other games against Hock opponents in the tournament; Maggie Farrell went 3-for-4 and drove in what turned out to be the game winning runs with a third inning double; and Kaitlyn DeCapua went 2-for-4 with an RBI, as the Hawks beat previously unbeaten Silver Lake 4-0 to clinch their second South title.
“That’s what seniors do,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “They were just outstanding today. On the bus it was crickets on the way here, that was the focus and that’s how they’ve been all year.”
He added, “Ever since we lost here in early April (in the season-opener against Taunton), they’ve been on a mission and they’re not going to let anything get in their way.”
Atherton, the Southern New Hampshire-bound pitcher, stepped into the circle as a freshman with the unenviable task of following arguably the best pitcher in state history, Shannon Smith. Four years later and facing the biggest game of her career, Atherton rose to the occasion and matched one of Smith’s achievements by tossing a shutout in the South final.
“Obviously not her greatest outing the other night (against Hopkinton),” said DiVitto, “and she comes out here today and [has] probably one of her better outings she’s had in her four years. What a great job by her today.”
Atherton held the Lakers hitless through 4-1/3 innings, allowed only one infield single, one walk, and just two balls out of the infield. Considering the stage and the lineup that she was facing, it could could be argues this was the best pitching performance of her career.
“On the bus, I was thinking about how I was going to pitch these girls,” Atherton explained. “I’ve faced them so many times, I know how they’re going to hit. I know what they want to do with the ball, so I know where I want to put my pitches.”
She continued, “The outside low corner was crucial for me today, especially against the top of the order. They want to pull the ball, they want the ball inside, so I didn’t throw much inside. My catcher (Emily Hartman) and I were working all game and I knew I wanted to stay low today.”
The Hawks also needed to flash the leather behind Atherton, who remarkably finished her one-hitter with no strikeouts. Maddy Bonvino got it started with a leaping grab of a liner in the second inning to rob Anna Battista of a hit and in the fourth Farrell came charging in to make a shoestring grab on a sinking line drive off the bat of Kelly Danahy.
“Our defense has been rock solid all year long,” said DiVitto, “and today was just an example of that and Ali having the confidence in the girls behind her to be able to throw strikes.”
Milford had a base hit in each of its first two at-bats but Silver Lake pitcher Jillian Richards also looked sharp, using her off-speed pitches to keep the Hawks guessing. That changed in the third.
Shannon Cormier started the inning with a single to second and moved up a base on a wild pitch. Kate Irwin followed by beating out an infield single. A grounder to first moved both runners up into scoring position for Farrell, who got the pitch she was waiting for and drilled a double into the gap in left center.
“It was just like the perfect pitch, right where I wanted it and I knew I had to go for that one,” Farrell said. “As long as we just kept our head on it then she was right down the middle.”
With two outs, DeCapua singled up the middle to bring Farrell around with the third run and the Hawks had momentum and budding confidence.
Farrell said, “We knew we had to jump on them early and keep going throughout the game. Once we got those three runs, we weren’t done. We had to keep pushing and keep trying to get more runs.”
Milford had the chance to tack on runs in the fifth when Farrell singled with two outs and Jess Tomaso reached on an error, but Richards got a ground out to end the inning. In the bottom half, Battista reached on a grounder that was knocked down by Bonvino for the Lakers first hit, but Atherton got back-to-back grounders to end any threat.
In the sixth, the Hawks added an insurance run. Kelley Reichert and Bonvino each singled with one out and Cormier drew a walk to load the bases. Irwin blooped a ball in between the left field and shortstop to make it 4-0.
DiVitto said, “We’re a complete, total team effort and you could see that one through nine in our lineup today, girls making it happen in the lower part of the lineup getting things going for us. It’s a team effort…and it’s a great team win.”
Milford could not break the game open, as Richards got out of the jam without allowing another run. A two-out walk to Danahy in the bottom of the sixth put a little pressure on Atherton, but she got Caroline Videtto to ground out to second leaving power hitter Emily Critch waiting in the on-deck circle.
The Lakers put on their rally caps for the bottom of the seventh and the Silver Lake bench was as loud as it had been all game, but Atherton made short work of the final inning before leaping into her teammates’ arms as South champion.
“This is an amazing feeling,” said Atherton. “This is what me, Kaitlyn and Maggie wanted to do all four years. We’ve been working towards this point. My team did amazing today and they’re really the reason that we won.”
When asked about the reasons for the team’s success, DiVitto added, “Terrific kids that show up every day with a positive attitude that support each other. It makes our life that much easier to come to the field every single day with a group of girls that want to be here [and] that want to be with each other.”
He also noted, “It’s great to get the win here today, but we’re not done, we’re not satisfied. We need to be ready to go on Tuesday against a really good team from the North.”
Milford (23-1) will put its 23-game win streak on the line against the North champion (either Newton North or Billerica) on Tuesday at Jack Tripp Field at 7:00.
Today’s games are listed below. We will update this post with any postponements or changes that we receive.
Baseball D1 South
#1 Franklin, 3 vs. #8 Durfee, 15 – Final
#13 Milford, 1 @ #5 Greater New Bedford, 2 – Final
#10 Oliver Ames @ #2 Dighton-Rehoboth – Postponed to Tuesday, 6/6 at 4:00.
Softball D1 South
#2 Milford, 17 vs. #10 Norwood, 1 – Final (5 inn.) – Milford scored nine runs with two outs in the second inning, setting the tone in a blowout win over Norwood. After a pair of pop ups, Milford earned a walk, reached on back to back errors and walked again. Maggie Farrell (2-for-4, six RBI) launched a grand slam and the Scarlet Hawks followed with a double, a singe, a triple, a single and a double to stretch its lead to 10-1. Emily Piergustavo went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, a walk, a double and an RBI, Jess Tomaso had three hits, an RBI and two runs scored, Emily Hartman had two hits – a double and a triple – and drove in two runs and Maddy Bonvino was 2-for-2 with a double, a stolen base and two RBI. Ali Atherton stuck out six in four innings of work, scattering three hits with no earned runs allowed.
#20 Mansfield, 3 @ #4 Marshfield, 4 – Final – Marshfield battled back from a 3-0 deficit, including two runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull out the win. The game-winner came on a sacrifice fly with the Marshfield runner narrowly sneaking in ahead of the throw. Mansfield coach Lori Letendre said, “It was an incredible game with awesome plays from both sides!” Mansfield jumped into a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Liz Mackin drove in two with a double to right and Marissa Staffier drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. Kara Bendanillo, Megan Letendre, Caty DeMassi and Mackin each had two hits in the game for the Hornets and Sarah Cahill allowed only four hits and stuck out two in the circle. Letendre added, “Very proud of the way the girls battled all season!”
Boys Tennis D1 South
#5 King Philip, 0 @ #4 BC High, 5 – Final
#7 Franklin @ #2 Brookline – Postponed to Tuesday, 6/6 at a time and location to be announced.
#1 Sharon, 4 vs. #8 Milton, 1 – Final
#7 Foxboro, 0 @ #2 Duxbury, 5 – Final
Girls Tennis D1 South
#1 Sharon, 4 vs. #8 Brookline, 1 – Final
#7 North Attleboro @ #2 Wellesley – Postponed to Tuesday, 6/6 at 4:00. D2 South
#8 Foxboro @ #1 Hingham – Postponed to Tuesday, 6/6 at 3:00 at The Weymouth Club.