Berkshires had some big wins and losses -- on and off fields -- in 2013
Wins and losses, arrivals and departures -- Berkshire County had all of them in 2013. Many individuals and schools represented themselves well at the state level. Some teams reached the top at the regional level. Some even played on a national stage.
Those wins have set up many questions for 2014, among them "Who's going to repeat?" and "Who's next?"
Before we find out, here is our list of 2013's top 10 sports stories:
1. New state playoff system for football; two reach state semifinals
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association replaced the football Super Bowl system with a real playoff tournament that culminated in state title games in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Taking advantage of the new system were Hoosac Valley and Wahconah, both of whom won Western Mass. crowns. The Warriors in Division IV defeated Agawam 20-0, while the Hurricanes in Division V stopped high-powered Easthampton 28-8. Both teams featured heavy-hitting defenses and diverse offenses. Oh, and in the battle of the Berkshires, the Warriors edged Hoosac 8-7 in Dalton during the regular season.
2. Berkshire Force return to Babe Ruth Softball World Series, which will return to Pittsfield in '14
The Berkshire Force 16-under team, featuring players from throughout the county, won a grueling New England tournament, then went on to compete in the World Series. They will be back, too, as Pittsfield will host the 2014 World Series.
The Force won the New England Babe Ruth softball crown on their home field in Pittsfield before traveling to Arkansas to play in the Series.
3. Longtime Wahconah boys basketball coach Ed Ladley steps aside
Ladley coached for 42 years at Wahconah, winning a state title in 1987 and outcoaching opponents from the Berkshires to Boston. The 1987 comeback from 19 points down in the fourth quarter is still one of the great stories in county history.
Overall, Ladley won 516 games, eighth best among Massachusetts coaches. Wahconah made it to the postseason 32 times in 42 years, winning five Western Mass. titles and the 1987 state crown.
4. Hoosac, Lee girls hoops win W. Mass. titles; Lee falls in state final
For the Hurricane girls in Division II, it was their first Western Mass. championship; for the Lee girls in Division III, their 20th. But both were sweet victories. Hoosac fell in the state semis, while Lee fell in the finals to an Archbishop Williams team that may have been one of the best in New England.
The Wildcats were led by all-everything Stephanie Young, a one-time All-Eagle Most Valuable Player, and their superb point guard, 2013 All-Eagle MVP Eileen Dooley. The Hurricanes came at teams with a swarming defense and an explosive transition offense.
5. Another hockey program is eliminated, as is Hennessy League
Not all news was good last year. St. Joseph dropped its hockey team, as storied a program as there was in the county. St. Joe players are now part of the Taconic program with THS and Pittsfield.
With only three teams in the county, the Hennessy League was also a casualty, making the county's other squads, Taconic, Wahconah and Mount Everett, independent teams.
All three remaining teams are co-op programs, meaning athletes from other schools participate in their respective programs.
6. Berkshire County runners sweep W. Mass. cross country titles, and county sweeps W. Mass. D-II state qualifying spots
Clearly, winning a Western Mass. cross country championship last fall meant going through Berkshire County. The Mount Greylock, Lenox and Monument boys and girls teams both finished one-two-three, respectively, in their respective team races.
Surprising, but not unexpected; Berkshire County is a tough league.
On the individual side, Tucker McNinch of Lenox and Emily Kaegi of Greylock won their D-II races.
7. Shastri wins state boys singles tennis title, as Greylock team wins W. Mass.
By the first week of county tennis play, everyone in Berkshire County knew that Greylock's No. 1 player, Rohan Shastri, was the county's No. 1 guy as well. By the end of the season, Shastri swept the individual Western Mass. and state crowns.
The senior was returning to high school competition after playing the in the junior USTA circuit, where he was ranked No. 1 in New England. But in an interview with The Eagle in May, Shastri admitted that he missed the team aspect of the sport, hence his return to the Mounties.
With Shastri leading the charge, Mount Greylock went unbeaten during the regular season, and won the Western Mass. team title, as well.
8. Williams women's crew team wins eighth consecutive Division III national title
Eight consecutive championships can't be overlooked. The Williams women's crew team beat the rest of the Division III field once again at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.
The Ephs were led by senior Dana Golden, who has won a national championship in all four years of her time at Williams.
9. Greylock boys Nordic team wins state title; girls finish second
Mount Greylock's Nordic ski teams did what they have done best for years: win. The Nordic boys team won Western Mass., while the girls were second.
For the Mountie boys, it was their sixth state title in seven years. They were led by Will Kirby, who finished fourth overall and led five Greylock boys who finished in the top 15.
The Greylock girls were led by Kat Chenail's seventh-place finish. They just missed out on their sixth consecutive state championship, losing by three points to Lincoln-Sudbury.
10. Led by UNC-Greensboro-bound Alicia Bazonski, Mount Everett softball wins W. Mass.
The affable Bazonski has a bazooka arm, and she showed it last spring, leading her team to the schools' second overall Western Mass. softball crown. Everett defeated defending Western Mass. champion Turners Falls, who were seeking their 10th consecutive sectional crown.
Later that year, Bazonski became the first Eagle athlete to accept a full athletic scholarship, to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro next year. First, of course, there is one final high school softball season to finish.
"We expect to do better this spring," said her coach, Kurt DeGrenier.
Other big 2013 stories
Allen Heights team wins third straight Josh Billings RunAground championship; Berkshire School wins New England prep championship in boys soccer, tops in national website poll for second straight year; Williams men's basketball reaches Elite Eight; Williams men's soccer reaches Final Four; Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15s win Western/Central state baseball championship; Pittsfield Babe Ruth 14s win Western State championship; Pittsfield Suns earn wild-card playoff berth; Drury golf team wins Western Mass. D-II championship, Lee second in D-III; Mount Everett's Lupiani, Taconic's Kuni win W. Mass. wrestling championships; Berkshire United men's rugby club wins New England championship, while high school teams compete in national invitationals; Greylock baseball reaches W. Mass. championship game; Pittsfield girls soccer upsets previously unbeaten Belchertown, reaches W. Mass. final; Greylock boys return to W. Mass. soccer final; Lenox's Scott Carpenter earns two Central/Western Mass. track championships; a pair of top-5 finishes for Taconic's George Sommerville at state swim meet; social-media movement in wake of W. Mass. swimming cancellation gets love from Olympians; local players win both Mass. Father-Daughter and Father-Son golf championships; Andy Congdon wins Allied men's and senior golf championships again
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