Howard Herman: It's been quite a run of success for the Hoosac girls
SPRINGFIELD >> It's sometimes hard to see the bigger picture when you are blinking away tears.
The bigger picture for the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team is that the Hurricanes have accomplished what most teams can only dream of. It might have been tough to focus on that when you were feeling disappointed after losing in the state final.
"Obviously, it's not very fun right now, but knowing that we've won four Western Mass. titles and I've played in three state championship games is amazing," Hoosac senior Madi Ryan said.
The Hurricanes came up short in their bid to win a first MIAA state basketball title, losing to Bishop Fenwick 57-48 in Saturday's Division III championship game at the MassMutual Center.
Ryan closed her four-year varsity career with four championships. She scored five of Hoosac's 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Hurricanes battled down until the final horn.
It isn't unprecedented what the Hurricanes have accomplished, but nobody in Berkshire County has won as many consecutive titles as Hoosac has done in a while. In fact, it has been 16 years since a team has won as many consecutive hoop titles as the Hurricanes have done. Monument Mountain won five straight from 1996-2000, while Lee is the standard bearer with seven titles from 1993-1999.
Like Ryan, senior Cassidy McMahon joined the Hurricane varsity as a freshman. She was smiling while wiping away some tears as she pondered the question about winning four straight titles.
"It doesn't seem impossible but it's definitely very rare," said McMahon, "especially making states three times in a row."
It all started for this crop of Hurricanes when they beat Drury 47-35 back in 2013 for the Western Mass. Division II title. Then came three consecutive D-III titles over Sabis, Granby and Drury earlier this month.
"My teammates, we all end up working so well together every year. It's an amazing accomplishment," Ryan said. "I'm glad we're going to go out of Hoosac with a reputation of champions.'
Of the three state finals Hoosac has played in, this was the first time Hoosac fans thought they might flip the script. Archbishop Williams beat the Hurricanes 69-46 last year while St. Mary's of Lynn scored a 74-36 win the year before.
"You can definitely see the younger girls are looking up to us," is what former Hoosac standout Jenn Gale said to me way back in 2013. "A group of [third and fourth graders] were here and they saw our [Western Mass. championship] display. They said 'Oh, I can't wait to get to this level.' "
That is what Wojcik wanted to grow when he took over six years ago, and something that has definitely come to fruition.
And both Wojcik and boys coach Bill Robinson have helped turn what was once only a football school into a school that is as much about basketball.
"The girls can't play football, although I know Ali Mendel wanted to play football," said Wojcik. "She's tough enough to do that.
"I think it's been great. The community has been so supportive."
McMahon chuckled when asked about turning Hoosac into a football school.
"We always joke with the football team. We joke back and forth about how basketball is better and they say football is better. It's fun," she said. "I think it's more fun with two special teams playing."
It's not like Wojcik's run is over, either.
Only Ryan and McMahon are seniors. Of the 15 players on the roster in the MIAA program, 10 of them were either ninth or 10th graders. The players who scored 36 of Hoosac's 48 points return next year. That includes freshmen Lexi Mercier and Mendel, who combined to score 11.
"Two teams from our division make it" to the state championship, said Hoosac's Fallon Field, a junior who had a game-high 17 points. Field will lead the Hurricanes again next year.
"We were lucky to have made it this far and I'm lucky to have experienced it every year so far," said Field. "I think everybody that has gone through it this year, we're going to want to come back next year and work even harder to get back here.
"It's a special experience for all of us."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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