Get remembered for HHS sports

Max NYe

Hopkinton High School boys’ soccer goalie Max Nye makes a save in a game earlier this season.

Hopkinton High School athletic director Kiley Murray thought this would be a relatively quiet part of her schedule as the regular fall season has ended and winter sports are still a few weeks away.

But the HHS fall sports lineup produced one of the best seasons in recent memory across the board, with championship titles and major turnarounds in a league where the Hillers sent nearly every team into the postseason. Instead of a lighter schedule, Murray has been busy making sure teams can secure grass pitches for practice and scrimmages ahead of their tournament pitches.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Murray said.

Several of Hopkinton’s teams continued in what has become an enduring success. The boys cross-country team finished the doubles 5-0 and took first place at the Tri-Valley League showcase meeting. The girls also repeated their success from a season ago, finishing 4-1 in league meetings and finishing second at the TVL meeting.

After a picture-perfect season and state championship in 2021, the girls volleyball team finished 10-5 in the TVL and 11-9 overall to earn a spot in the state playoffs.

“They had a really steep hill to climb, with a lot of new players on the field, a new coach and the same tough league and non-league schedules,” Murray said. “Those four non-league losses were the product of the coach [Emma] Sweetapple challenged them with some tough games and the girls only performed better as the season progressed.”

Another typical powerhouse that lived up to expectations was the golf team, who finished undefeated.

“It’s been a really good year,” said coach Bill Phaneuf. “Staying unbeaten is a great task because there are some really good teams in this league. It was tough, but the kids fought all year. I think they were proud of themselves and I’m certainly proud of them.”

The golf team placed eighth in the Division 1 section tournament, which saw the Hillers compete against some of the largest and most talented golf programs in the state and had two players in their 80s.

Some Hopkinton programs saw major turnarounds compared to last year. The football team doubled their winning streak and emerged 6-2 from the eighth game of the season after losing 3-4 a season ago. The Hillers missed the playoffs only because of the high bar in that sport compared to some other team sports that fall.

Ally Valencia

First-year coach Ally Valencia (right) took over a field hockey team that won a game last year and led the Hillers to a solid 9-4-5 regular season. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

The biggest turnaround belonged to the field hockey program. After a 1-15-1 aggregate last year, the Hillers qualified for the playoffs by ending the regular season with a 9-4-5 aggregate and a 7-3-4 record in the TVL.

“The girls were super focused, they knew what they had to do to get to the tournament,” said field hockey coach Ally Valencia. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised. After the preseason I saw how much talent they had. They just needed a little more focus and structure for their practices and games.”

Valencia said the team is keen to look the season in the rear-view mirror with a win and focus on getting better this autumn. The team also noted that the school’s other successful programs had noticed their success.

“I think they were super proud,” said Valencia. “From what I’ve heard, players from other teams were like, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good this year,’ and I think that encouraged them. Knowing other teams were noticing them, they realized they were proving a lot of people wrong.”

On the soccer field, both the boys’ and girls’ programs won TVL championships. The boys’ team finished the tournament 15-1-2 overall and 13-1-2 in the league, taking home their first TVL crown since 2009.

“We lost some good players from last year’s squad who did well but we had a lot of good players with experience coming back and a big senior group so we knew we had a chance to have a really good season play,” said boys football coach Garrett Sawyer. “Right from the start, we set ourselves the goal of winning a title. We talked about how it hadn’t happened since 2009.”

Sawyer said his team is thrilled that this goal has been realized.

“All the hard work they put in paid off and I think they were really happy about it,” he said.

Sawyer said the kids on different teams nurtured each other at school and were aware of each other’s successes.

“There’s a lot of positive momentum among the kids,” he said.

Girls’ soccer, under coach Tom Skiba, compiled an 11-2-3 league record and a 12-3-3 overall score to win what is believed to be the first TVL championship in program history.

“The team has really grown together on and off the field and supports each other very well,” said Skiba, describing his team’s reaction to the championship title as “pure joy”.

Although it had never happened before, Skiba said one of the team’s goals is to capture a TVL crown and a “point of pride” for being one of many successful Hopkinton programs this fall.

“They all want to represent the school and the city well,” he said. “The kids and the team have the confidence that they can do as well as any other team and they just do it because they have confidence and want to succeed.”

The HHS cheerleading program continued a successful season by earning a spot in regional competition. The unified basketball program, as Murray described it, had an “incredible” turnout, with 15 athletes and 15 partners participating in a schedule that included eight games and a season-ending jamboree. The program, in its sixth season, is the largest in the TVL.

Murray pointed out that about half of the fall programs have coaches who are at the helm in either their first or second seasons.

“It’s been great to see them build that momentum in their programs, and every single coach is a character coach, so for them it’s not just about winning and losing,” Murray said. “I’m really proud of the Hillers this fall.”

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