14 for '14: Hoosac Girls Were Story of the Year
It has been another busy sports year in the Berkshires, with sectional and state titles, individual accomplishments, national competitions and even a brand new pro franchise. Here are some of the top stories iBerkshires.com Sports has followed over the last 12 months:
1. Hoosac Valley girls basketball
About this time last year, the Hurricanes were coming home from the Magic Kingdom and continuing a maigical run to a second straight Western Massachusetts Division 3 title. Hoosac Valley went from Disney to the DCU Center in Worcester, site of the state Final Four, where the 'Canes advanced to the state title game before falling to a St. Mary's of Lynn team stocked with three seniors on their way to a high level of collegiate basketball. Most of last year's Hurricanes are back this winter, gunning for a third straight sectional crown. And Hoosac senior Emily Rosse already provided an early season highlight for Berkshire County basketball fans, scoring her 1,000th career point in Hoosac's first game of the season.
2. Berkshire County football
There is no denying that Berkshire County was the class of Western Mass when it comes to football in 2014. The county has teams competing in three divisions of football, and it claimed three sectional titles this fall: Wahconah, Pittsfield and McCann Tech. Wahconah went all the way to the state finals at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. But perhaps just as telling when describing the county's gridiron greatness this fall: Drury, which did not win a game inside the county, did not lose a game outside the county, going 3-0 against teams from elsewhere in Western Mass.
3. McCann Tech's Fall
Besides winning a sectional title in football -- the school's first -- the Hornets had an autumn to remember. McCann Tech's boys soccer team won the State Vocational tournament in a penalty kick shootout at Westfield Voc. The school's boys cross country team won a State Voc title of its own. And the football team, which posted the first undefeated regular season in school history, played in a state voc title game as well. The girls soccer team? Not too shabby, posting a 17-5 record with a spot in the Western Mass Division 4 quarter-finals.
4. Softball World Series
The summer doldrums were given the bum's rush by an exciting week of Babe Ruth Softball World Series action. The Berkshire Force hosted the top 16-and-under teams from around the country. And although the hometown team did not make it to the finals, the hometown fans were treated to fierce competition, and local hotels reaped the benefits of all those out-of-state players and families converging on Gerald S. Doyle Sr. Memorial Park.
5. Wahconah hockey
For a sport where the players are called "icers," Wahconah had the definition of a hot streak in February and March of 2014. Wahconah won 13 straight games on the way to claiming the Western Massachusetts Division 3-A title. Anchored by Swedish exchange student Hjalmar Gustafsson, Wahconah rallied from a 3-6-1 record to win 16 games. In the sectional final, it rallied from a 6-3 deficit after two periods to earn a 7-6 win.
6. Mount Greylock cross country skiing
The danger of consistent success is that it can be taken for granted. But every year is its own accomplishment, and Mount Greylock won its fourth straight boys Nordic title with six athletes finishing in the top 13 at Notchview. Most of that group returns this season, and the Mounties already showed at the season's first Berkshire County League meet that they will be a force to be reckoned with.
7. Lenox girls cross country running
The Millionaires were dominant all season and did not disappoint at Western Mass. Lenox tore up the course at the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center, taking four of the top five places and winning the Division 2 team title by a whopping 55 points over runner-up Mohawk Trail. Lenox's 27 points were a little less than double what it would have received for winning all five top places (15 points). Look out in 2015 -- all five scorers for Lenox return.
8. Monument Mountain baseball
The Spartans were no stranger to being the No. 1 seed in the Western Mass tournament. They were in 2010 and lost in the semi-finals. They were in '11 and lost in the quarters. They were in '12 and lost, 5-2, in the sectional final. They were in '13 and lost in the quarters. They were in 2014 and ... shut out Greenfield, 4-0, in the Western Mass Championship game. Monument went on to knock off the champions of Central Mass before falling in an 11-6 slugfest to Bellingham in the state final.
9. Williams College sports
See what we said about Mount Greylock, and take a moment to appreciate the consistent excellence of an Ephs program that in 2014 won its 17th Director's Cup, emblematic of all-sport achievement in NCAA Division III championship competition. Keep in mind, the cup has been awarded only 19 times. Included in the most recent title run, a runner-up finish for the school's men's basketball team, which hammered rival Amherst, 98-69, in the national semi-finals, before losing by two to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the national title game. This fall, Williams women's soccer team got even closer to grabbing the brass ring, falling to Lynchburg in a penalty-kick shootout in the national final ... and leading the way in Williams' drive for Cup No. 18.
10. Berkshire Battalion
Not a high school or college sports fan? Not a problem. The Berkshire Battalion brought semi-pro ice hockey to North Berkshire this fall with its inaugural season in the Federal Hockey League. The team has had some bumps in the road. It enters the new year four points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the six-team Federal Hockey League, and its ownership (the league) fired its coach without any explanation back when the team was 9-10 and three games removed from a four-game winning streak. But, hey, hockey is hockey, and modest but enthusiastic crowds have been coming out to games at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Rink.
11. Rugby National Championship
It did not have the exposure of the Babe Ruth Softball tourney, but the 15th annual Girls High School Rugby National Championship Tournament was quite a show for those who made their way to Taconic High School. The Berkshire United High School Boys and Girls Rugby Club welcomed 23 teams for two days of competition.
That Drury High School football team that contributed to the county's dominance this fall? Actually, it was the Drury-St. Joseph football team. The storied but struggling Crusaders football program succumbed to declining numbers and joined Drury in a co-operative for football starting this fall. Co-ops are becoming more commonplace, particularly with the advent of sports like lacrosse, which don't always have the numbers of more established sports like track, baseball and softball in the spring. And co-ops are not always the result of underachievement. The Hoosac Valley swim team -- already a co-operative of North County schools -- went undefeated in girls dual meets last winter but this winter entered a new co-op under the banner of St. Joseph.
13. Mount Greylock lacrosse
The Mounties won the inaugural Central/Western Mass Division 3 sectional in a defensive battle against Grafton. Mount Greylock won 20 games and featured the most prolific single-season scorer in Massachusetts high school lacrosse history: Michael McCormack. McCormack scored 134 goals and registered 191 points last spring.
14. BCC turf field
We'll borrow this story from iBerkshires.com's news page, but no story that happened in 2014 figures to have more impact on the local sports scene in years to come. In November, Gov. Deval Patrick announced $1.1 million in state funds for a new athletic facility and artificial turf field at Berkshire Community College. "This field will be the only one of its kind in the whole county, improving the lives of students, athletes and residents," Patrick said.
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