MA volleyball coach John Garneau holds the state championship plaque after the team’s win last month. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 28, 2011MOULTONBORO – One season, three titles.
It was a season for the ages at Moultonboro Academy this fall, as the Panther athletic department brought home three state championships with wins in volleyball, golf and football.
"Back in 2000, we won two state titles in the same day with baseball and softball but we've never had three in a season so that's pretty incredible," said MA veteran athletic director Harry Blood.
Championship season got under way in early October, when the golf team claimed the Division IV state title with a dominating performance at Pheasant Ridge in Gilford. Junior Hayden Maroun added to the hardware when he was the two-day individual champion.
"I felt going into the season that golf was pretty solid…they brought back about everyone from their championship team the year before plus they were going into a new division," said Blood. "(Coach) Ken (Nilson) has done a great job of selling golf to those kids, they play a lot. We also have a middle school program running with 14 kids. Once the season started, to see what they were shooting for scores, the boys were scoring well across the board. It was just a matter of playing their game at the championship."
The Panthers performed as advertised at Pheasant Ridge following the undefeated regular season, as MA put four golfers into the individual championship round (Maroun, Matt Werren, Duncan Richards, Tim Casey) with Maroun, Werren and Richards going 1-2-3.
The girls' volleyball team sent the three seniors (Brittney Hale, Kassie Malm, Kelsi West) out in style with the Division III state title after a thrilling 3-2 win over Farmington at Plymouth State. The fifth-seeded Panthers beat top seed and defending champion Winnisquam, 3-2, in the semis before winning the crown two days later.
"I knew we'd be a good club," said Blood. "I think (coach) John (Garneau) at one point said he thought we could be a top four team. But then getting beat by Nute and Winnisquam in the regular season, we finish fifth. At that point, I think you say semifinals is a good goal but then bingo, you go on a roll. They didn't get intimidated, came out of the chute well and came back and stood tall.
"The image that stands out to me from that run is Kaitlin Slippy calling for the ball down the stretch," he continued. "A lot has to go right for a run like that and the girls pulled it off."
The crowds for both the semifinal and final matches at Plymouth State were electric, with seas of red and black evident throughout the gymnasium.
"In our whole history, when we've gone to Plymouth, the fans have showed up," Blood said. "That final game against Farmington, everyone was engaged. There was great cheering from both student bodies and it was just nerve-wracking for everyone. That's what you want in a championship game."
The Inter-Lakes/Moultonboro Academy co-operative football team waltzed through an undefeated season to claim the Division VI state championship. After MA players spent last year on the JV squad, this was the Panthers' first chance to be a part of the football program at the varsity level.
"Once they got by Franklin away, I thought they really had a shot at running the table," said Blood. "They just had to stay composed and not look ahead. (Coach) Paul (Lavigne) and his coaching staff did a great job not letting the kids look down the road. Their defensive line and offensive lines played great in the tournament, able to open up holes for the big running backs. We had a couple of kids in Nick Sindorf and Hunter Jensen that really made big plays in those last games."
The boys' soccer team almost made it four titles during the fall, as the Panthers made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Sunapee, 2-1, in overtime. MA, seeded ninth, beat Concord Christian in the first round before a big win over top-seeded Profile School in the quarters. The Panthers dominated play against Sunapee in the semifinals but couldn't break through in the loss.
"They had some huge losses to graduation but the kids still won 10 games," said Blood. "That game going up to Profile…you go to the North Country and it's a different kind of soccer, it doesn't matter who you play. I'm not sure they had a plan for us. I think they thought they were going to be able to walk all over us but (coach) Leo (Greene) and the guys had a plan, took it to them. To see them not lose their composure when Profile comes back to score, they dug in, scored again and rode the clock out for the win."
After falling in the quarterfinals last year, the Panthers had all of Division IV believing this season.
"Leo had them ready and they believed in it…it's cool when that happens," Blood explained. "It was just a fabulous run for them, to be one goal away from going to the finals. They made it a step further than the year before."
Add in other impressive performances, such as junior Joe Smith's second place finish in the state championship cross country meet, and the small school certainly didn't perform that way throughout the season.
"Basically all of the teams had success this fall in one way or another," said Blood. "The kids were talking about it all season in school. To have our student body create the 'Red Sea' in the volleyball semifinals, and then have someone as Moses splitting it…things like that are why we love high school sports."