BIG in 2011
Vets’ perfect storm
The Warwick Vets wrestling program knew a while ago that 2011 would be its year.
And the ’Canes left no doubt.
Led by the seniors who sparked all the talk of big things, Vets rolled over the competition at the state tournament, winning the championship by 50 points. It was the first wrestling title for the school since 2001, and for this group, it was sweet.
Many of the team members wrestled together with the Warwick PAL program. They knew even then that, if they stuck together, they could do something big at the high-school level.
A lot of them did stick together, ending up at Vets and building up a sagging program back into a title contender. Mike Meyers led the charge, becoming one of the school’s greatest athletes by going undefeated in Rhode Island and winning four state championships. He also won three New England championships.
In 2011, he and his teammates went out with a bang.
Hawks run wild
The Hendricken cross country team was young this season and knew it was going to have its hands full with Chariho, who had beaten the Hawks for the outdoor state championship in the spring.
Both those factors were in the mix all year – the Hawks had just one senior running in their top group and Chariho mounted a challenge with three stand-outs, including the eventual individual state champion.
But the Hawks were undeterred. With their depth carrying the day, the Hawks edged Chariho by eight points for the state championship – their fourth in a row – then out-did the region’s best to win the New England title.
The Hawks were led by different runners seemingly every week, from senior Mark Vuono to junior Tyler Henseler, sophomore Colin Tierney and freshman Michael Potter.
Together, they gave the Hendricken cross country program another huge fall season.
Hawks over Rams, times two
It’s not often an upset when a Hendricken team wins a state championship.
But no one can argue that these two would qualify.
In the spring, the Hendricken lacrosse team beat a heavily-favored La Salle squad for the state championship. Then in the fall, the Hendricken football team beat heavily-favored La Salle for the state championship.
Both were remarkable.
The Hawks went 5-5 during the lacrosse season. La Salle went 9-1. But on the biggest stage, the Hawks had a little more. Goalie Aaron Levy and the defense shined as the Hawks sprung the biggest upset in the short history of the lacrosse state championship.
The football team’s win was just as surprising. La Salle dominated all year, going undefeated in league play. Hendricken lost to the Rams by 25 points in the regular season. But on the biggest stage, the Hawks got the best of the Rams again, pulling off arguably the biggest upset in the very long history of the football state championship.
Looking back, it’s hard to say which upset was more amazing, but you don’t really have to make that distinction.
Both were pretty unreal.
Pilgrim makes lacrosse debut
As soon as the program got its footing a few years back, girls’ lacrosse exploded in popularity at Warwick Vets, becoming one of the school’s biggest and most successful teams and sending several players on to the next level. The success validated all the positive claims that were used to get the program in gear.
Across town in 2011, Pilgrim started down the same path.
Charlie Benson and Tom Flanders, who started the Vets program before giving way to a new coaching staff in 2010, were tabbed as the leaders of the Pilgrim program when it got approval.
When spring came around, Pilgrim had lacrosse. The first year was a struggle as the Pats went 0-14, but without a single senior on the roster, there’s plenty of optimism about the future.
Hawks carry the torch
Hendricken came into 2011 with some impressive state championship streaks on the line, and the Hawks found a way to extend them for at least one more year.
For the 21st consecutive year, Hendricken was able to capture the state swimming title, as it racked up 314 points to put it well ahead of second-place Barrington’s 194.
On the same day, the indoor track team extended its streak of state titles to 17 by getting 74 points at the state meet to outpace La Salle, which finished with 51.
If that wasn’t enough, though, Hendricken also captured its second volleyball title in a row, and its sixth in eight seasons.
All three teams were dominant in their own right.
The Hawks had more front-line swimmers than any other team in the state, and were led by seniors Jack Kilpatrick, David Evans and Ian Dinwoodie, as well as underclassmen Mike Fedorenko, Andrew Robinson and Alex Powers.
In track, Hendricken was led by its runners. Ryan Meehan and Andrew Andraka set the pace in the long distances, while Andy Sakovits and John Ferris were the keys in the middle distances.
Combined with other standouts – like thrower Mike Maloof – the Hawks managed to get it done.
The volleyball team was barely challenged throughout the regular season, finishing 16-0 while losing only a handful of games. In the playoffs, the Hawks mowed through La Salle in the semifinals before taking out No. 2 seeded South Kingstown in the finals for the title.
With players like setter J.J. Bessette and hitters Ted Seufert and John Kane, it seemed almost like a foregone conclusion that Hendricken would come out on top.
And for another year, all three teams – swimming, indoor track and volleyball – did just that.
Titans keep divisional streak alive
After not having lost a dual-meet since the 1997-98 season, the Toll Gate girls’ indoor track team thought it might be in some trouble in 2011.
But, as it turns out, there was no reason to worry. The Titans got it done.
With the streak in tact until the last meet of the season, Toll Gate took on its toughest challenger in North Kingstown. Everyone knew the meet was close, but the final results weren’t available immediately after the meet.
For a while, the Titans thought the streak might be over. Some of the team members even left the track that night thinking that it had finally happened.
Yet, when the results came out, Toll Gate got the good news it was hoping for – the streak was still alive. The Titans squeaked out a 55.5-53.5 victory.
The Titans got event victories from Jordan Gray, Jenna Moen and Amy St. Amand, as well as a first-place in the 4x400 relay to capture the win.
Toll Gate rode that momentum to some of its best performances in the postseason, where it won the Division I-Bayha meet, came in second in the Medium Schools class meet and grabbed fifth place at the state meet.
It was all a little more dramatic than perhaps Toll Gate would have liked, but at the end of the day it was another undefeated season.
Toll Gate lax makes a run
The Toll Gate boys’ lacrosse team didn’t end up with a state championship in hand, but it came closer than any team in school history.
The Titans rode the steady play of Zach Furtado up front and a stingy defense to earn a spot in the Division III finals, where they put up a valiant effort before falling 6-4 to undefeated and top-seeded Smithfield.
It was the closest anybody came to beating Smithfield all season long, and it showed just how far Toll Gate had progressed.
After making the playoffs and losing in the quarterfinals each of the last five seasons prior to 2011, the Titans finished 7-5 in the regular season and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, vaulting them into the semifinals for the first time since the program’s first season in 2005.
In that semifinal game, Toll Gate took on city-rival Warwick Vets, and pulled out an 11-8 victory to advance to its first-ever title game.
While the goal of a state championship came up just short, 2011 was a season unlike any other in Toll Gate lacrosse history.