’Twas a season of moving forward for Melissa Tarpy and her varsity girls hoopsters, who embarked on the new decade with a slew of pesky seniors and high hopes. Yet, it was “forward” that ironically befuddled the Hillies as they pursued their 2019–2020 aspirations.
“We had far too many of them,” cracked Tarpy, completing her seventh season at the helm. “We had all kinds of talent at the forward position, but hardly anybody to carry the ball for us. And it presented a real challenge.”
With only guards McKayla Dingle and Christina Firek to dribble up floor, Tarpy turned to some shifty innovation in filling out her lineup. What resulted was a solid 10-10 regular-season campaign that culminated with a cameo in the MIAA Division 1 North Sectional tournament.
“We knew going in that we had a unique situation on our hands,” said Tarpy. “We had a big core of seniors with a lot of experience, but we needed some of them to step out of their comfort zones and play a little differently.”
After a sluggish 3-6 outset, the Hillies caught fire in mid-January, posting three wins in four outings, including a 47-38 non-league shutdown of Everett. With four contests remaining, three victories separated Haverhill from attaining its pre-season goal.
“From day one, it was all about making the playoffs. That was our aim,” said Tarpy. “We were 7-9 at that point, and we needed to dig deep to get it done.”
The Hillies rattled off three consecutive victories, rendering moot the overtime loss to Newburyport in the regular-season finale. By upending North Andover, Methuen and Dracut in succession, the Hillies secured the playoff berth. They got a stellar effort from sophomore Kyra Burdier (a game-high 17 points) against the Knights, before she suffered a season ending knee injury.
“That certainly put a damper on our plans,” Tarpy said of losing her Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star. “It was a big loss, but we knew we still had to go out and compete.”
Responding splendidly was senior Leandra Kwo, who sizzled in the ensuing victories over Methuen and Dracut, tallying 16 and 27 points, respectively. Kwo, the team’s only first-team MVC All-Star, concluded a nifty four-year career with 817 total rebounds and 745 points.
Firek, the Hillies’ third MVC All-Star, fueled the upset bid against Newburyport with a 19-point night.
Unfortunately, the postseason involved a third go-round with Chelmsford, an MVC heavyweight that had already toppled the Hillies twice.
“Chelmsford is very strong, so we knew we were in for a tough one,” said Tarpy of the 58-36 bow-out. “We still achieved our goal and got the younger girls some playoff experience. We’ll have three of them coming back, including Kyra [Burdier], and a heck of an eight- grade class is coming in behind them. I’m hopeful, but we’ll have to wait and see what we have.”
Around the Hill
After roaring into the MIAA Division 1 North Sectional tourney on a five-game winning spree, Soulemane Wane’s boys basketball team made a quick exit by losing to Central Catholic, 64-47. The Hillies finished the season at 14-6. Jeremyah Phillips bagged 13 points, and teammate Zach Guertin chipped in with 11, but Haverhill couldn’t overcome an 18-point halftime deficit against the Red Raiders.
The top-seeded HPNA (Haverhill Pentucket-North Andover) girls hockey team romped through the regular season with an 18-0-2 record, but it was knocked out of the Division 1 playoffs in the first round with a 5-4 overtime loss to Hingham. Hannah Keating and Eliana Kane rung up two goals apiece for HPNA, while netminder Jenny Hubbard chalked up 17 saves.
The Hillies boys hockey crew sustained consecutive losses to Amesbury and Tewksbury to finish 5-13-2 on the year. Brendan Fitzgerald and Brady Ferreira provided the offense in the 6-2 setback to the Indians.
Freshman Finleigh Simonds shined at the All-State Track Championships (at the Reggie Lewis Center), speeding to an impressive 10th-place finish in the mile. Simonds’ 5:14.05 finish topped her personal best by three seconds.