By David Willis
---- — Editor’s Note: Last week, we looked back at boys basketball team’s magical run. So this week we give the other teams a chance to relive their seasons and shine once again.
Outside, it was a brutal winter of snow and ice-cold conditions freezing the Merrimack Valley.
Inside the cozy confines of Andover High and its athletic facilities, however, it was a stellar season for the Golden Warriors.
From basketball to gymnastics, skiing, hockey and, of course, indoor track, Andover athletes built another outstanding campaign that wowed fans.
So, while spring sports are kicking off tryouts in 20-degree temperatures, let’s take a look back at the 2013-14 winter in Andover High sports.
Worth the wait
Last spring was a miserable one for close friends and track superstars Courtney Comeau and Catherine Haut. Comeau — who has been recruited to run at UMass — sat out the entire season with a back injury and Haut missed nearly the entire campaign with leg injuries.
But both returned in style this past winter.
Comeau made a major mark, winning the Division 1 state title in the 55-meter hurdles in a blazing 8.74 in front of her beaming father/coach Peter Comeau.
“I started coaching 20 years ago and to say one of my children would be a state champ, I can’t tell you how happy I am,” said the longtime head coach following the states. “I am the proudest dad ever.”
Haut delivered her comeback performance at the Merrimack Valley Conference meet, winning the long jump with a 17-7, shattering her personal best of 16-0. That isn’t even her best event. She excels in the triple jump, which is not held indoors.
Both should be even healthier for the outdoor season.
It hasn’t always been easy wrestling for Andover High. The Golden Warrior grapplers suffered through a losing streak that lasted two years. But that was broken on Feb. 12.
Patrick Meagher needed just 46 seconds to score a pin at 120 pounds, Shaun Merrill (170 pounds) added a pin in 1:06, Matt Marcotte (132) scored a pin in 1:18 and Matt Stamos (195 pounds) pinned in 3:24 as the Golden Warriors took down Peabody 42-39.
It was going to be a major rebuilding season for the Andover girls basketball team, right?
The Golden Warriors had graduated a 1,000-point scorer in Devon Caveney and an All-Scholastic defensive stopper in Jackie Alois, and were breaking in a new coach in football head man E.J. Perry to replace four-time state champion Jim Tildsley.
So, what were the odds the Warriors would make a run at a Christmas Tournament title? As it turned out, very strong.
Behind 15 points by Jessica Witten in the title game, Andover took home the Hyde Division title in the newly named Commonwealth Motors Christmas Classic. The Warriors beat Salem (N.H.) and Lawrence on their way to the crown.
The Warrior girls finished an impressive 16-6 and earned a Division 1 state tourney win over Lynn Classical.
With a championship on the line, not only did the Andover girls gymnastics team meet the challenge, the Golden Warriors performed better than they ever have.
The Warriors scored a school-record 146.1 points to win the North Sectional title on Feb. 22. Courtney Carver led the way, taking first in the floor exercise and third in the all-around.
It was a big season all-around for the gymnastics team, led by Carver and Jessie Livingston. The Warriors also won the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 meet title, finished a stellar second at states and was third at New Englands.
The Andover girls hockey team fired shot after shot at the goaltender, and time after time, the Newton North goalie turned away the Golden Warriors’ shots in the Division 1 North tournament preliminary round game.
But the net-minder couldn’t stop Caroline Hughes.
With just 34 seconds left in the game, Hughes picked up a rebound off a Brenna Keefe shot and scored to give the Golden Warriors a 2-1 state tourney victory over Newton.
The Warriors finished the season 11-6-4.
The girls basketball team wasted no time proving that it was big-game ready.
The Warriors fell behind by seven points with just 2:13 to go in regulation against Lowell, but would not be denied.
Colleen Caveney cut the deficit to three with a layup, then Witten tied the game with her fifth three-pointer of the game, made a steal and hit her sixth trey to take the lead. Rebecca Alois then sealed the win with two free throws.
Playing in their final game of the season, the Andover boys hockey team could have eased into the off-season. Instead, the Warriors rallied back for a 2-2 tie against Triton, thanks to goals by Matt Quercia and Jack Wilkie.
Everyone knows Andover High’s history of excellence in swimming, and this past winter was no exception.
Senior tri-captain Vince Camin took home the MVC title in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.45 and swam on the 200-medley relay that took home a title. He was joined on the relay by Joseph Carroll, Max Blanch and Santi Alegria.
Captains Alegria and Camin were also joined by Aaron Wu and Eric Shi to take second in the 200-freestyle relay. Shi added a second in the 500 freestyle.
Speaking of excellence, Andover has long dominated the state track scene in relays.
Over the weekend, the team of Courtney Comeau, Lizzie Kobelski, Hannah Chapman and Jill Gamache ran a scintillating 33.53 at nationals, setting the Massachusetts all-time record, according to coach Peter Comeau.
Joseph Aronov nearly lost his chance to shine, as boys gymnastics was briefly dropped by the MIAA as a sport. But it was reinstated before the season, and the Golden Warrior made the campaign count.
Aronov won the all-around crown at the state Coaches’ Invitational and followed that by placing second in the all-around and four individual events at the state meet, leading the Golden Warriors to a third-place finish as a team.
Skier Julia Ganley was already having an outstanding season, but through her first four meets had yet to score a victory.
But that was about to end for the star student, who sits atop her Andover High senior class.
Ganley scored her first win of the season, and second of her career, on Jan. 29, took first again in her next meet and made it three firsts in a row on Feb. 7. She continued to star with a second overall at the Interscholastic Meet and was 17th in the giant slalom at the state meet.
With two years left in her high school career, girls hockey standout Veronica Alois is going to have to work tremendously hard to top the season she had as a sophomore.
Alois potted a whopping 31 goals this season, and finished with 39 points overall, the fifth most goals in the program’s 13-year history.
Alois scored at least one goal in 14 of the Golden Warriors’ final 16 games, including five multi-goal games and two hat tricks.
Hughes also had a terrific season with 11 goals and four-year starting goalie Meghan Johnson had a 2.00 goals-against average and two shutouts.
Whenever Andover girls basketball needed a big basket, the Golden Warriors could always look to the backcourt duo of Colleen Caveney and Jessica Witten. At least one of the two scored in double digits in all but one game all season.
Caveney, a junior, stepped into the top scoring role vacated by her cousin, Devon, and averaged a team-best 14.1 points a game this season, scoring in double digits in all but four games, including five games of 20 points or more.
Witten, a former bench player, came on as a star long-range shooter. She averaged 11.1 points a game, hitting 40 three-pointers. She scored 28 in a win over Dracut and played the best game of her career with 25 points in a state tourney win over Lynn Classical.
While those two were scoring, Rebecca Alois continued the role she has starred in for three seasons, as leader, defensive stopper and gritty presence in the paint.
One year younger than Alois is boys freshman forward Matt Quercia. He did not appear on the season’s preseason preview, but ended up leading the Golden Warriors with 10 goals and 21 points. Mark Campbell was one score behind with nine goals.
Now, bring on the spring.