By David Willis
---- — A major chill is in the air, the first snow has fallen to the ground and Christmas music has taken over the airwaves. With that marks the end of the fall season across Andover High.
Eugene V. Lovely Field now earns a season of rest as sports move inside to the Dunn Gym and Collins Field House.
But before the basketball season tips off, hockey season drops the puck and the starter gun for track goes off, let’s take a look back at another thrilling fall sports season for the Golden Warriors.
After a year away from football persuing his dream of being recruited by a Division 1 college lacrosse program, Will Eikenberry never lost his fire for the gridiron while in Maine at Brewster Academy, a school with no football.
So, this season, Eikenberry returned to Andover High, where he had previously starred as a sophomore, and the results were tremendous.
The senior stepped right back into his spot at inside linebacker and dominated from the start, finishing the season with a team-best 96 tackles, 43 solo, three interceptions — one he returned for a touchdown — and two forced fumbles. He also added a spark at running back with four touchdown runs and three TD catches.
After moving to Andover from Virginia in the summer of 2012, Rachel Schnakenberg had her doubts that she would even make the powerhouse Andover varsity volleyball team out of tryouts.
More than a year later, she has proven herself wrong in a big way.
Schnakenberg was a key member of the state semifinalist Golden Warriors, leading the team in kills (202) and blocks (138).
Courtney Grygiel was around the girls soccer team a season ago, but a torn ACL left her on the sidelines the entire year.
But this fall she was back, and returned with a vengeance scoring seven goals for the Golden Warriors.
Andover volleyball’s season got off to a nightmare start, falling to neighboring rival North Andover in its season-opener 3-2.
When the two teams met just over a month later, the Golden Warriors earned their payback, dealing the Scarlet Knights their first loss of the season, a 3-1 win led by Sarah Kenyon (16 service points).
The two teams met again in the state tourney, with Andover walking away again with the win, 3-1 paced by Madelyn Reppucci (8 blocks, 6 kills).
North Andover finished the season with just two losses, both to Andover.
Andover football had heard enough of the numbers, about how Chelmsford had been a thorn in the team’s side for longer than the current team had been alive.
When the Lions dealt them another loss during the regular season, those numbers came out again, and the Golden Warriors became that much more determined.
So when the two teams met in a rematch in November, Andover was ready for revenge. Led by a huge game for Jack Sylvester (TD pass and rush), the Golden Warriors earned their second victory in three meetings over the Lions with a convincing 26-14 win.
Andover field hockey lost just once in the regular season, a 1-0 shocker at the hands of Central Catholic.
In the rematch between the two teams later in the season, it again finished 1-0, but thanks to a Jacquelyn Leone goal, it was the Golden Warriors coming out on top.
Chelsea Hu never imagined she would be a star in any sport. She certainly never imagined she would be a vocal captain.
But this season, Hu was named to the All-Merrimack Valley Conference volleyball team after an outstanding year, where she recorded 195 kills. Joining her on the All-MVC squad was junior Azita Bakhtyari, who notched a team-high 589 assists to go with 67 kills and 79 aces.
Andover senior running back Jack Sylvester’s season was seriously limited due to an ankle injury that hindered him the entire season. But when he was right, he continued to be one of the best backs in the state.
In back-to-back weeks, Sylvester notched 200-yard games, rushing for 217 yards in a win over Billerica, then 206 yards in a win over LaSalle (R.I.). Thanksgiving may have been a tough loss, but he still rushed for one touchdown and returned a kickoff for another.
While Sylvester was sparking the offense, the massive defensive line duo of Ben Hartford and Ommel Bonilla were leading the defense. Bonilla, a junior, was second on the team with 80 tackles, while Hartford, a senior, made a team-high 4.5 sacks.
Sophomores Jacquelyn Leone and Brenna Keefe were each listed as promising newcomers on the field hockey preseason preview, and that promise sure turned into production.
Leone notched a team-best 12 goals for the season, while Keefe score nine for the Golden Warriors. Joining them on the stat sheet was senior Mikayla Panneton, who scored seven times.
Andover boys soccer must have been concerned it would take a hit when its returning starting goaltender decided not to play. But in stepped Mike Weber, who performed in outstanding fashion.
Weber started every game in goal for the Warriors, notching four shutouts and allowing just 1.7 goals per game. That includes holding powerhouse North Andover to just one goal in a 1-0 loss.
The Alois name is certainly a familiar one in Andover sports, but girls soccer star Veronica Alois is certainly carving out her niche. This season, the sophomore scored 17 goals, including the sudden-death winner in a state tourney win over Chelmsford. She plans to keep those scoring ways going into hockey.
After battling injuries for much of the fall, senior cross country star Leila Aruri came alive when it mattered.
She won eight of 10 dual meets, finished fourth in the MVC meet (19:23, 5K), took fourth in the EMass. Division 1 meet (18:52, 5K) and then led the team at the Division 1 All-State meet, placing 29th.
Andover swimming’s Maeve Awiszus saved her greatest accomplishments for her final meet. At the Division 1 meet, she won state titles in the 500 freestyle (5:05.72) and 100 backstroke (59:14). She will continue her swimming career at Central Connecticut State University.
Her best friend, Soojin Kim, also starred by placing second in the 200 freestyle.
The pair of Ryan Burke and Brett Krekorian made a dynamic duo on the golf course this season. At the MVC championship, Burke placed second overall while Krekorian was right behind in third. Both also earned All-MVC honors.
While neither team earned the state title, the volleyball and swim teams both made tremendous runs at crowns.
Marilyn Fitzgerald’s swim team won the North sectional swimming and diving championship and was second at the Division 1 state meet in a year after many standouts graduated.
Meanwhile, everyone thought the volleyball team was headed for a rebuilding year. The Warriors ended up finishing 23-2 and advancing to the Division 1 state semifinals, only upended by three-time defending state champion Barnstable.