’80s flair overtakes region

  • Frontier’s Jess Stier tries to keep Gateway’s Erin Estelle at bay during action in the 2001 WMass Division 3 championship game at Szot Park in Chicopee. The Red Hawks fell, 1-0, in the only sectional final in program history. FILE PHOTO

  • Pioneer ace Megan Black delivers a pitch during the 2005 postseason run. The senior righty led the Panthers to their first state championship in program history. FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield’s Angelo Thomas, left, and Eric Waldron celebrate after winning the 1994 WMass Division 2 basketball title. The team eventually played in the program’s first-ever state final, falling to Duxbury. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/20/2019 8:03:57 PM

(Note: This is the fourth and final day of first-round games in our Recorder Greatest Teams Tournament. Sixty-four high school teams. All local. From throughout history. Line ’em up and let’s debate. We’ve created our very own bracket, stacking up the best teams in Franklin County history regardless of sport. It’s an impossible debate — apples and oranges. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to take on the challenge.)

The storylines keep coming as the Greenfield Recorder’s Greatest Teams Tournament marches on for our fourth and final set of first-round matchups.

Before we tackle the Joe Chadwick Region, which features eight more contests that will bring the total number of teams down to 32, an interesting note from Wednesday’s Tom Suchanek Region games. Our tournament selection committee promises it does not go out of its way to create intriguing theater, much in the way the NCAA Tournament selection committee will not take credit for bracketing 10th-seeded Minnesota, coached by Richard Pitino, against No. 7 Louisville, formerly coached by his father Rick Pitino (who is currently suing his former school), into the very first game of the entire tournament this afternoon (12:15 p.m., CBS).

But sometimes, noteworthy coincidences happen.

That was indeed the case in our 7/10 matchup in the Suchanek Region a day ago. 

In that battle, the 2005 Frontier volleyball team advanced with a win over the 1975 Frontier field hockey team. Two teams from the same school, there had to have been a connection there. Turns out, it was a maternal one. Frontier’s Abby Majewski, the ’05 team’s leading offensive player, helped her team to victory at the expense of her own mother. That would be Cindy (Fleming) Majewski, who was up with the 1975 state championship field hockey as a junior and then helped the squad win the ’76 state title as a senior. The 1976 team is still alive in the opposite side of our bracket. Could mother and daughter be on another collision course in the later rounds? Stay tuned.

Here’s a closer look at our matchups for the final region. Friday’s newspaper will feature a look at our biggest snubs to the field, and things will continue next week with Round of 32 tilts.

No. 1 Frontier volleyball (2010) def. No. 16 Greenfield girls track (1977)

Make it four No. 1 seeds into the Round of 32.

Frontier’s 2010 volleyball team rode the play of its four All-State performers to knock off 16th-seeded Greenfield girls track (1977). Cassidy Stankowski put down 15 kills, while the trio of Katy Daniels, Tori Daniels and Kendra Ouimette filled up the stat line to send the Red Hawks through. It was the second Frontier volleyball team to punch a second-round ticket, joining the 2005 team that snagged a victory on Tuesday.

The dominant squad, which swept the Division 3 state final in 2010 over Joseph Case High School (25-15, 25-12, 25-11), won all 18 sets in its postseason run.

The victory came at the expense of a very solid ’77 Greenfield team. Head coach Joe Martino emailed us earlier in the week to offer his memories of that outstanding squad, which won the WMass championship when it was just one division.

“I was happy to see the (1977) team make the bracket,” Martino began. “It was a very special team that not only set 12 school records, had several undefeated athletes and won the (WMass meet).”

To win that ’77 title, Greenfield needed to rise to the occasion late. Patty Godzinski started off winning the 100-meter dash, tying the WMass record of 11.8 seconds. The mile relay of Joanne Turner, Heidi Bates, Katie Knapp and Hilary Knapp bested the field with a time of 4:12, while the undefeated 440-relay quartet of Godzinski, Ann Noga, Jennifer Hyde and Susan Galipault blew past the competition.

Jessie Ravage won the 2-mile, capping an undefeated season with a WMass record of 11:55, and Hilary Knapp (second place, 440) and Gozniski (third, long jump) scored valuable points to help the Wave accumulate 24 of their 31 points in the final five events.

“Perhaps most significant was the way the team won the championship,” Martino said, explaining the impressive late charge from his team.

No. 9 Turners Falls baseball (1940) def. No. 8 Turners Falls football (1998)

An all-Powertown battle in this first round game saw the 1940 Turners Falls baseball sneak past a memorable 1998 football team and set up a showdown with Frontier volleyball next week.

The second-ever Turners team to play in a state final, the diamonders gave eastern Mass. foe Belmont High School all it could handle before falling in the Division 1 final, 6-4. That loss set the tone for the memorable ’42 run, where the squad won the program’s first-ever state crown.

The 1940 team edged one of the best football teams in Turners history. The 1998 team, paced by quarterback Chris Lapointe (now head coach) and tailback Topher Prondecki, went 9-0 to start the year, winning the Intercounty League with a perfect 6-0 mark. But the team stumbled down the stretch, falling to Greenfield, 34-20, on Thanksgiving as part of a 14 wins in 15 year run for the Green Wave against the Powertown.

Fran Togneri’s Turners squad still reached the Central/Western Mass. Division 3 Super Bowl, but wound up 9-2 overall with a 41-0 loss to a standout Northridge squad.

No. 4 Mahar boys basketball (2012) def. No. 13 Frontier girls soccer (2001)

Phil DiPhillipo dished out 11 assists, five of them to Jesse LaCroix, and the backcourtmates lifted the 2012 Mahar boys basketball team past 2001 Frontier girls soccer in Joe Chadwick Region action.

DiPhillipo continued the facilitator ways that made him a star seven years ago, when the Senators made an unlikely march to the program’s first state title. It was Mahar's second state championship in school history — the first coming in 1997, when the Senators volleyball team staged one of the greatest comebacks in that sport’s history to beat Medfield High School in five sets.

In the ’12 state final, DiPhillipo blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer to lift Mahar to a 45-41 win over Brighton High School. LaCroix had 16 points in the win, adding 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Mahar beat a 2001 Frontier soccer team that made a historical run of its own. The Red Hawks made the program’s only WMass final appearance, with Tom Pereira’s club falling in the Division 3 final to three-time defending champion Gateway, 1-0.

Standout Jess Stier kept her Frontier side in striking distance against the Mahar basketball team, despite drawing a familiar double coverage defensive scheme. That left the door open for big performances from Jess Denehy, Molly Robinson and Nikki Stier, while goalkeeper Marissa Marchand turned away several shot attempts.

Despite being in just the program’s sixth season as a varsity program, Frontier finished the ’01 campaign with a 19-2 mark.

No. 5 Greenfield baseball (1976) def. No. 12 Frontier girls track (2001)

Some 43 years later, it’s still Doug Welenc’s world and we’re just living in it.

The Greenfield ace threw the 1976 baseball team on his back, lifting the Green Wave to the program’s first WMass title and a spot in the state finals. In the opening round game against the 2001 Frontier girls track team, GHS made a strategic move in resting him for later in the tournament. The move paid off, as No. 2 starter Artie Phillips powered through with a quality start and a spot in the Round of 32.

There’s plenty more to be heard from Welenc and the Wave. In a field filled with stars, he’s certainly one of the brightest. He’ll make his tourney debut when they try and battle the ’12 Mahar basketball team next week.

Frontier’s 2001 track team charged late, an unsurprising revelation based on the team’s pedigree. In a memorable WMass Division 2 championship meet 18 years ago, pole vaulters Caty Lord and Julie Shelkey waited three days to give the Hawks a belated sectional title.

Frontier and Mount Greylock were tied 81-81 as weather halted action in the WMass meet. The postponement came right smack in the middle of the pole vault, the only remaining event, and action was not finished until three days later indoors at Smith College. That’s when Shelkey and Lord scored just enough points to send the hardware back to South Deerfield. Their points in the event gave the Hawks a final 87-86 edge over the perennial powerhouse Mounties, which had won nine of the previous 11 titles.

Jess Denehy’s wins in the high jump and 400 meters led the way, with Frontier’s 4x100 relay team of Lord, Carey Bellino, Jamie Recore and Kelly Gardner also taking home a victory. It was the program’s first WMass title since 1989.

No. 3 Frontier football (1987) def. No. 14 Mohawk boys track (1988)

Arguably the best football team in Frontier history will play at least one more game.

The 1987 squad continued its winning ways, besting the 1988 Mohawk boys track team to earn a spot in next week’s Round of 32.

Quarterback Kevin Wesoloski threw for a touchdown and ran for another, with tailback John DiIorio rushing for 93 yards and fullback Dave Dove bulling in for a pair of short-yardage scores. The trio were big cogs in the run to the school’s first-ever Super Bowl berth in 1987. That squad, coached by the legendary Myron “Rock” Rokoszak, went 8-0 to earn a spot in the WMass Division 2 Super Bowl. The IL champions offered the school’s best chance to date in winning a championship, falling 7-6 in a heartbreaker.

The squad, which has Final Four aspirations in our bracket, began its run with a win over a 1988 Mohawk track team that began an era of dominance. The Warriors won the WMass Division 2 championship, marking the first of seven titles in a nine-year span from 1988-1996.

No. 6 Greenfield boys basketball (1994) def. No. 11 Frontier softball (1995)

Angelo Thomas has officially joined the competition.

Greenfield’s all-time leading scorer (1,684 points), who eventually played collegiately at the University of Maine before transferring to New Haven, closed out his career by leading the Green Wave to their first-ever state final in 1994. He was back at it against the 2005 Frontier softball team, scoring 23 points and pulling down 19 rebounds to finish just one board shy of a 20-20 outing in the victory.

It’s a loaded section of the bracket, as Greenfield will now play the ’87 Frontier football team in a much-anticipated Round of 32 contest.

Thomas and partner in crime Ross Burns were too much to handle for the 1995 Frontier softball team, which beat Monson, 17-5, in the WMass Division 3 final as the first of back-to-back sectional titles for the program. The team would wind up winning four titles in a five-year span, with the lone loss coming in 1997 to Pioneer, 6-5. The ’95 team went all the way to the state final before falling to Carver, 5-1.

No. 7 Pioneer softball (2005) def. No. 10 Turners Falls boys basketball (1973)

The stars continue to roll out for our Recorder’s Greatest Teams Tournament.

Enter Megan Black.

The 2005 Pioneer softball ace pitched her team to an opening-round victory, much like she did for four years of varsity action. The senior capped her career with an elusive MIAA Division 3 state title, as the Panthers snagged a 4-0 victory over Eastern Mass. champion Millis High School in the final.

Black and Pioneer won four straight WMass titles but didn’t finish their season with the ultimate victory until her fourth and final attempt at a state crown. The win gave Black a final career postseason record of 15-3, as the team finished its 2005 campaign 18-5 overall.

The Division 3 state crown was the first by a WMass champion team since 1991, when Monson High School hoisted the hardware.

Black’s victory in the first round came at the expense of the 1973 Turners Falls basketball team. That club set the bench mark for Powertown basketball, winning a second straight WMass Division 3 title thanks to a 55-46 win over Easthampton. Turners made its state final debut — the only state title appearance in program history, actually — only to fall to a powerhouse Worcester St. Mary’s team, 73-45.

No. 2 Frontier boys basketball (1987) def. No. 15 Athol volleyball (1986)

Look out, one of the pre-tournament favorites is coming through.

That would be the 1987 Frontier boys basketball team. The No. 2 seed in this bracket, the squad received 24 points from senior center Mark Chmura, including a pair of dunks, to earn a spot in the Round of 32.

Chmura is best known for his work on the gridiron, where he eventually starred as an NFL tight end for the Green Bay Packers. But his prowess on the basketball court is well-remembered by locals. His 1987 team did it all, running the table to a perfect 25-0 record and the Division 3 state championship thanks to a 55-47 win over Fairhaven.

Frontier is in the running for best basketball team in Franklin County history, and for good reason. Jack Zabek’s side was loaded with experience and talent, and they’ll be a very difficult out for any other team in our field.

The 1986 calendar year was indeed a special one for girls sports at Athol. In addition to winning the state field hockey title (that team is still alive in the Vi Goodnow bracket), the girls volleyball team captured a WMass Division 1 championship. That squad lost to Boston Latin in the state semifinals in what was the first year that the volleyball championships split from one to two divisions.


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