A weekend like no other

Four Watertown High winter sports teams -- boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' hockey -- win their first state tournament games

Raider Times photo / Heidi Kennedy
The Maraiders celebrate their 3-2 victory over Andover in an Division 1 girls' hockey game Saturday, March 1, 2014, at Ryan Arena in Watertown. Watertown-Belmont (17-2-2) advances to play Duxbury (14-1-6) on Wednesday, March 5, at Stoneham Arena.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had this.”

That’s Mike Lahiff, the Watertown High School athletic director, on the success of the WHS winter sports season.

His words are not unwarranted, this has been a season to remember. Boys’ hockey, girls’ hockey, boys’ basketball, and girls’ basketball all qualified for the state tournament, and each earned a tournament seed of No. 4 or higher. All four teams won the Middlesex League title. The boys’ track team won state championships in two events and the girls’ track team set three school records.

Over the weekend, all four teams won their tournament games.

This doesn’t happen in Watertown. We’re the underdog, the small school that just can’t seem to get over the edge, the cinderella story that falls just short. And although certain teams have had tremendous stretches — namely field hockey and boys’ basketball — this is the first time in recent memory Watertown has been a force to be reckoned with in the overall high school athletics scene. whs sports2

This is something that should be recognized, and most of all something that should be cherished, because it isn’t always like this in Watertown. Or anywhere.

The WHS girls’ basketball team, coached by Pat Ferdinand, has had an historic season, going 19-1 and earning a No. 1 seed in the Division 2 North tournament. Ferdinand chalks up the success to a number of things, citing “the buy-in [to] the bigger picture,” and the idea of “holding each other accountable.”

He said the team is laden with senior leadership, and that having such a dedicated group of team leaders has had a tremendous influence on the success. The team began its journey to the state championship with a home win over against Newburyport, 56-31, on Saturday, March 1, at 7 p.m.

For the boys’ basketball team, the season has been more up and down, suffering an opening-night loss to Belmont and another early defeat to St. Clement’s in out-of-league play.

From there the Raiders we able to rebound, winning a string of games, and, after surrendering a game here and there, wound up with an overall record of 15-5. This was good enough for the second seed and a first-round bye in the Division 3 North tournament.

Steven Harrington, the head coach of the team says that defense has been the key, or in his words, “the ability to consistently compete defensively.”

The team began the playoffs at home on Friday, Feb. 28, with a 79-45 win over Saugus.

The hockey team has had a tremendous year, building off a tournament bid last year and earning a No. 1 seed in Division 3 North with a 13-2-5 record.

Jeff Comeau, a member of the WHS hockey team, believes that the “team chemistry and hard work” have been keys to the Raiders’ success.

Watertown took to the ice for the MIAA playoffs Sunday, March 2, and beat Shawsheen, 2-0, at the Chelmsford Forum in Billerica.

The girls’ hockey team — a co-op team with Belmont High for the first time this year — has had an equally impressive season, winning the Middlesex League for the second year in a row. The Maraiders (16-2-2) are the fourth seed in the Division 1 playoffs and hosted a first-round game against Andover, winning, 2-0, at Ryan Arena on Saturday, March 1.

The track season was equally impressive. The boys’ team recorded its best meet record in recent history at 3-3, and the team also took home Division 4 state titles in the 300 meters (Austin Lin, 36.37 seconds) and the 4×400 relay (James Garbier, Nick Soares, Lin, and Prosper Lubega).

The girls squad boasted school records in the 1,000 meters (Lea Strangio), 55 meter hurdles (Keegan Duguay), and 4×400 (Molly Day, Strangio, Katherine Tolman, and Tina Touri). Strangio also came in second at the state meet in the 600.

The success has been unprecedented, there’s no debating that. But there are reasons for the increased success.

Recently, the Middlesex League moved to a two-conference system, instead of a single conference. The teams in the league vary significantly in student population, something that had previously put smaller schools – like Watertown – at a disadvantage.

The two-conference system split the teams up into smaller schools and larger schools, evening the playing field for Watertown and the other smaller schools.

Regardless of the leagues, the teams and the athletes still have to beat their opponents. Every athlete and coach at WHS repeated the same general principles behind that success: hard work and teamwork.

It’s a formula that wins, and luckily for Watertown, the teams have been winning a lot recently.

–Feb. 28, 2014–

–Updated March 3, 2014–