Local teams put together winning seasons for 2011

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Dec. 20, 2011
The Windham Whippets celebrate their victory at the state final game on March 19, 2011, at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Windham Whippets celebrate their victory at the state final game on March 19, 2011, at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Local high school teams made some great memories in 2011.

With an exciting, come-from-behind, edge-of-your seat overtime win on March 14 at Coventry High School, the Windham High School girls’ basketball team earned a chance to play for the Division M state championship title at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The semi-final 67-64 win against Tolland followed a winning season, with the Whips putting together a 17-3 record for regular-season games.

Coached by Ken Valliere, the team was led by a strong cadre of seniors, including Danyelle Rodriguez, Carlee Smith, Haley Mather and Taylor McBride. Also putting in strong contributions were seniors Ali Risley, Caitlin Coleman, Cara Begley, Justine Lambert, Katie Nelson, Megan Phelps and Haley Roberts.

It was sweet victory again for the Whips at the state finals at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 19. Windham (number 2 seed) put away Weaver (number 21 seed) by a final score of 54-46 to capture the Division M state championship title. “I basically grew up with these seniors,” said McBride after the championship victory. “To have the championship their senior year, it’s fantastic.”

Also putting together a strong basketball season for 2010-11 were the E.O. Smith Panthers. The team, coached by Kirk Murad, put together a 19-1 regular season and advanced in the state tourney to the semi-final round. Senior Maggie Sundberg was a consistent scoring leader for the team, averaging 19.3 points per game and finishing the season ranked number 17 in the state for scoring.

Facing the Torrington Red Raiders, the Panthers put on an exciting show for a large crowd on March 11 at Plainville High School. During a nail-biting finish, junior Morgan Olander made some crucial free-throws to secure a 52-49 victory and a trip to the state finals at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Panthers took on Hillhouse at the Sun on March 19. Early in the game, the Panthers lost sophomore guard Murphy Murad after she was kicked and suffered a severe Charley horse. “I don’t know if it made 27 points worth of difference,” said Smith coach Murad, “but it certainly didn’t help us.” The final score was 77-50, securing the Division L championship for Hillhouse and ending the season for the 2010-11 Panthers.

Also putting together a tremendous season was the Coventry girls' volleyball team. The Patriots faced the 2011 season without their longtime coach, Matt Hurlock, who passed away over the summer at the age of 39 after a battle with cancer. Despite the additional loss of eight seniors to graduation, the Patriots managed to complete a season that would have made Hurlock proud. The Patriots were undefeated for 2011, and captured the Division S state championship.

“Even Matt, last year, thought we would lose a few matches,” said Giberson. “We beat really good teams like Bristol Eastern, East Lyme [Class L champions] and Southington [runners-up for Class LL].  The fact that we were able to persevere, and for the girls to be able to put it together, I’m really proud of them.”

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