Just when you thought it was going to be awfully difficult to top all the great accomplishments and moments that took place in 2011...
Another wonderful year has passed in the Blackstone Valley, and 2012 supplied the region’s sports scene with an abundance of state championship teams, remarkable individual performances, and its Triple-A baseball team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, seizing its first Governors’ Cup title since 1984.
The past year was only two days old when the Mount St. Charles Academy hockey team journeyed to Fenway Park to play Cathedral High of Springfield, Mass. in the first outdoors game in the program’s history. Mount won the game, 4-2, behind a hat trick from Brian Belisle.
Unfortunately for the Mounties, they were unable to win its fifth straight state title and 43rd in its existence, as they lost in three memorable games to Bishop Hendricken in the best-of-three finals, but there were other teams and individuals in the area who were able to reel in state titles.
Two years removed from its last state crown, the Cumberland High wrestling team returned to the top of the mountain by beating Bishop Hendricken by a mere point (171.5-170.5) in the state meet. Three individual state champions also came out of that meet -- Cumberland’s Tom LaCroix (195 pounds) and East Providence’s Joao Vicente (126) and Jonah Aurelio (285).
Cumberland’s Courtney Kent continued to do what she does best during the winter season, capture state championships, as she did exactly that in the state meet at the University of Rhode Island, where she repeated as the state champ in the 200 freestyle (1:54.38) and won her third straight title in the 500 freestyle (5:00.39).
East Providence copped its first Division III championship in seven years by defeating Mount Hope in three games at Providence College’s Schneider Arena, winning the finale by a 2-1 score. That win capped a superb 17-4 season by the Townies.
Only one local state champion was crowned at the RIIL indoor track and field meet, Central Falls’ Steven Vazquez, who took the high jump title with a leap of six feet, eight inches.
Two local high school cheerleading squads also brought home state championships. Tolman seized the Large Division title, and Burrillville won the Non-League Varsity championship.
The team of the high school spring season was undoubtedly Lincoln High, which after missing out on the state title in 2002 and 2007, finally won the program’s first Division I title at Rhode Island College by downing Coventry in the title game, 4-1. Led by R.I. Gatorade Player of the Year Lindsay Mayer, the Lions wrapped up the season with a 22-0 record and became the first Division I team to produce a perfect season since St. Raphael Academy in 1999.
But the Lions weren’t the only softball team from its town to snag championship glory. In Division III, Davies Tech won its first fast-pitch championship by putting together a splendid 18-2 record and downing defending champion Central in the title game, 18-10.
The area was also blessed with a handful of local athletes who captured state championships in track and field. On the boys’ side, Vazquez won the boys’ high jump (and like he did in the winter) with a 6-foot-8 leap, Cumberland’s Trevor Crawley captured the boys’ 3,000 meters in 8:42.17, and Woonsocket’s Kaylnn Pitts captured the girls' triple jump in 37-4¾.
The individual performance of the spring may have been produced by Lincoln’s Jillian DeSimone, who scored a whopping 111 goals for the Lions’ girls’ lacrosse team -- the second straight spring she topped the century mark in goals. But the Cumberland girls’ team proved to be the story of the spring in the same sport by posting a 17-0 record en route to its first Division II championship since 2007.
High school sports may have took the summer off, but a group of baseball players from the Woonsocket area didn’t put their bats and gloves away for the year. Instead, they helped Navigant Credit Union Post 85 claim its first American Legion state championship since 1989, when then-tabbed Woonsocket Post 62 last brought home the title.
The eighth and lowest seed in the state tournament, Post 85 strung together some impressive victories en route to the title, including an upset win over top seeded New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 and back-to-back victories over fourth-seeded Senerchia Post 72 that gave Post 85 its title.
Speaking of state champs, the Cumberland Little League’s softball program continued to establish itself as one of the premier youth organizations in the state. Both the Major (ages 11 and 12) and Minor (ages 9 and 10) all-star teams repeated as R.I. champs -- the Minor Division three-peating -- and went on to give respectable showings in their respective regional tournaments.
And let’s not forget what may be the story of the year, the PawSox capturing the Governors’ Cup championship by sweeping its best-of-five series with the Charlotte Knights. The PawSox, who were 79-65 during the regular season to earn the wild-card spot in the International League playoffs, caught fire at the end of the year and rattled off victories in 14 of their final 17 games. That stretch included their sweeps of Charlotte and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in the semifinals.
Looking for the story of the fall season? Here’s two of them, and both of them hail from Cumberland.
The Clippers’ football team stormed through its Division II season unbeaten and hardly tested en route to the championship. Cumberland pounded Woonsocket in the Super Bowl at East Greenwich High, 49-0, less than two weeks after blasting the Novans on Thanksgiving morning, 32-0.
And Crawley had a cross country season to treasure. Not only did he win the state championship by 22 seconds in a 15:39.47 time, but he also placed second at the New England meet, sixth at the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals, and 38th at the Foot Locker Nationals.
Another undefeated team to win a Division II championship was the Burrillville field hockey team, which knocked off two-time champion Smithfield, 1-0, in the finals at Roger Williams University for its first state crown since 1987. The Broncos, which needed to beat Cumberland in three overtimes in the semifinals in order to advance, were 17-0-1.
And another local team to claim a state championship was the Shea girls’ volleyball team, which after stunning top-seeded Johnston in the semifinals, beat Mount Pleasant in the Division III finals at URI’s Keaney Gymnasium, 3-0.