By Nick Curcuru and Conor Walsh, Staff Writers
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — With the fall sports season completely wrapped up on Cape Ann it’s time to reflect on what was a great season it was for local athletes and teams in the area.
This fall saw five local teams take home conference championships (Gloucester boys cross country, Gloucester cheerleading, Rockport boys soccer, Manchester Essex field hockey and Manchester Essex golf) along with four locals being named player of the year for their respective conferences.
Now is the time to hand out the fall sports awards, recognizing the top players, teams and moments of the fall sports season on Cape Ann.
Fall Player of the Year: Conor Douglass, Sr., Rockport soccer. More often than not when the Rockport boys soccer team took the field, Douglass was the best player on it. The senior captain polished off a spectacular 2012 season by being named Cape Ann League Small Player of the Year with a league leading 24 points on the season (11 goals, 13 assists).
The Vikings senior captain did not score goals with flash, but strong technique, superior athleticism and strong soccer instincts helped him become the Cape Ann League’s most prolific scorer. And leading the CAL in scoring is no easy task, as both the large and small tiers of the league are known for being deep and featuring a wealth of strong soccer teams.
Douglass, the 2012 Gloucester Times Rockport male Athlete of the Year, helped lead Rockport to a 14-5-2 record this fall and a fourth straight trip to the Division 3 North Semifinals.
Honorable Mention: Nicole Bradley, ME field hockey; Curtis Quinn, Gloucester golf; Ben Bichet, ME golf; Noah Mondello, Gloucester cross country.
Best Team: Manchester Essex field hockey. The Rockport boys soccer team certainly has a claim to the best team on Cape Ann but the Hornets deep state tournament run sealed the deal.
The Hornets were nothing short of dominant this fall finishing up the season with an outstanding 18-2-1 record and making it all the way to the Division 2 North Final for the fifth time in the last six years. Manchester Essex was topped by Watertown, a team that has not been defeated in its last 95 games.
Manchester Essex, who won the Cape Ann League Small this fall, attained its success with balance, as the team could beat opponents in many different ways. From goalie Maddi Bistrong all the way to forward Brittany Smith and Anna Heffernan, the Hornets were lethal.
Not only were the Hornets amongst the top scoring teams in the Cape Ann League, they also recorded 13 shutouts on the season. Manchester Essex also yielded five Cape Ann League All Stars. Senior captain Nicole Bradley was named CAL Small Player of the Year, Smith was an All League selection while Megan Jones, Carolyn Heslop and Heffernan were CAL All Stars.
Honorable Mention: Rockport boys soccer, Gloucester boys cross country, Manchester Essex golf.
Best Game: Rockport boys soccer vs. North Reading, Division 3 North First Round. The Vikings 1-0 first round triumph over CAL rival North Reading in the first round of the state tournament was an easy choice for best game this fall.
The first round clash had everything soccer fans want in a state tournament matchup. Two rival teams that have no love lost between each other, tightly-contested, physical play and lots of drama.
Tucker Meredith’s goal midway through the second half ended up being the difference in an evenly played game. Goal keeper Eric Littlefield (10 saves) made sure the Vikings held on with several big saves in the second half including a doozy off a set piece where the he dove to the top left corner of the goal robbing the Hornets of a game tying opportunity.
Honorable Mention: Gloucester vs. Lynn Classical football, Gloucester vs. Melrose girls soccer, Division 2 North Prelims.
Breakout Player: Santo Parisi, Gloucester football. Local football fans already knew Parisi could play ball after a strong junior campaign, but in 2012 the senior quarterback/linebacker/defensive back broke out in a big way, taking his game to the next level and establishing himself as one of the better players in tier 2 of the NEC/CAL.
Parisi did just about everything for the Fishermen this fall. He was a field general on offense as the team’s quarterback, he was an all star on the defensive end and he established himself as the team’s unquestioned vocal leader.
It was a rare occurrence seeing Parisi on the sidelines getting a rest as he played through pain and played just about every down on both sides of the ball including special teams.
Honorable Mention: The entire Manchester Essex boys cross country team, Kacie Quinn, Gloucester girls cross country, Liam Aldrich, Manchester Essex boys soccer, Zach Smith, Gloucester football, Katie McTigue, Gloucester field hockey.
Unsung Hero: Isaac Randell, Gloucester boys soccer. Randell did not break into the score sheet often as he played defense for the Gloucester boys soccer team. But the impact he had on the field for Gloucester could not be measured.
Randell, a tall defender, anchored a defensive unit that was the biggest strength for the Gloucester boys soccer team this fall as teams rarely penetrated the team’s back line.
Randell was named a Northeastern Conference All Star for his efforts. He may not have been amongst the team’s top scorers, but the amount of goals he prevented has to be amongst the best in the NEC.
Honorable Mention: Mark Horgan, Gloucester football, Maddi Bistrong, ME field hockey, Tucker Meredith, Rockport boys soccer; Doug Rodier, ME football, Elle Wierbicky, Gloucester girls soccer, Eva Weinstein, Rockport girls soccer.
Best Turnaround: Gloucester girls soccer: The Gloucester girls soccer team appeared to be dead in the water after an 0-4-2. The team went through a little growing pains early on plugging lots of new starters into new spots after being hit hard by graduation.
But Gloucester was able to turn it around in a big way going 8-2-1 over the final 11 games of the season to qualify for the state tournament for the fourth year in a row. In the tournament Gloucester proved it was better than its record knocking off Melrose in the prelims and then taking No. 2 seed Hamilton-Wenham to penalty kicks in the first round.
Gloucester went from a team going in the wrong direction in the first third of the season, to one of the more powerful teams in the area over the final two thirds of the year, an amazing turnaround indeed.
Honorable Mention: ME boys soccer going 3-0-1 in the year’s final week to qualify for the state tournament.
Best Defensive Player: Chris Xavier, ME boys soccer goalie. Xavier was a rock in goal for the Hornets all season as head coach Rob Bilsbury and company knew the team had one of the CAL’s best in goal when all else failed.
Xavier is known to win games on his own thanks to great athleticism and superb instincts in net. His performance against Rockport late in the season, a 3-2 Hornets win, spring boarded a run that got the team into the state tournament. In that game Xavier made at least four game changing stops in the second half to preserve the Hornets win. He was recognized as a CAL All Star this fall for his efforts.
Honorable Mention: Drew Shairs, Gloucester football; Matt Rostowski, Rockport boys soccer; Ella Silag Stearns, ME girls soccer, Carolyn Heslop, ME field hockey.
Best On Field Duo: Bianca Giacalone and Kali Cook, Gloucester girls soccer. Giacalone and Cook have been finding the net for Gloucester since their Freshman year in 2009, and in seniors in 2012 the pair carried the team into the postseason for the fourth straight season.
The duo was equally lethal in different ways. Cook served as the team’s facilitator in the midfield weaving through the opposing defense and creating offensive opportunities for Gloucester. Giacalone, on the other hand, was a finisher using her blazing speed to blow past opposing defenses. Both are multiple time NEC All Stars and both are taking their games to the next level in college.
Honorable Mention: Cory Burnham and John Beardsley, ME football; Conor Douglass and Shaun Aspesi, Rockport boys soccer; Brittany Smith and Anna Heffernan, ME field hockey.