The Holliston ultimate frisbee team captured the Massachusetts Division II State Championship on Saturday, winning the championship game of the tournament over Somerville by a score of 13-3.
The Panthers had a very successful regular season, only losing three games the entire year. This great performance during the season allowed them to enter the state tournament as the number two overall seed.
Holliston started off the tournament, which was held in Devens on June 4, with a 13-4 win over Natick in a game which was close in the early going, but the Panthers were able to eventually pull away. They then defeated Newton North’s “B” team by a score of 11-6 to move onto the semifinals, where they would face St. John’s Prep, the third seeded team in the tournament.
St. John’s was “extremely athletic,” according to Holliston head coach Chris Levasseur, and the game was very close with a lot of back and forth action. Ultimately, Holliston was able to build a lead in the second half and win by a score of 12-8.
In the championship game, Holliston faced Somerville, who had just defeated Xavarian, the defending state champions, in their semi-final game.
“We knew that they would be a good team and a physical team,” said coach Levasseur. “We played very disciplined and very smart. We played the best offense that I’ve seen in my life.”
The Panthers built a large lead, and things got a little chippy towards the end, but they were able to stay focused and rise above it, coach Levasseur said, and won the game handily to capture Holliston’s first state championship in ultimate frisbee since 2008.
Right from the start of the season, the members of the team realized their potential and worked hard to ensure that this would be a successful season.
“We came in with a strict goal to win states and worked extremely hard every practice and game to prepare us to be the best we could,” said Peter Georgakopoulos, a junior on the team.
“I think having that goal [of winning the championship] helped us strive for greatness and work together a lot better,” said Lee Mogren, a senior and one of the team captains.
Coach Levasseur said that going into the season, he and assistant coach Jefferson Wood thought that the team could win it all, but it wasn’t until about half-way through the season that they realized that winning the state championship was a real possibility.
“This year’s team was not as athletic as previous years’,” coach Levasseur said, “but they trusted each other more. The difference was the ability of the team to gel together. They worked really hard at being good at everything.”
Coach Levasseur pointed to the leadership from the captains and the veteran players as a key part of the team’s success.
“Teddy Campbell and Lee Mogren were the best captains that we could have asked for,” he said. “They constantly lead by example and their positive attitude, work ethic, and high level of respect set the tone for the entire team.”
“As a captain, it’s important to feel the pulse of the team to understand what kind of leader you need to be,” said Teddy about his role on the team. “Sometimes the team needs to settle down, crack some jokes, and just play, and sometimes they need a kick in the butt to focus up.”
Lee was quick to give some of the credit for the team’s success to the coaches as well.
“We owe everything to them,” he said about coach Levasseur and coach Wood. “They’re two of the smartest and most spirited ultimate players I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine getting to the championship with any other coaches.”
The strong leadership from both the coaches and the players allowed younger players who were new to the sport grow and become players who were capable of playing and starting in the state tournament.
Teddy says that his favorite part of being a member of the team was “watching the kids who, at the start of the season, could not throw or catch a disc … make clutch plays in the state tournament. It makes me proud of the work everyone put into practice this year.”
Coach Levasseur added that the team’s depth was one of the main reasons the team was so good this year, and that everyone on the team, even the freshmen, were comfortable being out on the field by the end of the year.
“The whole game is about having fun,” said coach Levasseur, “and every year the team has a lot of fun. This really was an outstanding group of athletes.”