The Salem News
---- — BOYS SOCCER COACH OF THE YEAR
It was the type of turnaround season that Leahy had been hoping for. Once a Division 1 North finalist, Beverly made six straight postseason appearances from 2001-06 before returning to the state tournament as competitive contenders this fall.
This year’s Panthers adopted a ‘rise again’ motto and put together its first winning record in six seasons. With the help of assistant coach Doug Vigliotta, Leahy reminded the Panthers of the success the program once enjoyed and, without dwelling too much in the past, guided them to an 11-4-3 regular season record.
“It was about changing the fortunes of the program,” Leahy said. “We went from a 2-win team last season to a tourney team this season.”
A teacher at Beverly High School, Leahy has three children with his wife Bernadette. His oldest son Conor, a BHS soccer captain and the team’s leading scorer, was named the Northeastern Conference Large Player of the Year, while Leahy was honored as Coach of the Year.
GIRLS SOCCER COACH OF THE YEAR
Sometimes it takes an excellent striker and a great coach to have a memorable season in soccer. Simpson would know, since she’s now been on both sides of the equation.
As a coach, Simpson led the Panthers to their first-ever Division 1 North title this fall. It was the program’s best season since 1997, when they fell in the North final with Simpson as a player and the well-respected Dick Maitland as coach.
The fall of 2012 was one that Simpson will never forget. She gave birth to her son, Jordan, during the season and also helped junior striker Caitlin Harty crack the 100-point mark, breaking Simpson’s school scoring record in the process.
“There were so many great memories. This was a great group of girls that worked hard for each other and sacrificed themselves for the team. They made my job easy,” said Simpson, 30, who works for an engineering consulting company.
Simpson’s team was an offensive power while topping four goals 14 times, but turned up the defense in a remarkable run to the Panthers’ first Divisoin 1 North championship. She gave credit to the team’s seniors and assistant coaches Adrienne Baker and Monica Cassola, who are both also former Beverly players.
A 2000 graduate of Beverly High, Simpson also graduated as the leading scorer from Indiana-Purdue. She took over as Panthers head coach at age 22 and lives in Beverly with her husband, Pingree and Aztec coach Dushawne “Doc” Simpson, and their children, Jaydin and Jordan.
GOLF COACH OF THE YEAR
It’s hard to imagine Kevin Keilty’s first season at the helm of the Beverly golf program working out any better. He inherited a team with talent, but only a partial commitment level. He immediately set out to change that culture — and his players responded quickly. The result was a fantastic 13-2-1 overall record and a 10-0 mark in the Northeastern Conference.
The Panthers captured the NEC Large title in the process and advanced to the Division 2 North sectional tournament, placing third to narrowly miss moving on to the state finals.
“They finally put the effort into committing to a new system that demanded more out of each player,” Keilty said.
This season was Keilty’s first as a varsity head coach. The 32-year-old Beverly High teacher spent the previous five falls coaching the JV golf team at Salem under head coach Tom Doyle. Keilty has also been an assistant varsity basketball coach under Doyle for the Witches for the past nine years.
He credits Doyle for teaching him how to coach, and also wishes to thank Beverly Principal Sean Gallagher, Athletic Director James Coffey and assistant coach Tim Reynolds. Most of all, Keilty is thankful for his players.
“Depth was our main strength,” Keilty said. “They were committed and worked hard to reach their full potential.”
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY COACH OF THE YEAR
St. John’s Prep
After more than 30 years as an assistant to Ray Carey, Boyle has been the Eagles’ head coach the last four seasons. This past fall they won the Catholic Conference crown with a perfect 4-0 record and placed fourth at the Division 1 Meet, which qualified the team for All-States.
“The kids did a lot of work over the summer, and we had a good surprise early when we won the Ocean State Invitational (in Rhode Island),” said Boyle, who teaches chemistry at St. John’s Prep. “We were able to stay healthy and get a lot of miles in.
“There was no one outstanding performer this year, but they were all close and trained together. They like and support each other. Liam Dow, Tim Loehner, Tom O’Shea, Nick Fecteau, Colin Monahan were our top five most of the year, but not always in the same order.
A Newburyport resident, Boyle thanked SJP athletic director Jim O’Leary, assistant AD Ann Edgerton and his assistant coaches (Bill Boyle, Rob O’Brien and Mike Cronin) for their tireless work and committment to the team.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY COACH OF THE YEAR
Somehow year after year, Steve Sawyer manages to put together a powerhouse in both the Cape Ann League and at the state level. The H-W girls have won an amazing 97 straight dual meets, dating back to 2005.
Once again the Lady Generals were the class of the CAL this fall, finishing unbeaten in the regular season and capturing their ninth straight CAL Open title. They were also second overall at the Division 5 state meet and fourth at All-States, led by standouts Emily Weigand and Emily Horgan.
In addition, the Hamilton-Wenham girls placed 11th at the Nike Northeast meet in New York in late November against the top teams from eight states.
“A year ago we went all the way to the nationals in Portland (Ore.),” said Sawyer, who has been coaching cross country at H-W for 34 years. “I knew we had a good team back with the Emily’s setting the tone. Our seniors were led by Sarah Duffy, Claire Pacione and Carrie Goodrich. Unfortunately, Meg Blatchford had a leg injury that kept her out most of the season, but freshman Meghan Stone came along fast. We began to peak right before the state meets.”
FIELD HOCKEY COACH OF THE YEAR
Most first-year head coaches spend their inaugural season with a new team just trying to find their footing. But Masconomet field hockey skipper Leah Gunner was on firm ground from Day 1 with the Chieftains. They went 15-0-3 in the regular season and won a pair of games in the Division 1 North tournament before falling to eventual state champion Acton-Boxborough.
A former Melrose High field hockey star, Gunner went on to graduate from Providence College with a degree in English and Business Studies. The now 26-year-old, a seventh grade English teacher in Melrose, was a Middlesex League all-star as well as the USA futures team member before deciding to play Rugby at Providence.
Gunner was an assistant coach on the Masconomet field hockey team in 2010 before being promoted to junior varsity coach in 2011. When the varsity head coaching position opened up last offseason, Gunner jumped at the chance to be a Division 1 high school field hockey coach. The Chieftains have been winning ever since, going undefeated in the regular season to win the Cape Ann League championship.
FOOTBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
Its not easy to make history for a program that’s over 110 years old, but that’s exactly what Dan Bauer did in his 10th year in charge of the Beverly High football team.
Bauer guided the Panthers to the first 13-0 season in school history, culminating with the program’s second Super Bowl in three years, with both championships coming under his stewardship.
An assistant principal at Beverly High, Bauer inspired his team to take one game at a time and hold a relentless focus all season long. The Panthers laid waste to most of the Northeastern Conference, outscoring their opponents 471-137. Beverly set a school record for points scored, rushing yardage and total offense in a single season as well.
Bauer and his staff were blessed with considerable depth and, to their credit, they made sure they used it. Beverly utilized a bevy of ballcarriers over the course of the season, and the coaches made certain to reward every kid on the roster with some playing time when warranted.
The Panthers were at their most focused at the end of the season, beating two very good teams in the Division 2A playoffs. First was a road win over once-beaten Burlington, followed up by a seven-point Super Bowl victory over an 11-win team in Natick. The Panthers made several key plays in that Super Bowl game, a testament to how prepared they were by the staff.
Bauer is 69-42 in a decade as Beverly’s head coach, including a perfect 4-0 mark in the playoffs. That includes an 8-2 mark against Salem on Thanksgiving and an overall winning percentage of .622. He is fourth on the Panthers’ all-time wins list.
VOLLEYBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
The transition to a new league isn’t always easy, with new opponents to scout and new gymnasiums to play in.
The Peabody volleyball team made their first year in the Northeastern Conference for volleyball a memorable one, however, winning the league title and turning in their best regular season since 2007 with a 17-2 mark.
Keene, who has been the Tanners’ coach for nine years and is now a 4-time Salem News Coach of the Year, has led her team to the postseason in all nine of her years. This year, Peabody fell to Central Catholic in the state tournament.
Keene helped junior Carolyn Schacchi harness her size and talent and become the MVP of the NEC. Scacchi also became the first-ever Peabody High player to record 200 kills in a career, with 205 heading into her senior season next year.
Keene, who carries an impressive 135-46 career record as Peabody volleyball coach, spends the winter coaching basketball in her native New Hampshire.