Fall Sports Season Highlighted by Two NEPSAC Championship Victories

Rivers teams and athletes turned in an array of amazing performances during the 2019 fall sports season, performances that included a new girls’ cross-country record and an exciting Homecoming Weekend victory in football. In addition, the school saw four of its teams—field hockey, girls’ and boys’ soccer, and girls’ volleyball—qualify for the NEPSAC playoffs.
Two of those four—field hockey and girls’ soccer—not only made it all the way to the final game but succeeded in taking home the championship trophy. In addition, both the field hockey team, which went undefeated, and the girls’ volleyball team earned ISL championship honors.

“This has been a fabulous season for our teams,” says Athletic Director Bob Pipe. “I am so proud of all our athletes and coaches for the hard work and dedication they put into their sports. Rivers teams are always competitive, but to have four teams qualify for the NEPSAC finals is very special. We were the only school in the ISL to send so many teams into the playoffs this year.”

The success of the volleyball team was especially sweet given that the sport has only been in existence at Rivers for four years. This year represented not only the team’s first winning season but its first ISL championship and its debut in the NEPSAC playoffs. The team took advantage of its first playoff appearance to claim its first playoff victory with a win over Winsor School in its quarterfinals match. Although the team lost in the semifinals to the number-one-seeded King School, no tears were shed.

“I am beyond happy with our team’s success this season,” said Coach Jarryl McKey. “The team goal was just to improve over last year, and we accomplished that and more. The girls worked hard in practice and competed in every game. Our team chemistry was outstanding. It was an amazing team effort. This year we set a new standard for Rivers volleyball.”

Several team members earned ISL honors, most notably Mallory Folliard, who was named ISL MVP.

Field Hockey Claims Victory on Home Turf
While the field hockey and girls’ soccer teams are more familiar with winning seasons and playoff runs, this year’s hard-earned championship victories tasted equally sweet to the players and coaches of those teams.

For the field hockey team, which won the Class C New England championship in 2014 and 2015, this year’s victory represented its first championship victory since moving up to Class B two years ago. Moreover, this year’s victory avenged the loss Rivers suffered at the hands of Brooks School in last year’s Class B championship match. This year Rivers beat Brooks in an overtime thriller in the semifinal game, which set up its championship match against Governor’s Academy. Rivers won that game 3-0, with Mallory Hasselbeck ’21 accounting for two of the goals and Lauren Glaser ’24 adding a third.

The victory was made sweeter by the fact that Rivers was able to play the game on its home field. This was the first year NEPSAC chose Rivers to host a championship game, a choice driven by the quality of the school’s new athletic complex. With its two turf fields, the complex provides an ideal venue for tournaments and high-profile championship games.

“Playing the championship game on our home turf was definitely a nice advantage,” said Coach Janna Anctil. “But overall, what made the season so successful was the leadership displayed by our seven seniors as well the overall team chemistry. This was a special group of girls that had a strong bond off the field, and that connection helped drive success on the field.”

Although Anctil is not thinking too much about next year just yet as she basks in the glow of this season’s success, she has to feel hopeful about the team’s future, given the strong core of players who will be returning to play another season. The returning players will include goalie Ellie Todd ’22, leading scorer Mallory Hasselbeck ’21, and the team’s two impressive eighth graders, Ava Murphy ’24 and Glaser ’24.

Girls’ Soccer Brings the Championship Trophy Back to Rivers
Playoff runs are almost de rigueur for the girls’ soccer team, as they have made it into the playoffs for 17 of the past 18 years. During that time, they have won an impressive five NEPSAC championships, with the most recent one coming in 2016.This year they added one more to that total as they once again brought the championship trophy back to Rivers.

To earn this year’s championship, the team not only had to come back from a 1-3 start to its season but had to face Pingree in the championship game. Pingree was one of the three teams to claim a victory over Rivers during the opening weeks of the season. But Rivers proved it was up for the challenge. Even though Pingree jumped out to an early 1-2 lead, Rivers fought its way back to take a 3-2 victory. Goals were scored by Paige Nelson ’22, Cara Schmidlein ’21, and Rylee Glennon ’20.

“I knew coming into the year that we had the potential to be good,” said Coach Susanna Donahue. “It all hinged on whether or not the team would develop the right chemistry. Fortunately, the leadership displayed by our seniors was outstanding and everything came together beautifully. The kids never gave up on themselves at any point, even when we lost those three games at the start of the year. They knew those were the toughest games of the season. Instead of dwelling on the defeats, they just kept at it and ended up going the rest of the season without any losses.”

Will they be able to repeat next year? No doubt it will be a challenge, given that they are losing eight seniors, including NEPSAC Class B player of the year Glennon. On the plus side, they’ll have an impressive group of returning players, including Summer Pierson ’22, who earned All-ISL and All-State honors this year, goalie Carly Peterson ’22, who salvaged this year’s playoff run by stopping two penalty kicks in a hard-fought semifinal match that went into double overtime, and a core of other top players that includes Sam Moulder ’22, Nelson ’22, Schmidlein ’21, and Mollie Franklin ’21.
“We’ll just have to see how the team comes together,” said Donahue.

Other Outstanding Performances
Cross-country runner Addy Vettel ’20 had an amazing season, winning all the regular-season races in which she ran and taking first place in the ISL championship race. She also set a new home-course record with a time of 19:11.7. Teammate Margo Lewis ’21 also had a successful season, the highlight of which was her 16th-place finish in the New England championship race, good enough to earn her All-New England honors.

The boys’ team ended the year with a winning 9-6 record and took second place in the New England championship meet, where every runner managed to run his best race of the season. Mark Ryan ’20 and Cam Stathos ’21 took 7th and 16th place, respectively, earning each of them All–New England honors. The JV runners also performed well at the New Englands, taking first place as a team in the JV race.

While boys’ coach Steve Paluseo said he was pleased with the team’s record, he was especially proud of the way the team conducted itself throughout the year. “The boys were great. They had terrific chemistry and were supportive and respectful of one another. They had talent and a consistently good work ethic. They were a good team in all the important ways that a team can be good. I could not have been luckier than to be able to coach these guys.”

The boys’ soccer team was the fourth Rivers team to win a spot in the NEPSAC playoffs, an honor it earned by putting together an impressive 9-3-5 season. A tough 1-2 loss in the quarterfinals cut the team’s playoff run short but did not diminish the season’s successes. Aidan Davock ’20 led the ISL in points and goals, an accomplishment that earned him the honor of being named league MVP. Teammate Drew Stephans ’22 lead the league in assists.

“The team fought hard all year long and had to overcome adversity in some key moments due to injuries,” said assistant coach Matthew Dias Costa ’13, “Although the team is very young, we were still disappointed not to find ourselves in contention for an ISL or New England championship. But with regards to our team's character and style of play, we felt as though we had a very positive season and have promising young talent.”

Looking ahead to next year, Dias Costa notes there will be 12 returning players, many of whom played key roles this season. “We're excited about what next season has in store. There is a certain level of maturity and experience gained from being in the playoffs. And it was important for us to be there this season and learn a hard lesson. I think ultimately it is going to make us better for our next opportunity.”

For Rivers’s 2-6 football team, the highlight of the year was its back-to-back home-game wins, including a come-from-behind 20-12 victory over St. Mark’s on Homecoming Weekend. The victory delighted the hundreds of fans who were there not only to watch the game but to witness the dedication ceremony for the new Rivers athletic complex.

“It was a real thrill for the guys to be able to claim that victory in front of such a large crowd,” said Coach Tom Bourdeau. “It was the perfect ending to a picture-perfect day.”

Bourdeau offered high praise for the field leadership shown by senior co-captains Lucas Lisman ’20 and Abe Dekin ’20, noting that they served as great role models for next year’s co-captains Gregg Dennison ’21 and Joe Kraft ’21. With 20 players returning for next year, Bourdeau feels confident the team has set a solid foundation for future success.

Photo galleries of Rivers athletes in action can be found on the school’s SmugMug site.

Following is a list of individual awards and honors earned by Rivers athletes:

Aidan Davock, boys’ soccer, All-League, ISL MVP
John Morgan, boys’ soccer, All-League
Jonah Berg, boys’ soccer, All-League
Rylee Glennon, girls’ soccer, All-League
Summer Pierson, girls’ soccer, All-League
Paige Nelson, girls’ soccer, Honorable Mention
Sofia Buckle, girls’ soccer, Honorable Mention
Caralyn Schmidlein, girls’ soccer, Honorable Mention
Lillian Branka, girls’ field hockey, All-League
Julia Hitti, girls’ field hockey, All-League
Eleanor Todd, girls’ field hockey, All-League
Soobin Lee, girls’ field hockey, Honorable Mention
Annabelle Hasselbeck, girls’ field hockey, Honorable Mention
Brooke Nelson, girls’ field hockey, Honorable Mention
Lucas Lisman, football, All-League
Abraham Dekin, football, All-League
Alan Dennison, football, Honorable Mention
Joseph Kraft, football, Honorable Mention
Benjamin Genser, football, Honorable Mention
Adeline Vettel, girls’ cross country, All-League
Mark Ryan, boys’ cross country, All-League
Cameron Stathos, boys’ cross country, All-League
Mallory Folliard, girls’ volleyball, All-League, ISL MVP
Mia Folliard, girls’ volleyball, Honorable Mention
Vanessa Xue, girls’ volleyball, Honorable Mention
Samantha Sousa, girls’ volleyball, Honorable Mention

Aidan Davock, boys’ soccer, All-NEPSAC (Class B)
Jonah Berg, boys’ soccer, All-NEPSAC (Class B)
Rylee Glennon, girls’ soccer, NEPSAC Class B Player of the Year, All-Star
Summer Pierson, girls’ soccer, All-NEPSAC (Class B), All-Star
Paige Nelson, girls’ soccer, All-NEPSAC (Class B), All-Star
Caralyn Schmidlein, girls’ soccer, All-NEPSAC (Class B), All-Star
Eleanor Todd, girls’ field hockey, NEPSAC Class B Player of the Year
Julia Hitti, girls’ field hockey, All-NEPSAC (Class B)
Mallory Hasselbeck, girls’ field hockey, All-NEPSAC (Class B)
Lauren Glaser, girls’ field hockey, All-NEPSAC (Class B)
Lilly Branka, girls’ field hockey, All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention (Class B)
Ava Murphy, girls’ field hockey, All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention (Class B)
Soobin Lee, girls’ field hockey, All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention (Class B)

Other Honors
Aidan Davock, boys’ soccer, All-State
Rylee Glennon, girls’ soccer, All-State
Summer Pierson, girls’ soccer, All-State
Caralyn Schmidlein, girls’ soccer, New England Junior All-Star
Mollie Franklin, girls’s soccer, New England Junior All-Star
Margo Lewis, girls’ cross country, All-New England
Mark Ryan, boys’ cross country, All-New England
Cameron Stathos, boys’ cross country, All-New England

Team Honors
Aidan Davock, boys’ soccer, MVP
Sofia Buckle, girls’s soccer, Pioneer Award
Carly Peterson, girls’ soccer, Most Improved Player
Margaret Barrow, girls’ field hockey, Achievement Award
Lillian Branka, girls’ field hockey, Red Wing Award
Julia Hitti, girls’ field hockey, Red Wing Award
Joel Manasseh, football, Coaches Award
Lucas Lisman, football, David W. Flood Memorial Award
Abraham Dekin, football, Grossman Outstanding Achievement Award
Amanda Gary, girls’ cross country, Coaches Award
Adeline Vettel, girls’ cross country, F.E. Allison Award
Calvin Smith, boys’ cross country, Most Improved Runner
George Reinhardt, boys’ cross country, F.E. Allison Award
Mallory Folliard, girls’ volleyball, MVP
Vanessa Xue, girls’ volleyball, Rookie of the Year