Rivers Celebrates a Successful Winter Athletics Season

Just as Rivers headed out on spring break, NEPSAC finals were wrapping up. And in case you missed it, on that first Sunday of break, Rivers boys’ basketball and girls’ ice hockey won their final games, earning NEPSAC championships in their sports. On top of that, a couple of weeks earlier the boys’ Alpine ski team also clinched the NEPSAC Class B championship.
It was a memorable season to be sure—perhaps all the more so because, despite the lifting of many COVID protocols, circumstances were still far from normal. “The winter season presented different types of challenges this year, and we were happy that all of our teams battled through scheduling and COVID issues to complete a successful, full season,” said Director of Athletics Keith Zalaski. “In some ways, these unknown scenarios placed a greater emphasis on each member of the team being ready to step up and step into opportunities throughout the season, and each of our teams had moments that they can hold onto far beyond their time here.”
Fifth-seeded girls’ hockey (15-9-1) overcame tough competition in the tournament—including number-one seed Dexter Southfield—to take the Dorothy Howard bracket championship, defeating New Hampton 2-0. Coach Courtney Sheary said, “We could not be happier with how our season ended. I’m thrilled that our seniors were able to finish their high school careers on such a high note, after all the work they have put in over their four years. They have been such incredible leaders throughout the season and are extremely deserving of everything they’ve accomplished.” Though the team is graduating several key players, Sheary says, “I am looking forward to next season, watching our underclassmen work to fill their shoes and continue the program’s success.” 
Boys’ basketball (22-5) also ended the season with championship honors, marching through the NEPSAC Class B tournament with ease to defeat number-one seeded Canterbury School 73-61 in the final game. Zalaski, who serves as boys’ basketball coach as well as AD, said, “The boys had a very memorable season in all ways. They got the most out of their time on the court together, but it was the time they spent off the court that made the difference. They played for each other, and each game a different player would step up to make big contributions.” He added that this season was a unique experience for him: “For the first time in my coaching career, I never had a feeling of worry during a game, because I knew the guys on the court were going to do anything they could do to get it done. The final game was a perfect example of their collective mentality, and each and every one of them had moments where they made a big play for each other.” 
Alpine skiing was another success story this winter. At the New England Prep School Class B Championships, held in February at Waterville Valley Ski Resort, individual students performed well enough to earn the Rivers boys the top spot among 14 competing teams, while the girls’ team finished ninth. Coach Ross Gormley noted, “New England winters present an obvious challenge with conditions. We had a rocky start weather-wise, but the team was disciplined during practice. It’s a lot of work getting to the hill and back, so we needed to make the time at Nashoba Valley, our ‘home’ slope, really count. Our captains did a great job setting this tone and expectation, and from this consistency we delivered a lot of great races at NEPSACs, cementing our win.”
Boys’ hockey (13-9-2) made it to the tournament, playing in the Piatelli/Simmons (small) bracket, only to fall in the quarter-finals. The team took a tough loss in overtime to Westminster, but head coach Freddy Meyer was nonetheless pleased with the season overall. “Our senior leadership group set the tone for practice and games,” he said. “Their work ethic and commitment to the team was incredible, and they inspired our lowerclassmen to take the next step in their development. The future for Rivers hockey is very bright, and I am excited for the years to come.”
Like all Rivers coaches and athletes, John Adams, who helms the cross-country ski team, was happy and grateful to have a normal season, after the COVID restrictions of last year. Said Adams, “The cross-country ski team once again enjoyed the opportunity to get outside during the winter to engage in challenging and fun training. This winter marked a return to regular racing in the Lakes Region and the start of a local race series against Middlesex, Belmont Hill, Andover, and Berkshire. Through it all, the team formed a strong bond, and our returning athletes are excited to begin training for next winter.”
The girls’ basketball team (13-10) was also glad to return to a regular schedule of games and tournaments. Coach Lindsay Miller was delighted with the camaraderie among the players on this young team: “Our team has so much to be proud of when we look back on this season. We integrated eight newcomers and developed great chemistry, love, and respect for each other and a collective passion for the journey we were on. Our team played one of the most rigorous schedules in all of New England and played everyone tough. We return the majority of the roster, so the future is very bright.”
Championships may be a source of pride, but Zalaski also took satisfaction in how the season played out beyond the court, the rink, and the slopes: “Our teams represented Rivers proudly in all areas,” he said, adding, “We are so thankful for the support of the students and families that helped make the year a special one.”