The results in the postseason may not have been there for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School athletics teams that qualified this winter.
But there was plenty of reason to celebrate if you ask the school’s athletics director.
Craig Genualdo, who is in the midst of his sixth season as the school’s chief of sports, caught up with the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle for a state of the state now that the winter season has concluded.
The two basketball teams won their Cape Ann League Baker Division titles and went to the tourney, with the girls going one-and-done and the boys winning one before falling in the quarterfinals to Pentucket.
But the feelgood story of the winter had to be a tie between the girls basketball program and the boys hockey program.
The girls basketball program was in a bit of chaos, as Genualdo recalled, last November as the girls basketball team lost its coach on Day One of the season; fifth-year coach Jon DeMarco stepped down for personal reasons.
But that tense opening week was soon forgotten as the team ushered in a new coaching staff led by veteran coach Jon Flanagan, then got down to business and ended up winning its first league crown since 1994.
Not. So. Bad.
“That was absolutely a joy this year,” Genualdo said. “What started from chaos turned into a very meaningful kind of season. It was successful. The girls really felt like they were part of a situation where they made history. They hadn’t won the league in forever and after all the chaos was said and done to win that league title was impressive. I give a lot of credit to the resiliency of the kids.”
Genualdo credited the seniors for their leadership – Lauren Flynn, Cecily Szady and Jacqueline Fibbe – each of whom had success in other sports, too. They worked hard, he said, and that was reflected upon the work ethic of the other players.
“And Coach Flanagan was amazing,” Genualdo said. “He’s so experienced from his time at Gloucester. He’s been a coach, an AD, a teacher. He’s just a phenomenal human being. He knew what the girls needed, not necessarily just from a basketball standpoint, but from a human being standpoint.”
Genualdo said he has every intention of welcoming back Flanagan as next year’s coach but is giving the first-year boss some time to think about a possible return to the Generals sideline.
The boys hockey team, in its second year as a varsity after about a decade as a defunct program, returned to the ice this year with much success. The team went from zero wins in 2017 to eight in 2018. It made the tournament and, despite losing in the first round, has plenty of reasons for optimism.
Genualdo said the team, which returned to the ice as a junior varsity when these seniors were freshmen, will not be competing in a particular conference just yet. They were independent the last two seasons and plan to remain as such.
“We were 0-17-3 last year and at the beginning of this year we kind of were holding our breath worrying for them,” Genualdo said. “But we beat the teams we were supposed to beat and played competitively against the other teams. Our coach Rob Ryan said all we needed to do was to get on the bus for a state tourney game, knowing what that feels like. We made it. It was quite a big deal and quite a journey.”
As for the final tourney team, boys basketball, it was another successful campaign for third-year coach Mike DiMarino. The program had close to 60 wins the last three seasons, three Cape Ann League titles and all kinds of accolades.
“Mike gets the kids to play to their potential, and he’s just been phenomenal,” Genualdo said. “I can’t be happier to have him. He spends so much time, and puts forth so much energy to not only the program, but into the kids, too. I’m incredibly grateful for him.”