Coming home from practice one day, shaking his head in frustration, Wilson received a suggestion from his wife: "Why don't you split the practices?" A simple solution, one that seems obvious in hindsight, became a turning point in his coaching career. Wilson made the change several years ago, holding an early practice for players that needed fundamental training, followed by a later practice for the skilled players. Soon, Gilford started winning the NHIAA Division III state championship.
The Golden Eagles won their latest title on Tuesday, beating Bow 6-3. It was Wilson's third championship, all won over a four-year span. Wilson said the championship match was a dramatic finale to the season. "It was one of the most emotional matches in my 15 years of coaching," he said.
Since splitting the practices, Wilson has been able to accomodate developing players, those who might not be ready this season to play in either the six singles or three doubles slots of every match. With a practice dedicated to them, the players new to the game were more likely to remain interested and keep improving. After a few years of such development, Wilson found himself with teams that featured not just a few strong players at the top of the seeding, but with competitive players in every singles and doubles slot and capable backups in reserve.
Going into the post-season this year, Wilson knew he had depth on his team. Although nearly every player had lost at least once throughout the year – the exception being top seed Andrew Caulfield, who hasn't lost since joining the team two years ago – the team as a whole has pulled together for a perfect 16-0 season. However, said Wilson, most of those wins were fairly decisive. His team hadn't been really tested, not until the title match.
In the singles play of the championship match, Caulfield cruised to victory, as did Nolan Dwyer in the sixth seed. The fourth and fifth singles for Gilford, Keaton Quigley and Erich Berghahn, lost their matches. That left the team's co-captains and second and third seeds, Matt Saulnier and Alex Simoneau, still playing. Things weren't looking good, either, as both players had their backs against the wall and were one game away from defeat. They were behind, but not losing. "They both said to me, I'm not losing this match," Wilson recalled.
Saulnier and Simoneau rallied, each coming from behind to win 9-7. Wilson said their play affected more than their individual matches – it took the wind out of Bow's sails, knowing that they now had to sweep doubles matches to win, and it inspired the rest of the Gilford team, the coach said. "The kids are looking to them as leaders of this team to hang in there, to gut it out. Matt and Alex took it upon themselves not to lose."
Wilson knew his team had depth. He learned, during the championship, that they also have character. He said, "I'm certainly enjoying it now, especially for the seniors who wanted to go out this way."
He's losing five seniors to graduation this year, and expects the remaining 14 to return. Of those, only one will be a senior next year. Most of the rest, including the undefeated top seed Caulnier, will be juniors with championship experience.
"I see a bright, bright future next year," said Wilson.
Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:42
Gilford won the last 15 games of the season after losing their game opener to Franklin 3-2 in 10. Gilford later in the season avenged that loss with a 4-1 victory. Gilford has outscored opponents 109-15 including 8 shutouts, 6 of those shutouts in the last 7 games. Gilford has allowed opponents to score only 5 runs in the month of May and only 1 in the last 7 games. A major reason for the stingy defense is 4 year veteran lefty pitcher Sydney Strout. Strout has broken the 619 school career strikeout record and currently has 631 with 198 this season. Strout averages 12.4 strikeouts, 2.9 hits, .9 walks per game and has an ERA of .438. Catcher Paige Laliberte has been Strout's catcher for 10 years and is solid behind the plate, picking off 2 players at 1st base.
Gilford's infield starters are 1st baseman senior Abby Harris, 2nd baseman sophomore Caitlin Houston, 3rd baseman junior Lisa Osborne, shortstop junior Mollie Dignan. The outfield starters are right fielder junior Kelsey Buckley, centerfielder senior Hannah Chase and leftfielder is split between senior Alyssa Wilson and junior Mikaela Mattice. Courtesy runner Kristina Hayden and pinch hitter Sarah Lachapelle also will get tournament play time.
The Gilford offense was led by Lisa Osborne with a .517 batting average and 17 RBIs. The batting averages have improved since the April vacation break. The latter part of the season averages bring 8 players over .300 mark: Osborne .553, Mikaela Mattice .500, Sydney Strout .433, Mollie Dignan .357 (14 runs), Abby Harris .344 (12 RBIs & 6 doubles), Sara Lachapelle .333 and Paige Laliberte (9 stolen bases) and Caitlin Houston.304 (10 RBIs).
Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:33
Sydney Strout had 14 strikeouts, gave up 4 hits and 1 walk.
The Gilford offense was led by Lisa Osborne 2/4 (1 RBI), Sydney Strout 1 double (1 RBI), singles by Mollie Dignan (1 RBI & 1 run scored), Paige Laliberte, Caitlin Houston and Miakela Mattice (1 run scored)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:17
The 15-0 Eagles face Bow on Tuesday at 4 p.m., at the Derryfield School, for the Division III championship.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:14