2022 Winter Sports Recap
After such a successful fall sports season, it was going to be tough for our winter athletes to compare with that level of excellence. Avonians participating in hockey, basketball, swimming & diving, wrestling, and squash proved they were up to the challenge.
With the most prominent example of excellence this season, our varsity hockey team had a memorable and thrilling season culminating in a victory over Cushing Academy in the New England Prep School Championship game. The team brought home the school’s ninth New England Hockey title and first since 2010.
The team started the season extremely well, winning their first nine games of the season by a combined score of 43-8. Half of those games resulted in shutouts for goaltender Stephen Peck ’23.
Varsity hockey took the Christmas Classic title as well this season. The first day of the 39th Christmas Hockey Classic resulted in another Peck shutout and a pair of goals by Joe Connor ’23 over Tabor (4-0). The next morning, Avon exacted revenge over last year’s classic champs, Kent School (3-1), with goals from Charlie Gollob ’23, Alex Pelletier ’23, and Ryan Flaherty ’24. After a 5-1 win over St. Paul’s in the semis, Avon prevailed over Loomis Chaffee in the championship game 4-2 with goals from Gollob, Pelletier, Captain Nick Capasso ’23, and Lefty Markonidis ’24.
The return of the traditional “Westy Monday” game saw Avon blast four third-period goals to prevail 7-1. The team finished the regular season with a record of 19-2-4, qualifying them for the Elite 8 Prep Championship tournament, the highest tier of the NEPSAC playoffs.
In the quarterfinal game, Avon beat Westminster for the third time of the season in front of a packed Jennings Fairchild Arena. The semifinal game win over Belmont Hill was sweet revenge for the team after losing to them last season. Avon won 7-2 with Joe Odyniec ’23 scoring a hat trick in the third period. In a tight defensive battle at St. Anselm’s College, Avon was able to nip Cushing Academy 3-1 behind goals from Odyniec, Pelletier, and Won Jun Yun ’25, and more superb goaltending from Peck.
Head Coach John T. Gardner was pleased to finish yet another successful season on the ice. “It was truly an outstanding defensive team, scoring 118 goals during the season while giving up only 35 against in 28 games. Congratulations to an exceptional group of young men who represented the school so well throughout the winter months.”
Our school was represented well by the boys on the varsity basketball team as well. Led by Head Coach Matt Mihalich, the team had one of their best seasons in recent memory. After starting the season 4-3 the team went on a tear, winning their next seven games in a row all by double-digit margins.
The team consisted of a core group of four- and three-year students joined by three postgraduates—Matthew Curtis ’23, Christian Moore ’23, and Jeffrey Akintolu ’23—who really brought the team up a notch, largely in part to how seamlessly they integrated with their new brothers. “It’s as if they were with the other four seniors the whole time,” Mihalich says.
The Winged Beavers finished the regular season with a record of 16-8, the second most wins in NEPSAC Class A for the season. This qualified them for entry in the postseason tournament!
In the quarterfinals, the team beat Choate 61-59 after Moore hit a fadeaway jumper with only a few seconds remaining. They eventually lost in the semis to Milton Academy, a team with no weaknesses that would go on to win the title. Although it didn’t end the way they would have hoped, Coach Mihalich expressed how proud he was of his athletes and the Avon community. “These kids worked so hard and gave one another everything they could give. Thank you to all the Winged Beaver basketball fans, friends, parents, and alumni.”
On the varsity wrestling mats this season, our Avonians did everything to live up to our core value of sportsmanship. Head Coach John “Major” Bourgault was excited to share that a huge total of 46 kids completed the wrestling season. “That's over twice the number we had in the room last year! Most of the wrestlers were first year wrestlers...hope they come back next year and beyond.”
The team placed 7th at the Western New England Independent School Wrestling Association tournament hosted by the Taft School, where six Avonian wrestlers advanced to the next level. Those six students competed at the New England Independent School Wrestling Association tournament, aka "New Englands," hosted by Philips Andover Academy. One Avonian, Sean Park ’24 at 190 lbs, qualified for the National Prep tournament where he went 1-2.
A highlight of the season was having a boy from the American School for the Deaf (ASD) on the team. Ahmadi Sheikeb deaf and is a war refugee from Afghanistan. He represented ASD at meets, but every weekday he was a part of the Brotherhood when he practiced with the Avon team. “I was very proud of the way all the Avon wrestlers welcomed, included, and supported him,” Bourgault says.
Over in the Miss Porter’s pool, students participating in varsity swimming & diving made vast improvements compared to past seasons. The team compiled more wins and several personal bests during the regular season.
At the Kingswood Oxford Invitational meet, Robert Riccobon ’25 placed second in the 100m butterfly and third in the 50m butterfly; Avon’s 200m freestyle team placed third; and Brady Tollis ’26 placed third in the 100m breaststroke and second in the 50m breaststroke. The highlight of that invitational meet was Adrian Enrique ’23 taking first place in the diving competition.
At the NEPSAC Championship meet, the team saw similar success. The 200m medly relay team placed 4th out of 12 teams; Riccobon placed first in the 50m backstroke and third in the 500m freestyle; Tollis finished second in the 50m breaststroke and third in the 100m breaststroke,
Vast improvements were seen in the Gaynor Squash Pavilion as well. Coach Jack Sanford said that, undoubtedly, Tommy Baldini ’23 was the right choice to compete at the number one position. The team will miss performances like his nine-game winning streaks and superb leadership when he moves on to Dickinson.
However, Charlie Friedman ’24, the teams’ second-ranked player, will be returning next winter with improved skill and leadership. “During the season, we watched as Charlie outsmarted higher-ranked players with his shot selection and gritty determination,” Sanford says.
Some players persevered despite injury and pain, probably most exemplified by Eric Peng ’23, with unrelenting knee pain, and Taiyo Minami ’24, who played through huge foot blisters in the national tournament. Another member returning next year who improved in a variety of ways was Chase Weisleder ’24, who suffered several ankle sprains but stepped onto the court stronger with perseverance every time.
There were opportunities to shine as good men in addition to being good players. When the Hotchkiss Girls Squash coach asked us to play their senior girls to fulfill their senior celebration day, we did not hesitate. “We are proud of Jack Ginter ’23, Chase Weisleder ’24, and Reid Mather ’24 for this kind, generous, and humble action allowing opponents to compete on their senior day.”
The team competed in the NEPSAC tournament and the US High School National tournament in Philadelphia, where they placed 4th out of 16 in their division. Coach Sanford was proud to say that although there have been more talented varsity squash teams in the past, few have upheld the school motto—Aspirando et Perseverando—better than this one.
It may be March break for students, but our spring athletes are already putting their game faces on. Several team trips are taking place this month, with the spring sports season beginning almost as soon as they return.
Livestreams of varsity games are always available on the school’s athletics webpage.