WOBURN — Looking back over the decade that spanned the 2009-10 season through the 2018-19 season, it has been an incredible run for the Woburn High girls basketball team.
Not only did the Tanners win their first Middlesex League title in 28 years, they won five ML Liberty titles in a row, while qualifying for the MIAA Div. 1 North tournament 10 years in a row after not qualifying the previous six seasons.
While there has been a wide variety of players through the years who made their impact, the most important occurrence happened in the summer of 2009 when boys assistant coach, Steve Sullivan, was named the Woburn girls’ new coach.
Sullivan introduced a system of high-intensity defense, most often involving double-digit players every game to either smother or wear down opponents while creating easy scoring opportunities down the other end of the court.
The new style caught on quickly and achieving success came from the first year, when the Tanners broke their drought and made the tournament, even winning a first round game.
The next year, 2010-11, saw Woburn finish with its best regular season ever at 18-2. This record was even more amazing considering the Tanners star guard at the time, Katy Knight, missed 14 games due to injury.
This was also the period where the Tanners and Reading would go toe-to-toe in must-watch games twice a season. The Lady Rockets would win a D-2 state title in 2012, no doubt, helped along by the battles they had with Woburn.
Playing in Div. 1 North didn’t bode well at that time for Woburn as it was defeated by Lowell, 56-49, in a first round game.
Woburn was unable to get out of the quarters over the next two years, until finally breaking through the 2013-14 season, when the Tanners also won the first of their five straight titles. Woburn won two games before falling to top seed and eventual champion, Lynn English.
The Tanners had their best regular season of the decade in 2014-15, going 19-1, only to go down in the first round, as the top seed, to an Arlington team that it defeated twice during the regular season, but had only lost to Woburn by two points in the final regular-season meeting.
Woburn put it altogether in the 2015-16 season, earning its third straight ML Liberty title and capturing the Div. 1 North title as the second seed, defeating fourth seed Revere for a trip to the TD Garden. The Tanners lost to Bishop Feehan, but it was a season of unprecedented triumphs for Woburn.
Point guard Marissa Gattuso was a constant through these Liberty title years. Now playing at Merrimack, she rounded out her career with a league MVP season while leading the Tanners to a third trip to the semifinals, and second straight trip to the North final. Woburn lost to Andover in the final, but it was not the end of the Tanners’ successes.
Woburn tied Belmont for the league title for the second year in a row, and fifth straight title overall in the 2017-18 season. The Lady Marauders gained control of the series with a quarterfinal victory at Burlington’s Vanella Gym.
Belmont ended the Tanner’s title streak in the final season of the decade, and then ousted Woburn again in the quarterfinals, this time at the newly-named Coach Lyons Court at Wenner Field House.
Sullivan wanted no part of selecting the All-Decade (2010-19), but assisted the Daily Times Chronicle by graciously giving us a list of 18 players from throughout the 10 years with which to create the team.
We took the All-NBA team approach and chose the best five according to positions for three teams.
The two easiest selections for the first team were guards Gattuso and Sam D’Angelo, both of whom were 1000-point career scorers and went on to play in college.
Erin Marshall (Class of 2012) had a solid career early in the decade and her presence in the front court as a double-digit scorer and rebounder set her apart.
Callie Murphy, although playing just the one season in the decade in 2009-10, was the first real star player in the program under Sullivan. An All-League player she averaged 14 ppg.
You could throw a blanket over the three centers (Elle Brennan, Nicole Rice, Marina Rufo) and debate that if you will.
The rest of the teams had a nice blend of skill and role players. Andrea Schiavone and Mya Blazejowski were outstanding 3-point shooters. Knight and Ashlyn Pacheco were driving engines who guided their teams from the point.
Anyway you slice it, there were many fine players in the decade and watching them play was quite entertaining.
* This team does not recognize the past season of 2019-20 so those accomplishments of some players who crossed decades were not factored in.
(Steve Algeri also contributed to this report.)
WOBURN GIRLS BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS
Guards — Marissa Gattuso, Sam D’Angelo; Forwards — Erin Marshall, Callie Murphy; Center — Elle Brennan
Guards — Danielle Perkins, Katy Knight; Forwards — Mya Blazejowski, Shannon Maguire; Center — Nicole Rice.
Guards — Ashlyn Pacheco, Andrea Schiavone; Forwards — Kelsey Qualey, Nicole Pacheco; Center — Marina Rufo.
Honorable Mention: G-Courtney Cronin; F-Gabby Parker; F-Vanessa Carbone.