Eras are ending in a couple of high school coaching circles

Staff photo by TOM KING Longtime Nashua High School North girls volleyball coach John Connolly has stepped down, signalling the end of a highly successful era.

Some coaching eras have ended.

The month of May and early June is usually the time when high school athletic directors get their coaching positions in order, beginning with the varity, for the following school year.

With that in mind, there are a couple of key departures, perhaps the main one being the resignation of Nashua High School North girls volleyball John Connolly – the only coach the program has ever had, and he had a long tenure as the unified Nashua girls volleyball coach as well.

“He was the JV coach when I was playing in the 1980s,” Nashua athletic director Lisa Gingras said. “Chances are, if you played volleyball in Nashua, you learned it from John Connolly. He did a great job.”

Gingras would not go into detail as to when Connolly stepped down, and he was still listed on the North coach’s directory on its web site. But she did say that she hopes to have the position filled soon.

“We hope to have a new coach in the next week,” she said, “but we’ll see.”

Connolly was hugely successful. The unified Nashua won five titles spanning from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, and although he didn’t win a title with North after The Split in 2004, his Titan teams were always a tough tournament out, even when they struggled in the regular season, as they did last fall with a 7-11 record.

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The other end of an era takes place at Campbell High School, where longtime soccer and wrestling coach Bob Gannon has stepped down. Couple that with another resignation, that of girls soccer coach Gary Karibian, and athletic director Jarod Mills has an entire sport to get back on track for the fall.

Gannon first coached girls soccer and then a few years ago switched to coaching the boys program.

“Bob wanted to spend more time with his family,” Mills said. “For awhile he was doing the boys in the fall, wrestling which is really demanding, and then girls lacrosse in the spring for the first few years. And then as soon as that was done he’d start the summer stuff. He was working like crazy.

“He’s going to be tough to replace. He’s kind of like Mr. Campbell High School, you know?”

The Cougars made the Division III semis a couple of years ago, 2015, in boys soccer but lost this past fall in the quarterfinals. Mills says the program’ future looks bright in terms of numbers, as there were as many as 50 boys in the middle school program last fall.

As for Karibian, he too took the Cougars to the semis back in 2016, but last fall were also ousted early on in the tournament. “He’s got two really young kids,” Mills said. “He has to travel more for work now, so he just didn’t have the time.”

Mills has spent a lot of time in the last few months replacing coaches who have stepped down, mainly for reasons not related to the sport they had been coaching. “I must be a terrible boss,” he said with a grin. “Many of them have very successful careers (outside the building). They’ve been good role models for the kids in that way.”

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The appointment of Dan Wyborney as the new Souhegan athletic director has a ripple effect at Nashua South, as it officially opens up the girls varsity basketball position.

Remember, Wyborney took a leave of absence prior to the start of last season from the Panthers girls hoop head job, and assistant Dave Hogan took it over on an interim basis.

“When Dan stepped aside earlier this year, remember and Dave took over, we said it would just be for this year and then (if Wyborney didn’t return) we’d open up the position,” Gingras said. “We hope to have it filled by the end of the school year.”

Is Hogan a candidate? Most likely. He guided the Panthers into the tournament, and they had a couple of signature wins, including one at home late in the season over Winnacunnet. He said all along he expected Wyborney to return, but now that that won’t happen, it’s expected he’ll go for the job. With some competition, of course.

“We’ve had some interest,” Gingras said. “I’m definitely hoping (to name a new coach) before the school year is out.”

There are three other winter openings for Nashua as well – both girls swimming head jobs are open, and so is North head varsity wrestling. The South swim opening has been reported in this space at the start of the spring, but now Titans head coach Alison Thomas has also stepped down for outside career reasons, according to Gingras.

But the opening that may create a lot of interest is the North wrestling opening, as both head man Shawn Sullivan and assistant/JV coach Evan Walsh have resigned.

It’s not surprising. The Titan program had struggled the last few years in terms of numbers, and there had been growing concern, according to sources, in the wrestling community. That same community is expected to supply a few candidates for the job, to be sure.

“I’m hoping,” Gingras said.

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It’s the final week for high school boy and girls tennis, which means some teams are getting ready for tournament spots, others are scrambling. Some, like Alvirne boys (4-10) have already finished their complete season.

Here’s a look:

BOYS

In Division I, Nashua South will likely be the only local, with the Panthers at 9-4. It would be their second straight tourney appearance.

Locally Division II, of course, is where the power is. Souhegan is poised, with No. 1 singles player Matt Lapsley, to vie for a state title at 12-0. But right behind them is Hollis Brookline in fourth at 9-2, with a young team that is maybe a player away from challenging. But it could happen. If the Cavs can get by a possible tough quarterfinal opponent (Portsmouth?) they could meet Souhegan in the semis.

In girls division I, the Souhegan boys equal locally are the Bishop Guertin girls. The Cardinals rarely lose a game, let alone a ladder match. They’ve been that good, currently at 10-0. But it’s a talent-laden division, with Bedford and Derryfield among the contenders. Also locally, Nashua South is having another fine spring and the Panthers, 10-3 with one match left, are definitely in the tourney. Whether they have a home match or not will be a close call. Six of the eight tourney qualifiers have double digits in wins, almost unheard of.

In Division II, Milford heading into Tuesday’s match vs. Hollis indoors at Nashua Swim & Tennis was 10-2, having one of its best seasons in recent memory. It’s two losses are to the favorites for the finals, Portsmouth and Windham. But the Spartans should have a home quarterfinal match.

The quarters for boys tennis is next Tuesday with the semis on Thursday, May 24 and the finals on Tuesday, May 29; the girls quarters are next Wednesday, May 23, with the semis on Friday May 25 and the finals on Wednesday, May 30.

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