Milford fights on through tough campaign

HOLLIS – Milford High School girls basketball coach Len Kulikowski knew there’d be nights this season like Tuesday’s 57-13 loss at the hands of local rival and defending Division II state champion Hollis Brookline.

No one expected anything different from this game. It’s keeping these types of games to a minimum that is key for the Spartans and their coach, who, quite frankly, is trying to keep a program afloat.

“Right now, I don’t see a lot coming up,” Kulikowski said. “I lost a lot of good players to year-round soccer, volleyball, track, that kind of thing. Girls are playing one sport now; they’re specializing and it’s hurting our

program.”

To the point where the Spartans don’t have enough for a junior varsity team, carrying just 11 players, including three freshmen and five sophomores.

“I’d hate to see what it would be like not having a JV team, to see where your kids are going to be coming from for the next couple of years,” Hollis Brookline coach Bob Murphy said. “That’s got to be tough, and that stays with you the whole season.”

There’s a big gap in Division II this year between the haves and have nots, and the 3-7 Spartans have taken advantage of that by beating another rival, Souhegan, along with two other struggling teams, Manchester West and Timberlane.

But with no JV team, it’s hard for the younger players to get time.

“It’s not fair to the younger players,” Kulikowski said. “I’ve got a couple of freshmen who just sit there. Play a game with seven, it’s just not working.”

What’s the solution?

“We’ve got to get to the younger kids,” he said. “Part of that is with the rec program and get kids interested in

basketball.”

Sophomore Sarah Dobbs led Milford, which hadn’t practiced in three days, with four points, while four players had two apiece. It wasn’t long ago – maybe four or five years – that the Spartans were in almost the same place as the Cavaliers as Division II contenders. It can be a fine line.

Tuesday night, HB led 13-4 after one and 33-6 at the half. It was running time (35 points or more) in the fourth quarter. Murphy was able to play a lot of his younger players, as freshman Elizabeth Stapelfeld led the Cavs with 11 and Elizabeth Bonnette had 10. Amanda Goclowski added nine.

“Right now we’ve got some freshman and sophomores who are going to replace the players who are seniors,” Murphy said, noting he’s got more depth than he did even a year ago. “I’ve had a nice conversation with those freshmen and sophomores that there are going to be games when they sit on the bench for the whole game. … And I want to make sure they’re on the same page with that.”

Meanwhile, Kulikowski wants athletes in Milford to turn to the girls basketball page in their activities list.

“Soccer’s huge in Milford, it’s the big sport,” Kulikowski said. “So we don’t have a lot feeding the program right now. It’s just trying to get girls to come out.”

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