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Many local teams in the 2017 hunt as overnight uncertainty reigns

  • Frontier forward Cambrie Hamilton (14) charges in on a loose ball off Smith Vocational goalie Lizzy Hardy in the first half of a game this season in Northampton. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Mahar’s Hannah Paul (10) strikes a corner kick in the second half against Gateway during a game this season in Orange. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Mahar mighty-mite Delaney Parker (3) fights for possession against Gateway’s Juliana Dickenson (5) in soccer action this season in Orange. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer’s Emily Raymond (4) breaks past Mohawk defenders Taylor Loomis (8) and Erin Laffond (10) for her first of three goals in a game this season in Buckland. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Year after year, the Western Massachusetts Division III Girls’ Soccer Tournament provides plenty of drama and intrigue. It’s one of the most difficult tournaments to win, as the field is always deep and balanced.

That’s again the case this year, as the brackets were released at the WMass seeding meeting Wednesday afternoon at Agawam High School. South Hadley High School (16-1-1) was the top seed in the field, followed by perennial power Monson High School (12-2-4). The Mustangs were the No. 2 seed, as the defending WMass Div. IV champs moved up to Div. III this year.

While the drama is normally reserved for on the field, Wednesday’s bracket release held plenty off the field as well. The status of all the brackets was still up in the air as of press time. According to someone with knowledge of the MIAA, incorrect information was provided prior to the teams’ resumes being input into the Walker System used to seed the fields. At around 5 p.m. Wednesday, the brackets were pulled down from the MIAA’s website and reworked after at least one school filed an appeal with the MIAA in regard to its seeding.

Stay tuned. This could get interesting today.

Locally, Mahar Regional School earned the No. 6 seed in the initial Div. III field after an outstanding 12-2-4 season that saw the Senators capture the Pioneer North championship with a season-finale win over Athol High School on Monday night.

“This is going to be one hell of a tournament,” offered Mahar coach Chad Softic of Division III. “You look at the field and there’s probably 11 teams in there that could beat anyone on a given night.”

The Senators are set to open their postseason march Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., when No. 11 Palmer High School (7-8-2) comes to Orange for a first-round game. The matchup is a tough one for Mahar, as the Panthers, despite a sub-.500 record, finished second in the Grieve Division behind top-seeded South Hadley. Friday’s winner would likely meet No. 3 Monument Mountain Regional High School (10-3-5) in the quarterfinal round.

“You might as well throw their record out the window,” said Softic of Palmer, a team the Senators haven’t seen in recent years. “They play in an excellent league and have been very competitive there. We’ll certainly have our hands full.”

Despite a stellar 12-3-2 record, Frontier Regional School was awarded the No. 10 seed in the Div. III field. The Red Hawks, runners-up in the Pioneer North behind Mahar, open their postseason with a difficult road trip to seventh-seeded Mount Greylock Regional High School (9-6-2) Saturday night at 6 p.m. in Williamstown. The winner will travel to play at No. 2 Monson in the quarterfinals.

“I figured we’d be in the middle of the pack because our strength of schedule wasn’t as strong as some other teams,” explained Frontier coach Phil Pittelli. “I feel pretty good knowing that Mahar played (Greylock) pretty well (a 1-0 win). That kind of gives the girls a boost of confidence that they have some comparison to work with.”

The speed of the postseason is something Pittelli said has been a focus in practice leading up to the tournament. Frontier last played in the postseason in 2014.

“We got a little piece of that physicality when we played Palmer,” Pittelli said of Monday’s 1-0 loss to the Panthers. “We really haven’t faced a lot of super physical teams, so I know matching that physicality is what it’s going to take to win a tournament game for us.”

Pioneer Valley Regional School (9-5-2) is the 13th-seeded team in the 14-school field after finishing as the Pioneer South runner-up behind Ware High School. The Panthers, buoyed by a stout defensive unit, travel to play a first-round game at No. 4 Wahconah Regional High School (7-7-4) Saturday night at 6 in Dalton.

Franklin County Technical School (9-8-1) is the lone local girls’ soccer team in the Div. IV field, and the 12th-seeded Eagles drew No. 5 Hopkins Academy (9-7-2) in a first-round game scheduled to be played Saturday at 2 in Hadley. The winner would head to Ware High School (15-2-1), the No. 4 seed, for a quarterfinal game.

Granby High School (10-5-3) earned the top seed in the Div. IV field, followed by No. 2 Lenox Memorial High School (10-5-2) and No. 3 Gateway Regional High School (11-2-3).