WMass titles at stake today
It’s Western Mass. Championship Saturday for a number of local athletes.
Four local teams will spend today vying for WMass trophies, while a number of area cross country runners will look to give it their all in the WMass Division II championships.
Local fans will see a champion crowned this afternoon at West Springfield High School in a bit of a preview for the upcoming Thanksgiving Eve football game rivalry when top-seeded Frontier Regional School takes on third-seeded Mohawk Trail Regional High School at 1 in the WMass Division II Field Hockey title game.
The Red Hawks (14-4-1) have been one of the best teams in WMass this season, winning the North Division crown. Frontier advanced to the title game Thursday with a 2-0 victory over Pioneer Valley Regional School. Frontier has a potent offense, but has used a stifling defense all season to make its way to the title game.
The Warriors (8-6-4), meanwhile, are perhaps the biggest surprise finalist of the two divisions (Longmeadow and Northampton high schools meet for the Division I crown today at 11 a.m.). Mohawk is the lowest seed of the four remaining teams, but qualified for the finals when Katelyn Carmody scored the overtime game-winner in Thursday night’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Smith Academy. Mohawk has struggled offensively at times this season, but has been strong defensively.
Those two ingredients make for what should be a close final. The North foes met twice in the regular season, with Frontier winning both times. After a 3-0 decision in the first meeting, Frontier found itself in a bit of a battle the second time around, taking a narrow 1-0 win.
It wouldn’t be WMass finals time without Frontier, which enters today’s WMass D-III final against North Division rival Mahar Regional School as the seven-time defending champions. Only the Turners Falls High School softball team (nine) has won more consecutive titles.
The top-seeded Red Hawks (20-1) have not lost to a team from western Mass. this season, falling only to 22-0 Academy of Notre Dame (Hingham) — which advanced tho today’s North sectional final — on Oct. 6.
Frontier has breezed through the first two rounds of the tournament, not dropping a set and holding opponents to under 10 points in four of the six sets. Reigning Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year and four-time All-State selection Cassidy Stankowski gets a lot of recognition, but the Red Hawks’ consistency as a team, led by fellow All-State selections Julia Wan and Ali Durant, are the reason they’re a heavy favorite to win their eighth straight sectional crown.
Standing in Frontier’s way is second-seeded Mahar (16-5), which enters the game after an exhilarating semifinal victory over previously unbeaten Lee High School. The Senators won a fifth set match after falling behind 7-0, showing that they have the never-say-die fight it will need to knock the Hawks off their perch.
The teams met twice during the regular season, with Frontier winning in four and three sets, respectively. Frontier also beat Mahar in last year’s final.
It has been the season of Natalie Mako on the WMass cross country scene, and she looks to continue her run today during the WMass Division II Championships at Northfield Mountain.
The Frontier senior has had one of the most impressive seasons by one runner in the history of area running, shattering course records in six of her seven regular season meets, likely the first time in history one runner has managed to pull off that feat. Her dominance carried over into last weekend’s PVIAC Championships when she not only won in convincing fashion (besting the runner-up by 37 seconds), but also shattered the course record in the nine-year-old meet with her time of 18 minutes, 7.88 seconds.
Mako will be joined by a number of other talented runners in the area today and each will try to qualify for next weekend’s state meet right back at Northfield.