2-time champs grab No. 2 seed
Frontier Regional School will have to try to defend its two-time WMass Division II field hockey championship from the No. 2 seed.
The Red Hawks were beaten by Smith Academy two out of three times this season and the Falcons gained the top seed in Division II as the WMass Field Hockey Tournament seeds were announced Monday morning at Northampton High School.
Five local teams qualified for the postseason, including four of the seven teams in the Division II field. The Falcons (12-5-1), by way of beating Frontier twice in the past three weeks after losing to the Red Hawks in the team’s first meeting of the season in early September, picked up the top seed, which means they are the only team to get a quarterfinal bye. The remaining six teams must play in a quarterfinal game this week in order to advance to the semifinals.
The Red Hawks (13-4-1) begin their title defense Thursday afternoon at 3:30 with a home game against seventh-seeded South Hadley High School (6-10-2), which got into the tournament via its second-place finish in the Central Division. Frontier coach Missy Mahar said was not surprised by the seed, and that her team now must put that behind them and prepare for its quarterfinal game.
“They need to use the second seed as motivation,” she said. “We have two tough games to get back to the WMass finals. We have to be mentally ready for South Hadley and in the postseason anything can happen. It’s one-and-done so you can’t take anyone lightly.”
Mohawk Trail Regional High School (7-7-4), which qualified on the final day of the season, jumped up to the No. 3 seed via its strength of schedule and will host sixth-seeded Turners Falls High School (9-7-2), which won the West Division. The Warriors have peaked coming down the stretch, and it’s something the team is familiar with. Mohawk did the same thing last season, which also earned the team the third seed, and Mohawk went on to upset Smith Academy in the semifinals before falling to Frontier, 2-0, in the title game. Coach Lynn Hoeppner said that one reason for the team’s slow start is because early in the season the program focuses more on bringing along the young players, at what can be a detriment to the older ones.
“I know going into the season we are going to be behind the 8-ball,” Hoeppner began. “We take care of all of our hockey players, from seventh grade on up, and a lot of times the older players are working with the younger players. It’s to the detriment of our older players, and we start off slow. It means we are going to tie some games or lose some games, and with the schedule now, playing our league games early, maybe I need to rethink that philosophy. But I hate to because it’s working. I know my girls come in out of shape, and the last thing I need, because of numbers, is injuries. We are in game shape now. You’ve got to play some games and learn.”
The Indians have also played well this season but have yet to beat a team out of the West Division this season. Apparently winning the West wasn’t enough for Turners Falls to get any respect. The Indians were snubbed a bit in the seeds, as they finished one lower than Southwick-Tolland Regional High School (9-5-1) despite Southwick finishing two spots lower than the Indians in the West standings.
“I’m frustrated because every team we played outside of the league is in the tournament,” Turners coach Megan Gilbert said. “We didn’t have any independent games against teams that didn’t get into the tournament. We won the league, we (split) with Southwick, and we tied teams that they lost to. But at the same time I’m excited to play Mohawk.”
The final quarterfinal game on Thursday features a Greenfield High School team making its first tournament appearance since 2009 and the Green Wave (8-6-4) picked up the No. 4 seed, which means it will host its game against Southwick at 6. Southwick finished third in the West Division, and while the Green Wave has not played the Rams this season, Greenfield is a perfect 4-0 against West opponents this fall. Coach Erin Thayer, now in her eighth year with the program, said that her players have put in the extra effort necessary to end the three-year playoff drought.
“The kids have worked hard,” she began. “They had a goal in mind from the beginning of the season and they’ve worked hard to get there. They deserve it. Hard work takes you places.”
The fifth area team to qualify for the postseason is Mahar Regional School, which earned the sixth-seed in the seven-team Division I Tournament. The Senators (10-7-1) moved up to Division I due to having boys on the team, which has been the case the past three seasons as well. The Senators have gone 2-3 in the Division I Tournament over the past three years, making the semifinals in each of the past two seasons. Mahar will travel to Smith College in Northampton Thursday afternoon at 2:30 to take on third-seeded Northampton High School. Longmeadow High School, the defending WMass Division I champions, earned the top seed in Division I.
“I think people can overlook the ability of Mahar,” Senator coach Lauri Saisa said. “I think when we play together as a team, we can be unbelievable. And we can win. We know we need to play our A game, but we can definitely win.”
For a full look at the brackets see the Scoreboard page.