Turners Falls top seed among local qualifiers
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It could be a short postseason for area soccer teams.
Only one of the five area squads received higher than a ninth seed when the seeds for the respective tournament fields were unveiled during the annual Western Massachusetts Tournament Committee Meeting Wednesday at the Granby High School Media Center.
McGrath Division North champion Turners Falls High School was the top area team to garner a seed, gaining the No. 5 spot in the 13-team Division III boys’ tournament field.
The Indians (13-3-1) are also the only local qualifiers who will host their first game, as they are scheduled to entertain McGrath South foe and 12th-seeded Holyoke Catholic High School Saturday night at 7.
“We’re happy to be in it, regardless of the seed,” said Turners head coach Gregg Bergstrom. “We’re gonna go in and take one game at a time. ... I was hoping for a top-four seed and a bye, but we’ll take it. We had a good practice (Wednesday), and the guys are preparing for Holyoke Catholic.”
Turners already owns a 5-1 win over the Gaels on Sept. 28, a game that was played in a steady downpour.
If the Indians can protect their home field and beat the Gaels, they’ll move on to a quarterfinal contest Monday — either at No. 4 Smith Academy or at home against No. 13 Granby High School. Turners has beaten Granby twice by a 2-0 count, and fell to Smith, 3-0.
“I thought we’d probably face a team we’ve already played,” said Bergstrom. “I think the kids are capable of competing against anybody we come up against. They’ll leave everything on the field.”
Athol High School was the only other boys’ team to qualify for the postseason, and the Red Raiders (8-8-2) were seeded 13th in the 14-team Division II field.
Athol’s reward is a trip to Williamstown to face fourth-seeded Mt. Greylock Regional High School (13-4-1) Saturday. Red Raider athletic director/head coach Dave King said he was looking to get a 6 p.m. starting time but that the official time will be confirmed today.
If the Raiders can spring the upset against one of the division’s traditional powers, then they’d move on to a Monday quarterfinal at either No. 5 Monson High School or No. 12 High School of Commerce.
• On the girls’ side Athol and Mahar Regional School received the last two seeds in the Division II tournament, which traditionally produces one of most competitive fields in the tourney, regardless of gender or division.
Both teams must hit the road for first-round games on Sunday. The ninth-seeded Red Raiders (9-4-5) will head to Easthampton for a rematch against No. 8 Easthampton High School, while the 10th-seeded Senators will head south to face No. 7 Cathedral High School.
Neither time has been set, but the Athol-Easthampton game cannot start after 2 p.m. because Easthampton’s field doesn’t have lights. Mahar athletic director Jim Woodward said that, as of Wednesday night, Cathedral wasn’t able to secure a field to play its game (the Panthers have used Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow as their home field all season, but their A.D. was unsure of its availability). There is a slim chance that, should Cathedral be unable to find an adequate field, Mahar could end up hosting the game.
If Athol is able to get past Easthampton, it will face the unenviable task of traveling to Belchertown Tuesday to play two-time defending champion and top-seeded Belchertown Hugh School (16-0-2) in the quarterfinals.
Mahar would be in a similar situation if it can knock off the Panthers. The Senators would have to head to Monson to challenge the second-seeded Mustangs (16-0-2).
Franklin County Technical School, meanwhile, was seeded ninth in the 10-team Division III field and will have to make the journey to Pittsfield Sunday to St. Joseph’s Central High School (7-7-3) at a time to be announced.
If the Eagles — who have struggled in recent weeks due to injuries and suspensions — can pull the upset, they’d earn a return trip to the Berkshires to face top-seeded Lenox Memorial High School (11-4-2) on Tuesday.