PVIAC again reshuffles fall leagues

  • Greenfield sniper Raegan Hickey runs through stick-handling drills during practice Thursday at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield, where the Green Wave was preparing for Valley League competition that begins next month. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Audrey Bresciano runs through handling drills during practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Olivia Boll runs through ladder conditioning drills with her teammates during practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • The Greenfield field hockey team brings it in for a huddle at the end of practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Raegan Hickey, front, and Audrey Bresciano, right, run through handling drills during practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield field hockey head coach Erin Thayer, right, instructs her team during practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Chloe Wells runs through stick-handling drills during field hockey practice Thursday at Vets Field. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield field hockey head coach Erin Thayer, left, instructs her team before a two-mile run during practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Katie Haselton runs through stick-handling drills during Greenfield field hockey practice Thursday at Vets Field. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • The Greenfield field hockey team brings it in for a huddle at the end of practice on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at Greenfield High School. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield High School field hockey player Audrey Bresciano runs through ladder conditioning drills with her teammates during practice at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield on Thursday. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/24/2017 11:25:36 PM

Change is in the air on the high school fields and courts this fall.

Realignment has hit every sport in the PVIAC landscape, with schools shifting around from previous league destinations a year ago. This fall marks the beginning of the new cycle approved by the Executive Board back in March, and leagues are slated to last through 2020 before the next realignment is scheduled to take place.

On the local front, new opponents and different destinations for road trips highlight what is to come. The fall season opens up with games on Sept. 5. Here’s a look at the local squads in their respective sports and where they landed as the season fast approaches.

Football

There were not many changes for the local teams on the gridiron as the fall season is slated to kick off with Week 1 games on Sept. 8.

The Intercounty North, which last year featured six local squads, remains the same except for the addition of Easthampton High School to create a seven-team league. Easthampton won the Intercounty South a year ago with a 4-0 record (4-7 overall).

While last year’s alignment featured three IL leagues in the North, South and West, this year’s version has been pared down to just the North and South — both seven-team circuits. The North will still feature Athol High School, Frontier Regional School, Turners Falls High School, Franklin County Technical School, Greenfield High School and Mahar Regional School in addition to Easthampton, while the South will include Belchertown High School, Amherst High School, Drury High School, Ludlow High School, Monument Mountain Regional High School, Mount Greylock Regional School and Lee High School.

With the discontinuation of the IL West, Mohawk Trail Regional High School will shift this season to play in the new-look Tri-County League. The Warriors will join fellow local squad Pioneer Valley Regional School along with defending league champions Ware High School, Palmer High School, Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School, Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School and McCann Technical School, which also moves down from the IL West with Mohawk.

Field hockey

After battling for PVIAC North supremacy last year, rivals Greenfield and Frontier take their talents to the Valley League this season. The two teams will be joined by familiar foe Smith Academy there, but newcomers South Hadley, Westfield and East Longmeadow round out the newly-created six-team league.

Greenfield coach Erin Thayer is disappointed with the loss of games against local foes and former league mates Mohawk and Mahar. Those teams were moved from the North to the Bi-County League.

“It’s disappointing that the leagues that have been around for so long have now been broken up,” admitted Thayer, who enters her 13th year as Green Wave coach. “Some of the other natural rivalries we’ve had for 30 years are totally different. That’s kind of a bummer. I’m glad our Frontier rivalry is still there. That’s been a rivalry since I was a player a long time ago.”

Mohawk and Mahar slide into the Bi-County League, where they’re joined by the top three finishers from last year’s West Division in Holyoke High School, Turners Falls and Southwick. Palmer is also in the Bi-County this season.

Rounding out the local field hockey teams this fall will be Athol, FC Tech and Pioneer in the Tri-County League along with Central, Amherst and Belchertown.

Thayer said one major challenge for Greenfield will be the travel. The Wave will make some lengthy bus trips down Route 91 to play the likes of Westfield, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Agawam and Minnechaug.

“The travel for us is a lot more than it has been,” explained Thayer. “And we’re now at 50 percent of the schedule, nine out of 18 games, coming against Division I teams. We’ll definitely be challenged by the end of the season.”

The Valley should be interesting, as Westfield and East Longmeadow both narrowly missed qualifying for the Div. I postseason a year ago, while South Hadley gave Frontier everything it could handle in a 1-0 loss in the Div. II semifinals.

“We have a pretty competitive league now,” said Thayer. “Westfield was a pretty competitive game for us last year (a 2-2 tie). I haven’t played South Hadley, but they gave Frontier a run for their money. And obviously, Frontier is always tough. So I think it’ll be a strong league.”

Girls’ soccer

The biggest change comes as the Franklin County League has been eliminated, forcing the realignment of locals Mahar, Mohawk, Pioneer and Greenfield.

Mahar, the defending champs and perennial powers of the FCL, will move up into the competitive Pioneer North. It’ll certainly be a bump up in class, with locals Frontier and Athol both in the league, along with powers Gateway Regional High School and Hopkins Academy. Pope Francis High School and Easthampton round out the seven-team North, which saw its top two finishers from a year ago, Granby and South Hadley, move to the Central and Grieve.

“We’re definitely excited abut the opportunity,” began Mahar coach Chad Softic of the shift into the Pioneer North. “We’ve been requesting to move up for awhile, given where we are as a program. We have a healthy program… 40 girls playing. So we think we’re in a position where we can compete with some of the schools that have been a little more successful. It’s great for our program. Every game is going to be a challenge.”

In the Pioneer South, FCL castaways Mohawk, Pioneer and Greenfield are joined by Smith Academy, Ware, McCann Tech and Smith Voke.

Tech remains in the Tri-County League, as nine teams are penciled into the busy division.

Mahar joins a league that should be a dogfight night in and night out. Gateway (14-3-4 last year) lost in penalty kicks in the championship game of the WMass Div. IV Tournament to Monson High School a year ago, while Hopkins (13-4-2) was also a top team in Div. IV.

“I don’t think it’s going to be hard to motivate the girls this year, because they know that if they don’t come ready to play in this league, it’s going to be a painful experience,” Softic offered. “There isn’t one game on the schedule where, if we don’t play well, we can still expect to win. We have to be ready every night, and hopefully that translates to us being a little more physically and mentally tough for the tournament, which is something we’ve been lacking.”

The Senators open their difficult 2017 slate with a road game against Berkshire County foe Mount Greylock Regional School on the road in Williamstown on Sept. 5. The North schedule opens on Sept. 7 when Frontier visits Orange for a 7 p.m. contest under the lights.

Boys’ soccer

There will be local teams in four different boys’ soccer leagues this fall, as road trips for some schools will take them all over western Mass.

The biggest change will be for Frontier, the defending WMass Div. III champions. After winning the Schmid Division a year ago with an unbeaten 7-0-1 record, the Red Hawks will move up to the Moriarty this fall. The league is composed of Division I schools Springfield Central High School, Holyoke High School, Chicopee High School and Chicopee Comprehensive High School.

Athol will remain in the Schmid with Easthampton and Hopkins, while some talented squads in South Hadley, Gateway, Granby and Renaissance will all move into the league.

The McGrath has been combined into one league this fall, with Mahar, Pioneer, Greenfield and Mohawk (all McGrath North teams last year) being joined by Sci-Tech, Sabis and Smith Academy.

FC Tech will again be in the Tri-County League along with Smith Voke, St. Mary’s, Pathfinder, Duggan and Hampden Charter.

Golf

There are plenty of changes throughout the PVIAC golf realignment, as Recorder-area teams are now playing in three different leagues.

The top two local teams from a year ago have been moved into the Suburban West, as Frontier and Pioneer will be joined by Mahar in the six-team league that is looking to be very competitive with foes Hampshire Regional High School, Hopkins Academy and Palmer.

In the Bi-County East, rivals Greenfield and Turners Falls are joined by six other schools. FC Tech and Mohawk will be in the seven-team Bi-County West.

Girls’ volleyball

The girls’ volleyball landscape remains more or less the same, with Frontier leading the pack in the competitive Eastern Division along with Hampden County foes Agawam High School, Amherst, Longmeadow High School and Minnechaug Regional High School. The Red Hawks finished fifth in the East a year ago, but they do return almost their entire rotation from a team that made a run to the MIAA Div. III state championship match.

The Northern Division will again include all locals in Athol, Greenfield, Mahar, Mohawk, Turners Falls and Pioneer, while FC Tech is again in the Metro Division.

Cross-country

Once again, all the local cross-country teams (Frontier, Mohawk, Greenfield, Mahar, FC Tech and Pioneer on the boys’ side, Frontier, Mohawk Greenfield and Pioneer on the girls’ side) are aligned in the Pioneer North.




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