With seeds still up in air, Red Hawks in familiar place

  • Frontier’s Ethan La Fleur (3) boots a goal last week against Southwick at Herlihy Park in Whately. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer’s Noah Keith (2) vies for possession against Mahar’s Andrew Herk (12) during regular-season action this season in Northfield. Pioneer’s Noah Keith (2) vies for possession against Mahar’s Andrew Herk (12) during regular-season action this season in Northfield.

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The road to a third consecutive Western Massachusetts Division III title will not be easy for the Frontier Regional School boys’ soccer team.

The two-time defending champion Red Hawks drew the No. 4 seed in the Div. III field, as the brackets were released for the upcoming sectional tournaments Wednesday afternoon at Agawam High School.

The status of all the brackets was still up in the air as of press time, however. 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.

Brackets were expected to be re-released this morning at www.miaa.net.

Stay tuned. Emotions are high.

As it stood initially, however, it’s the second consecutive year that Frontier (11-2-4) drew the No. 4 seed, as the Hawks navigated their way through the Div. III field a year ago as the fourth-seeded team in the draw. They knocked off top-seeded Hampshire Regional High School in the semifinals before edging Belchertown High School for the championship.

Frontier, which lost to Belchertown in Monday’s regular-season finale, moved up to the Moriarty Division this season with Division I teams Holyoke High School, Chicopee High School, Springfield Central High School and Chicopee Comprehensive High School. The competition proved difficult, but the Hawks wound up capturing the league title with a 6-0-2 mark. Holyoke, Chicopee and Central all qualified for the Div. I Tournament, showing the high caliber of play that was required to win night in and night out this fall.

On the strength of its Monday victory over Frontier, Belchertown (14-2-2) captured the No. 1 seed in the Div. III field. Southwick-Tolland Regional High School (12-3-1) was No. 2, followed by Mount Greylock Regional High School (10-4-2) at No. 3. All four schools earned first-round byes and will open their tournament runs Tuesday in the Div. III quarterfinals.

Frontier will play the winner of No. 12 Franklin County Technical School (9-6-3) and No. 5 Pope Francis High School (10-6-2) in a first-round game scheduled to be played Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Forest Park in Springfield. The Eagles, who finished fourth in the Tri-County League, played well down the stretch, compiling a 3-1-2 mark in their final six games to qualify for the postseason. The tournament game will be the first for FC Tech since 2011, when it won an opening-round game against Westfield Technical Academy before falling in the quarterfinals to top-seeded and eventual WMass champion Lenox Memorial High School, 4-1.

McGrath Division co-champion Mahar Regional School (9-6-3) earned the No. 8 seed in the Div. III field when Wednesday’s initial bracket was released. The Senators were set to open their postseason run with a first-round game Friday night at 6 p.m. in Orange against No. 9 Renaissance School (10-6-2). The winner of that game was to travel to top-seeded Belchertown in a quarterfinal.

“As a program, we’re super excited to get the home game,” explained Mahar head coach Dan Guertin before the brackets were pulled down and reconfigured. The Senators were one of the teams that could potentially be affected by changes. “Coming into this year, we made a point of playing these tougher teams, so strength of schedule really helped us out.”

The Senators challenged themselves in the independent portion of the schedule, playing Berkshire County foes Pittsfield High School (0-0 tie) and Monument Mountain Regional High School (1-1 tie). Both teams qualified for the postseason, boosting Mahar’s Walker System rating.

“We felt that we wanted to get to the point where we could be up there with these upper level teams,” Guertin explained. “If you’re constantly playing weaker competition all the way through the season, that hurts you come tournament time. If nothing else, we may take our beating but this is the direction we want to head as a program. And this year, it paid off for us by tying a couple of tough teams.”

Athol High School (12-5-1) drew the 10th seed in the field, and the Red Raiders, which finished third in the competitive Schmid Division this season, were initially set to open on the road at seventh-seeded Easthampton High School (10-4-4) Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Nonotuck Park. Athol was also one of the teams likely to be shifted when the new brackets are released, however. As it stood at press time with Athol playing Easthampton, the winner of that first-round game would play at No. 2 Southwick in the quarterfinal round.

In the Division IV field, Pioneer Valley Regional School was the lone local team to qualify. The Panthers (13-2-1), co-champions of the McGrath along with Mahar, earned the No. 6 seed and will open the postseason Friday with a home game in Northfield against No. 11 St. Mary’s Parish School (5-9-3). The Saints qualified as the last team in the field, as they tied for second place in the TCL despite a sub-.500 record.

The winner of that first-round game travels to the Berkshires in the quarterfinal round to play No. 3 Drury High School (11-7).

Hopkins Academy (15-2-1) earned the No. 1 seed in the Div. IV field, followed by No. 2 Lenox (10-5-3), No. 3 Drury and No. 4 Mount Everett Regional High School (9-2-3).