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Bubble Watch 1.0: Crunch time for high school squads

  • Frontier’s Natalie Denkiewicz, left, cuts around Pioneer defender Tayla Sadlowski earlier this season. Denkiewicz and the Red Hawks are closing in on a postseason berth, while Sadlowski and the Panthers are already in the Division 3 field. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Reuben Bassett (23), shown here against Duggan earlier this season, and the Mohawk Trail boys soccer team are looking to lock down a Division 4 tournament berth this week. Staff FILE Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2019 9:39:43 PM

We’re heading down the stretch of the high school regular season, with teams jockeying for position in pursuit of league titles and postseason berths. The latter is the topic of our focus, as it’s officially time for Bubble Watch 1.0. That would be our first release of the list of teams on the bubble in their respective sports, as the fields are beginning to take shape with two weeks left before we’re really in the thick of the tournament season.

The situation is fluid, and some teams that haven’t yet qualified for tournament berths could and should lock those down over the course of the next few days. A few teams are staring a pressure-packed final game or two in the face, though all are looking to avoid that potential fate.

A reminder that teams must finish with a .500 record or better to earn a tournament berth. They can also qualify if they finish in second place, or a tie for second place, in their respective league. The final way to punch a postseason ticket comes via the Sullivan Rule, which states that if 70 percent of a league is comprised of teams from higher divisions, only MIAA games played against teams from equal or lower divisions may be considered in the 50-percent qualifying standard (i.e. .500 record). That rule comes into play at least once already for area teams this fall, as we’ll see below.

Boys soccer

IN (3): Frontier (4-7-2), Mahar (10-2-2), FC Tech (8-6-2)

ON THE BUBBLE (2): Athol (7-4-3), Mohawk Trail (6-5-3)

OUT (2): Pioneer (4-7-4), Greenfield (3-9-2)

OUTLOOK: Mahar headlines the teams that have already qualified, as the Senators have climbed above the 10-win plateau and are focused on winning the McGrath Division. … Defending Division 3 runner-up Frontier has qualified as well, taking advantage of the Sullivan Rule (see above) in order to do so. The Red Hawks play in the Moriarty League comprised of all Division 1 schools (Chicopee, Central, Chicopee Comp, Holyoke), meaning only games against Division 3 and 4 teams factor into their need for a .500 record. With five games remaining, they could still finish with a .500 or better record overall, but they’ve already clinched that against D3 and D4 competition. With nine games of the schedule against those teams, Frontier sits 4-1-2 with games left against Division 3 foes Mount Greylock and Monson. Even losses in those two games would give the Hawks a 4-3-2 mark, above the .500 threshold. … Franklin Tech qualified with Monday’s win over Pathfinder, as the Eagles have two games remaining and are two games clear of the .500 mark. … Athol is on the cusp of a berth, needing just one point the rest of the way to get in. … Mohawk Trail has been an impressive story this fall. After not fielding a team last year, the Warriors need three points in their final four games to nab a Division 4 postseason spot. Three of those come on the road.

Girls soccer

IN (3): Greenfield (11-2), Mahar (11-1-2), Pioneer (9-4)

ON THE BUBBLE (1): Frontier (7-5-2)

OUT (3): FC Tech (3-10), Athol (5-11), Mohawk Trail (0-15)

OUTLOOK: After qualifying for the postseason a year ago, Greenfield has shown no signs of slowing down this fall. The Green Wave sit firmly atop the Pioneer South, and can clinch a league championship this week if they take care of business. … Mahar is back into the tournament, no surprises there. The Senators are in good shape to win the Pioneer North after last week’s tie with current second-place side Gateway. … Pioneer is in as well, with the Panthers getting to nine wins against their 16-game schedule. They currently sit in second place behind Greenfield in the South, and the two teams have a huge game Friday in Northfield. … Frontier is in solid shape to return to the Big Dance. The team needs just two points in its final four games, and that could come Tuesday against Hopkins or Friday against Smith Voke.

Field hockey

IN (3): Frontier (12-2-1), Turners (7-5-4), Greenfield (10-5-1)

ON THE BUBBLE (2): Mahar (6-8-2), Pioneer (7-6-2)

OUT (3): Mohawk Trail (4-9-3), FC Tech (3-12-1), Athol (3-12)

OUTLOOK: Valley League champion Frontier headlines the local qualifiers, and the Red Hawks are closing in on what should be the No. 1 seed in the WMass Division 2 field. … Division 2 should be a crowded bracket this year, with anywhere from 8-10 teams likely to earn a spot. … Greenfield, which wound up second in the Valley League after losing both regular season meetings to Frontier, is firmly into the tourney and will try and win a fourth consecutive sectional title. Turners Falls secured a .500 record or better last week to make it three teams from the area so far. … Mahar and Pioneer both have their work cut out to join the trio. The Senators need to win their final two games against Athol (tonight) and Turners Falls (Wednesday). Pioneer has two games remaining — Wednesday against Amherst (10-2-2) and Thursday against Greenfield (10-5-1) — and the Panthers need just one point to secure a spot in the tournament. That means a tie against either team would do the trick, though Pioneer isn’t going to have an easy time of things going up against a pair of 10-win teams.


IN (3): Frontier (11-6), Turners Falls (12-6), Mahar (11-7)

OUT (5): FC Tech (7-11), Pioneer (2-14), Mohawk Trail (2-15), Athol (6-11), Greenfield (5-9)

OUTLOOK: Fourteen-time defending champion Frontier will once again be the team to beat in the Division 3 field, and the Red Hawks are at 11 wins with three matches remaining. … Turners Falls went undefeated in the Northern Division (10-0) and easily qualified for the Big Dance, while Mahar made it three teams with plenty of tournament history from the area that will compete for the Division 3 crown. … Greenfield made a final postseason push but Monday’s loss to Belchertown eliminated the Wave from the postseason. Still, it’s been a much more competitive season from the program. … Franklin Tech made a late-season push, but Monday’s loss to Mahar officially eliminated the Eagles from postseason consideration.

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