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Hawks-Orioles renew rivalry

  • Frontier's Connor Bagdon leads the Red Hawks in scoring with 11 goals as the club seeks its third WMass Div. 2 title in four years Sunday against Belchertown. FILE PHOTO/Dan Little

  • Frontier's Doug Hanieski (left), seen here earlier this fall against Hampshire, leads his team into Sunday’s WMass Div. 3 title game against Belchertown. FILE PHOTO/Dan Little



Staff Writer
Friday, November 09, 2018

In some ways, Frontier Regional School’s run to the championship game of the WMass Div. 3 Boys Soccer Tournament has been improbable.

There’s the fact that the ninth-seeded Red Hawks (11-7-2) limped into the postseason, finishing just one game above the .500 mark. The path to get to a title game as the No. 9 seed is one of the hardest. Frontier had to play all its tournament games on the road, and was rewarded for winning its opening-round contest with a trip to play at No. 1 Pope Francis.

But if you look deeper, the Hawks being one win away from a title shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. This is the same team that has won two of the last three Div. 3 championships, and while they fell short a year ago, they still reached the semifinals before getting knocked out. It’s a team that plays in a Div. 1 league, the Moriarty, with the likes of tournament teams Chicopee, Chicopee Comp and Central. And it’s a team with plenty of experience, including the likes of senior stalwarts Peter Bronke, Doug Hanieski and Connor Bagdon.

Frontier goes for its third title in four years on Sunday, when the ninth-seeded Hawks meet familiar foe No. 2 Belchertown (14-5-1) at 5:45 p.m. at Westfield State University. It’ll be the fourth time in five years that the two teams meet in the postseason, with Frontier holding a 2-1 advantage in the previous three meetings. That includes the 2016 championship game, where Frontier captured a 2-1 victory to win its second consecutive crown. The Hawks also won a 1-0 game in the 2015 semifinals, while Belchertown claimed a 3-0 win in the 2014 semis en route to winning the WMass title. The teams also met in the season opener in which Belchertown beat Frontier, 3-0, on Sept. 4. Suffice it to say, the two teams are plenty familiar with one another.

“They were the first game of the season, so my first game coaching Frontier was Belchertown at home,” first-year Red Hawks’ coach Evan Horton said. “I came into the first game learning on the fly about the rivalry. That first game against them, we were still finding our way. Personnel was a lot different, and I still think we played very well in that first game. I think the guys are really amped up for these games.”

Belchertown reached Sunday’s final thanks to a 1-0 win over Mount Greylock in the semifinals Thursday night. Jarod Bolton scored in the 29th minute and the Orioles held on, advancing to a familiar spot for the program. Belchertown will play in the sectional title game for the ninth time in the last 10 years, with the lone exception coming in 2015 when it lost to Frontier in the semis. In last year’s WMass Div. 3 title game, the Orioles were defeated by Southwick in penalty kicks.

Frontier punched its ticket to the final with a 1-0 win over No. 4 Easthampton on Wednesday night in Chicopee. Connor Waitkus got the game-winner in the second half, taking a feed from Hanieski to send his team back to the title game.

Horton has been impressed with his team’s resiliency during the postseason run. The Hawks trailed South Hadley in the opening round before rallying for a 2-1 win in double overtime. Against top-seeded Pope Francis in the quarters, Frontier took a 1-0 lead before the Cardinals tied the game. Undeterred, the Hawks rallied again to score another road tally and win the game 2-1. Against Easthampton’s vaunted defense that pitched a whopping 17 shutouts during the season, Frontier broke through after several scoring chances when Waitkus picked a corner and got the job done. Horton said that his team rallied around the fact that they believed they deserved better than a No. 9 seed, and wanted to prove it.

“We felt like we had some close scores that didn’t go our way in the regular season, and now we’ve got to show everybody that this was wrong,” Horton explained. “The bottom line was we had to win. Didn’t matter what seed you were, you were going to have to face the best teams at some point.” 

Bronke sets the tone as the anchor of the Frontier lineup, and the senior goalkeeper was in charge from the get-go in the semifinal win over Easthampton. It was the team’s fifth shutout of the year, although overall the Red Hawks have been quite stingy in conceding goals. They’ve allowed just six goals in their last eight games, posting a 6-2 record in that span. In front of Bronke, sweeper Tenzin Tsundue is a cool customer who came up big in the second half to shut down Easthampton. Senior Noah Jacques was everywhere on the outside, while the junior tandem of Ben Morse and Sam Felton-Emrick helped clean everything else up in pitching the shutout.

The offense has been spread out this fall, and the Hawks have five different goal-scorers for their five postseason goals. Bagdon is the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals and three assists, with Hanieski next with three goals and six assists. Senior midfielder Timmy Barrington is third with six points, and he was one of the key lynchpins in the Frontier attack against Easthampton.

Belchertown is 6-0 in its last six games, including four shutouts in that span. The Orioles also play in a Div. 1 league, the Churchill, where they captured a regular-season title. Evan Fournier and Zach Lajeunesse are the team’s leading scorers with eight goals apiece.