Wave-Hawks set for 4th straight title showdown

  • Frontier’s Lily Spencer buries a goal past Southwick goalie Clare Stratton during Monday’s WMass Div. 2 semifinal win. Spencer and the Red Hawks will play No. 1 Greenfield for the fourth straight year in the sectional final tonight at 5:30 in East Longmeadow.

  • Olivia Vecellio of Frontier, seen here against Southwick on Monday, is the top scorer for the Red Hawks as they enter tonight’s WMass Div. 2 title game against Greenfield.

  • Greenfield’s Lucy Postera and Raegan Hickey battle with South Hadley’s Bella Yee during Monday’s semifinal win. Top-seeded Greenfield goes for its third consecutive WMass Div. 2 title tonight against Frontier.

  • Senior Audrey Bresciano (left) hopes to pick up one more win over rival Frontier in her field hockey career tonight, as No. 1 Greenfield tangles with the Red Hawks for the WMass Div. 2 championship in East Longmeadow.

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2018 4:25:10 PM

For the fourth year in a row, the WMass Div. 2 Field Hockey Tournament comes down to Greenfield and Frontier.

The perennial powerhouses renew their rivalry tonight at 5:30 p.m., when they meet in the Div. 2 championship game at East Longmeadow High School. Top-seeded Greenfield (18-2) has won the past two sectional titles, including a 2-1 overtime victory in last year’s championship tilt, while No. 3 Frontier (12-5-3) won the 2015 title.

“The intensity between both teams, that always comes out,” began Greenfield coach Erin Thayer, whose team got past No. 4 South Hadley, 2-1, with a pair of late goals in the semifinal round, Monday. “It’s a rivalry that’s been here since I played (at Greenfield) a long time ago. Tournament or not, there’s some spark that goes on between the two teams. I’m expecting a very competitive game.”

Frontier coach Missy Mahar also knows a little something about the ins and outs of the rivalry. In addition to coaching the program since 2002, she also played in the rivalry as a player for the Red Hawks.

“It’s definitely a big rivalry in a competitive way, but there’s also a lot of great sportsmanship there,” said Mahar. “I do think it’s an elevated level of intensity that comes along with it, for whatever reason.”

The history in this series has been relatively even over the past five years. In the last 14 meetings between the two schools dating back to the start of the 2014 season, the series sits at 6-6-2, and Frontier has outscored the Green Wave by just a 25-21 margin. Greenfield is 5-1-1 in the past seven games against the Hawks, including wins in both regular-season meetings this fall.

Greenfield has cruised through a stellar season that saw it capture the Valley League regular-season title, and earn its fourth straight appearance in the WMass title game is certainly not a surprise. The same can’t necessarily be said for the Red Hawks, which beat Southwick, 5-0, in the semifinal round to advance to the championship game for the eighth consecutive year. Frontier lost a plethora of key contributors from last year’s team, and Mahar said their spot in tonight’s final was no guarantee when the season began.

“Walking into this season, we weren’t sure what it was going to bring,” Mahar began. “Losing ‘X’ amount of starters from last year, having JV players moving up to take on varsity roles, there was a lot of unknown. I think it took us a little time to figure things out from a coaching and team standpoint. But I’m so proud of the girls for sticking through it and working hard to get to where we are right now.”

Tonight’s game is chock-full of star power, with three of the top scorers in all of western Mass. expected to be right in the middle of the action.

Greenfield’s senior tandem of Raegan Hickey (37 goals, 15 assists) and Audrey Bresciano (23 goals, 14 assists) set the table for the Wave, and both stepped up to score goals in the waning minutes of the semifinal win against South Hadley.

“I expect my leaders to help carry the younger kids we have on our roster,” said Thayer. “That’s that leadership and experience we have on the team. Those girls, and the kids who have played in big games in general, need to step up.”

Olivia Vecellio is the leading scorer for the Red Hawks, and if Frontier is going to pull the upset tonight, the junior midfielder will have to be heavily involved. She has 20 goals and 13 assists on the year.

“She kind of drives the bus for us,” Mahar said of Vecellio. “She’s a big component of our defense and our offense. She understands the game really well. She can see things before they happen and you can’t teach that.”

Greenfield won regular-season games against Frontier by margins of 2-1 and 3-0. Thayer said her team needs to continue to play its game if they want to capture a third victory over their rival this season.

“I think we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing, keep the pressure the way we’ve been pressuring,” she began. “If we can communicate well, we can keep the pressure. When we haven’t communicating well, that’s been when we’ve had troubles. At this point in the season, we’ve done the things we’ve done. Now we just have to go out and play.”

Mahar said her team has to tighten some things up from the two losses in order to turn the tide tonight.

“From both competitions, I think we can take away things we did really well and things we can improve on,” she said. “We need to focus on the things we need to do better because of their strengths. I think at this point, it’s going out and executing the game plan. We’re aware of their style of play and those strengths, we need to try and focus on areas where we can capitalize.”

Both goalkeepers have had solid seasons, as Greenfield’s Samantha Smith has eight shutouts on the year and Frontier’s Skyla Burniske has amassed 11 blank sheets. Both players are well-versed in the championship-game atmosphere as veteran backstops.

Tonight’s game in East Longmeadow is the first of a championship doubleheader. The Div. 1 title game between No. 1 Minnechaug (16-1-2) and No. 2 Longmeadow (16-1-2) follows at 7:15.

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