Play it again, Sam: Reshuffled seeds disruptive to local qualifiers

  • Frontier’s Zach Hamilton (10) and his Red Hawks moved up a seed from No. 4 to 3, but having a bye either way, it didn’t make much of a difference. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 02, 2017

Another misstep featuring the vaunted Walker System created a stir in the MIAA soccer community, leaving several area coaches and athletic directors scratching their heads with the postseason kicking off today.

The MIAA uses the Walker System, which combines three factors: overall record, strength of schedule, and overall record against playoff-qualifying teams regardless of the team’s division. The formula then uses a standard deviation and the resulting number determines a team’s seed.

The system hasn’t enjoyed the smoothest of sailing in recent years. Wednesday’s annual seeding meeting at Agawam High School provided another theater of the absurd moment, as the brackets were released, pulled down some five hours later, corrected and reposted with many new seeds and matchups late Wednesday night.

The corrections, which were caused when the standard deviation was not applied within Walker System categories, had a direct impact on several Recorder-area soccer teams for the tournament that begins today and Saturday with first-round games.

Perhaps most impacted was the Mahar Regional School boys’ team. The Senators, co-champions of the McGrath Division this year, were originally listed as the No. 8 seed in the Division III field. They were to host No. 9 Renaissance School tonight at 6 in Orange.

But when the new brackets were released, Mahar’s seed was dropped from No. 8 to 10. After celebrating a home game, one of the team’s goals before the season, the Senators were shifted to an away game this afternoon at No. 7 Easthampton High School in an opening-round contest set for 3:30 at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton.

“I’ve got many disappointed kids right now,” explained Mahar coach Dan Guertin. “To get a home game, that was one of the things that they worked for all year long. They weren’t really concerned about the seed, the just wanted to play at home. There was a lot of excitement for that.”

If Mahar was impacted negatively as a result, Athol High School reaped the benefits when the seeds were adjusted. Originally seeded 10th in the Div. III tourney, the Red Raiders slid up two spots to Mahar’s original spot and is now the No. 8 seed. Athol will host No. 9 Renaissance in the first round Saturday at 6 at O’Brien Field.

The Div. III field also shifted slightly toward the top, where Frontier Regional School moved up one spot from No. 4 to No. 3. The Red Hawks will still have a bye into the quarterfinals, though they’ll now play the winner of the Monument Mountain Regional High School and Hampshire Regional High School game. Mount Greylock Regional High School moved from No. 3 down to No. 4, and will play the winner of Franklin County Technical School and Pope Francis High School.

The Division III Girls’ Soccer Tournament also changed dramatically when the new brackets were released. Locally, Pioneer North champion Mahar actually moved up two spots from No. 6 to No. 4, and the Senators will now play No. 13 Pioneer Valley Regional School in a first-round game Saturday at 4 in Orange. Mahar was originally set to tangle with No. 11 Palmer High School.

“We had started to talk about Palmer a bit but all the while had an idea there were some egregious errors made and things weren’t going to stay the same,” explained Mahar coach Chad Softic. “So we made sure to just go and have a good practice and concentrate on ourselves and see what (Thursday) brings.”

The shift to No. 4 has the added bonus of a potential home quarterfinal game, should the Senators take care of business against Pioneer. The winner of that game will play the winner of No. 5 Southwick-Tolland Regional High School and No. 12 Taconic High School.

“We didn’t play (Pioneer) this year but certainly there’s more familiarity with them than we had with Palmer,” Softic said. “We know a couple of their key players pretty well. As far as we’re concerned, we feel good about the preparations we’ve made going into the tournament. Now that everything’s out there, everyone can settle down and get ready for a soccer game.”

There were several big leaps in the Div. III girls’ field when the seeds were adjusted, with Hoosac Valley High School dropping from the No. 5 to No. 9. Wahconah went from No. 4 to No. 6, while Southwick moved up from No. 8 to No. 5.

Not to be outdone, the Div. IV girls’ field was also significantly shifted. Seven of the 12 teams in the bracket had their seeds corrected. Lone local Franklin County Technical School is still the 12th-seeded team, but the Eagles have a different first-round opponent. They will now meet No. 5 Hampden Charter School of Science Saturday at 3 at Rivers Park in Chicopee. FC Tech had originally been slated to play Hopkins Academy, but the Hawks were dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 in the adjusted bracket.

In Orange, the Mahar boys’ team had just one day of practice to refocus its attention toward a new opponent before today’s first-round trip to Easthampton. Despite the disappointment, Guertin said his squad is as healthy as it has been all season and ready to get out and make a statement.

“We’re choosing to look at this as, if you want to accomplish anything in the playoffs, you have to win on the road,” the coach offered. “Now we just have one more road game than we had expected. I think it also serves as a rallying cry for the team. Hopefully this will bring the group together and they can go out there and get the job done.”