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State title berths on the line for local squads



Thursday, November 28, 2013
On paper, Tuesday night’s state Division 3 boys soccer semifinal between Belchertown and Nipmuc Regional could be seen as a mismatch.

The western Massachusetts champion Orioles were the top seed in the sectional tournament and bring a record of 19-2-0 into the contest. The central Mass. champion Warriors (11-7-4), meanwhile, were the No. 14 seed in a 16-team field after finishing the regular season at .500.

The squads will take the field at 7 p.m. at Nashoba Regional in Bolton.

For a Belchertown program that’s lost in this round the past two seasons, there’s too much at stake to look at records and seeds.

“The guys are very focused on what’s ahead,” Belchertown coach Tony Almeida said. “We didn’t do too well the past couple years in this round. We have a lot of seniors, all of which went through the letdown of not advancing.”

In 2011 and 2012, Belchertown lost to eventual state champion Groton-Dunstable by 1-0 scores. The Orioles were outplayed two years ago, but had the better of play overall in last season’s loss.

“We learned last year that you can control the game, but you have to put the ball in the net at least once,” Almeida said. “That’s what counts, and it’s something we’ll have to see (Tuesday).”

Playing a challenging schedule that included four of six central Mass. finalists set up Nipmuc for its tournament run. The Warriors beat four of the top six seeds to earn the title, although central Mass. seeds its teams by winning percentage.

Nipmuc reached the central Mass. final for the fourth time in the last five seasons, also winning in 2009 and 2010. Like the Orioles, the Warriors played in Division 2 until this past season’s realignment.

Belchertown will see in the Warriors a defensive-minded team, backstopped by junior keeper Sam Manning. Over 22 contests, they’ve allowed just one goal per game but score just 1.5 per game.

“I don’t know much about them and how they play,” Almeida said. “We’re going to go out there, try to play our best, put our hearts into the game and see if that’s enough. I think if we can play well defensively, that will help us transition into our offense.”

The Orioles, winners of six sectional championships since 2003, seek their second state final appearance. They fell in penalty kicks to Stoneham in 2005.

“I hope we can get back (to the state final) because the guys have worked so hard and they’re really looking forward to (Tuesday’s) game,” Almeida said. “They deserve the opportunity to win a state title.”

Junior Nick Drost, who scored the winning goal Saturday, said, “Western Mass. is just a step. We’re aiming for that state championship, our first.”

Division 4 boys soccer

Hopkins Academy (19-1-1) won the inaugural Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament and its second consecutive sectional title.

The Golden Hawks defeated Monson 1-0 on Sunday to gain a rematch with central Mass. champion Sutton (17-0-4) Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Lunenburg High. The Sammies earned a 1-0 victory in last year’s state Division 3 semifinal en route to the state crown.

“That was a great game last year, but a heartbreaker for us,” Hopkins coach Justin Campbell said. “I know they lost five seniors from last year’s team, and so did we. We’re going to try or best to get a different result this time.”

The Sammies were the fifth highest scoring team in central Mass. at 3.2 goals per game. They had three players with double-digit points during the regular season — Riley Steele (18), Ryan Elster (17) and Brenden May (10) — and 11 with three or more.

Hopkins brings three double-digit goal-scorers in Tyler Szymkowicz (18), Paul Delamy (18) and Evan Delaney (10).

Sutton keeper Gordy Smythe allowed 11 goals in 22 games. He’ll be matched in goal by Hopkins star Ben Pitta, who had a stellar 10-save performance on Sunday.

“After last year, we know this Sutton team pretty well, which should help us,” Pitta said. “They’re good, but if we play like we’ve been playing we should be fine.”

Division 3 girls soccer

Granby earned its first sectional championship in nine years with a 1-0 victory over Athol Saturday.

“We enjoyed (Saturday’s) win over the weekend, but now we’re prepared for this state semifinal, the next challenge,” coach Nick Boorman said.

The Rams will seek a state final appearance against central Mass. champion Holy Name (13-4-2) Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Nashoba Regional in Bolton. Granby lost 6-0 to Sutton in 2004.

Holy Name enters the state tournament on a roll. The Naps did not allow a goal in four tournament games, including three wins over the top three seeds.

Each team earned at least one postseason overtime victory. Granby won its quarterfinal and semifinal contests in extra time, while Holy Name topped No. 1 Northbridge in overtime of the sectional final.

Granby is led offensively by freshman Erin Mikalchus (24 goals), who scored the lone goal in two tournament games, including the final.

The Naps feature a pair of 20-plus point scorers — Maria Monje (12 goals, 15 assists) and Megan White (10, 11). Keeper Logan Lornell, an eighth-grader, and the Holy Name defense give up fewer than a goal per game.

Division 2 field hockey

After winning its first sectional championship since 2009, Smith Academy stands a win away from a state title appearance. But to get there, the Falcons must topple a team without a loss or tie.

Smith (15-5-1) will face central Mass. champion Auburn (22-0-0) Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Grafton High School.

The Rockets boasted the top three regular-season scorers in the Southern Worcester County League — Jaime McNamara (33 goals, 57 points), Jordan Lavallee (25 points) and Lyndsey Gabrielian (19 points).

McNamara, who posted a hat trick in the sectional final, led all scorers in central Mass.

Goalie Abby Lucas posted three tournament shutouts, backstopping a defense that’s allowed seven goals in 22 total games.

The 2009 Smith Academy squad lost to Oakmont 4-1 in the state semifinal round.

Division 3 girls volleyball

Nine-time western Massachusetts champion Frontier Regional will seek a fourth straight berth in the state final when it faces Sutton (18-4) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hudson High School.

The three-time defending state champion Red Hawks (18-4) swept Athol 3-0 Saturday for yet another sectional title.

The Suzies, who swept top-seeded Marian in the sectional semifinals, have key performers in senior captain Jenna Louw (outside hitter) and senior middle hitter Erin Messier.

Frontier made it back to states despite starting just one senior in Sarah Woodward.