Unbeaten Belchertown, Granby seek girls soccer titles
Breanne Moreau of Belchertown, left, moves the ball beside Michelle Nardi of Hampshire Regional Wednesday at Hampshire.
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Bryanna Veroneau of Belchertown, third from left, shoots while defended by Alexandra Roessling of Hampshire Regional, second from left, Wednesday at Hampshire. Michelle Nardi of Hampshire, left, and Brittany Moreau of Belchertown look on.
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Only three girls soccer teams enter the western Massachusetts tournament with undefeated records. Two of the three are local squads — one was awarded the top seed and is used to winning the sectional crown, the other is seeking to reach that pinnacle for the first time.
In Division 2, two-time defending champion Belchertown (16-0-2) comes into the postseason as the overwhelming favorite to win its third straight title. In Division 3, Granby (16-0-1) was given the No. 4 seed and aims for a western Mass. championship after coming up just short in the last three title games.
Orioles coach Chris Mogavero said this is “by far” his best team in 13 seasons, especially on offense. Belchertown outscored its opponents 92-8 over 18 regular-season contests. With the exception of two games, the Orioles took on an entirely Division 1 schedule.
“We have five different players who can score goals, we move the ball well, we have some size which helps on set plays,” Mogavero said. “And the defense is what the numbers say.”
Midfielder Breanne Moreau led the team in goals (24) and points (36). Forward Natalie Caney (18 goals, 35 points) was second in both departments.
Jackie Soucia (25), Brittany Moreau (24) and Bryanna Veroneau (17) also have double-digit points.
Belchertown went 10-0 to claim the Kurty-Fielding Division, which includes Division 1 tournament teams in Westfield, Agawam and Chicopee Comp. Along the way, it beat Division 1 powers Minnechaug, Ludlow and West Springfield and tied defending D1 champ East Longmeadow.
In the 2011 sectional tournament, the Orioles won three straight 4-0 decisions before falling to Auburn 1-0 in the state semifinals.
Belchertown will host the winner of a first-round game between No. 8 Easthampton (9-4-2) and No. 9 Athol (9-4-5) in the quarterfinals at a date and time still to be announced. The Orioles will have had more than a week off since their final game on Oct. 27.
“I know the past couple seasons we’ve improved come tournament time,” Mogavero said. “The deeper tournament games being played on the turf helps our style of play. We also get a nice break, and the girls have a few days off to recharge their batteries. Last year, we had a similar break and came out charged up and ready to go. Hopefully, that’s the case again.”
The third unbeaten team going into the postseason is Monson (16-0-2), the No. 2 seed in Division 2 and a possible opponent for the Orioles in the title game. Belchertown edged the Mustangs 1-0 for the 2010 sectional crown.
But Mogavero doesn’t feel the top two seeds should be slotted into the finals just yet.
“Wahconah at No. 6 is always a tough tournament team regardless of their regular season, and all the Berkshire teams are always a tough out,” he said. “At No. 7 Cathedral is a really strong defensive team and played better teams on their schedule than they will in the tournament. We played (No. 3) Southwick last year and they look to be a better team this season, so they won’t be afraid of us. It’s a deep field, a talented group of teams.
“If a team comes in and plays physical, or if we fall behind by a goal, that could affect us, but we’ve been in those situations before and bounced back pretty well,” Mogavero added. “We don’t give our opponents many chances at all, so we haven’t been in situations where our defense has been heavily tested. But we’re experienced back there and solid.”
Meanwhile, the Rams nearly had a perfect regular season, their only blemish being a 1-1 draw at Easthampton on Sept. 11. Granby, which won the 2004 title at the fourth seed, has won its last 14 games by a combined score of 56-3.
The No. 4 seed won’t add an extra game for the Rams, but they’ll need to handle a No. 5 Lee (7-7-3) in the quarterfinals. The date and time are yet to be announced.
“I was surprised to see that we were put at No. 4, but I promise that we will be ready for the tournament,” Granby coach Nick Boorman said. “Our team is very confident and healthy entering the tournament. Our focus on only on (Lee) and preparing for that first game.”
Granby can beat an opponent in any type of game. The Rams allowed only five goals on the season with 12 shutouts. They also averaged close to four goals per game.
Midfielders Brooke Labrie (14 goals, 20 points) and Kiley Baran (16 points) jumpstart the Rams’ attack, while forward Rachel Mick (11 goals, 15 points) is enjoying another strong season.
Senior defenders Alex White and Noelle Menard along with junior Alexis Ouellette patrol the back line in front of first-year keeper Brittany Hauschild.
The Rams finally overcame Gateway in last season’s semifinals after a pair of tough losses to the Gators in the 2009 and 2010 sectional finals, but then lost to Lenox 1-0 in the 2011 title game.
In what Boorman described as “the game of the year” on Oct. 24, Granby went to top-seeded Lenox and beat the Millionaires 1-0.
“There are a lot of talented teams in D3 this season, and we will not overlook anybody,” Boorman said. “We have had extremely competitive games with Lenox and Gateway. They seem to be two of the top opponents. We are focusing on playing our game. We’re confident that if we can play our best good things will happen.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.