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Boys soccer preview: Belchertown, Hopkins Academy earn No. 1 seeds; Amherst is No. 2

Charlie Denhart, left, of Northampton, and William Aldrich, of Belchertown, go to the ball Monday in Northampton.JERREY ROBERTS

Charlie Denhart, left, of Northampton, and William Aldrich, of Belchertown, go to the ball Monday in Northampton.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

There will be no hiding for the defending Western Massachusetts Boys Soccer Tournament champions.

Amherst Regional earned the No. 2 seed in Division 1. Belchertown grabbed the top spot in Division 3, while Hopkins Academy did the same in Division 4.

Tournament brackets were released Wednesday afternoon at Granby High School. Amherst, Belchertown and Hopkins each received a first-round bye. They will begin their championship quests next week.

“One thing I bring out to these guys is that I remind them what our history has been,” Belchertown coach Tony Almeida said. “We have been to the tournament and successful as the No. 8, the No. 5, the No. 1 seeds. We’ve faced the No. 1 seed as the No. 8 in the past and won. It can happen to anybody. We’re not going into the tournament thinking we’re better than anybody else.”

The two-time Division 2 champion Orioles (16-2-0) have reached the last four Division 2 finals. (Realignment eliminated Division 2, moved teams to Division 3 and created Division 4.) The Orioles host the winner between No. 9 Athol (9-6-3) and No. 8 Hoosac Valley (9-6-2) next week.

Alex DeSantis has 18 goals and eight assists, while Nick Drost added 13 tallies and Noah Lussier 10 for Belchertown. Cam Messier had 14 assists.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes (11-3-4) won their first Division 1 sectional title last year with a victory over Ludlow on penalty kicks. Amherst, though, is over that title. A 4-1 loss to West Springfield on Oct. 24 woke the team up.

“It took us a while to shed last year’s team in a sense,” Amherst coach Michael Rudd said. “It took us a while to form our own identity. There isn’t that weight on our shoulders, just the weight of playing up to their potential. They don’t feel the pressure of playing to last year anymore.”

The Hurricanes host the winner of No. 10 Commerce (9-5-4) and No. 7 East Longmeadow (8-7-3) next week.

Eric Gooden (six assists) had 11 goals, while Brandon Vazquez (four assists) has 10 to pace the offense. Adam Rice has seven assists.

The last two years left Hopkins Academy on both sides of the tracks. The Golden Hawks (16-1-1) won the championship last fall, and fell to Lenox in the 2011 finals.

“We’ve learned from both of those years,” Hopkins coach Justin Campbell said. “The ultimate defeat or the ultimate win. I don’t think you get to this time and not learn from the past.”

The Golden Hawks will host the winner between No. 9 Mt. Everett (9-8-1) and No. 8 Pioneer Regional (10-3-3) next week.

Campbell hasn’t had a full lineup since the fourth game of the season. He is expected to have everyone, with the exception of an injured Tim Hanlon, back for the tournament opener.

“Our kids have stepped in and done nice things and filled in spots and learned a lot along the way,” Campbell said. “They’ve been an integral part of the success we’ve had.”

Hopkins tied with McCann Tech for the fewest goals allowed in the PVIAC. On offense, Paul Delamy (17 goals, 11 assists), Tyler Szymkowicz (14, 12) and Evan Delaney (10, six) lead the team.

“We know what it takes to win but that also anything can happen,” Campbell said. “We’re not taking it for granted. We haven’t done anything this year. We set ourselves up for tournament along with the other teams.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.

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