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Frontier earns top seed in Division 2 field hockey tourney

  • Hannah Ellis of Smith Academy moves the ball against Frontier Regional Monday at Smith.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Hannah Ellis of Smith Academy moves the ball against Frontier Regional Monday at Smith.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kelly Ryan of Smith Academy, right, moves the ball against Mindy Espisito of Frontier Regional Monday at Smith.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kelly Ryan of Smith Academy, right, moves the ball against Mindy Espisito of Frontier Regional Monday at Smith.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hannah Ellis of Smith Academy moves the ball against Frontier Regional Monday at Smith.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kelly Ryan of Smith Academy, right, moves the ball against Mindy Espisito of Frontier Regional Monday at Smith.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

This year’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 Field Hockey Tournament seeds will need to hold up for just one round to get a rematch of last year’s final.

Defending champion Frontier Regional (13-4-1) earned the top seed, narrowly edging league rival — and last year’s runner-up Smith Academy (11-3-4) — for the No. 1 spot.

In a four-team field, those squads will need to win just one game to be back in the title game. Last year, the Red Hawks defeated the Falcons 1-0 in double overtime.

“We are feeling good and happy to be back in the postseason,” Frontier 10th-year coach Missy Mahar said. “We are ready to compete. It’s always an exciting time for the girls.”

While Frontier has the North Division title, the better seed and a more recent title, it is Smith that enters the tournament with the momentum.

“The girls are excited (for another potential chance at a title), but they know they have a lot of work to do between now and the” semifinals, Smith second-year coach Dena Polverari said. “They want to go in and show off what they’ve accomplished, not just from the start of this year, but from last year to now. They are a different team, that’s for sure.”

After opening the season 3-2-1, the Falcons went 7-1-3 the rest of the way, with the lone loss coming to D-1 top seed and state title contender Longmeadow.

“I think the girls are really starting to gel together as a team, both on and off the field,” Polverari said. “It really has shown in how they’ve played. Just in the past week when we played four games, they’ve shown as much mentally as they have physically.”

Included in that strong second half is a 1-0 win over Frontier on Oct. 22. The Red Hawks won the first meeting 4-0 on Sept. 10.

“We’ve definitely improved throughout the whole season. No doubt about it,” Polverari said. “They have taken the bull by the horns and they’ve run with it.”

US National Team selection Danielle Duseau, a junior midfielder, and senior Emiko Barker, who is headed to Division I Bryant University next season, highlight the Falcons’ deep and experienced squad.

Duseau, arguably the best player in the region, leads the team with 22 goals and 27 points, while Barker is second in both (16, 17). The defense has been solid, especially on the stretch run, having posted three shutouts and two one-goal games in its last six contests.

Frontier, meanwhile, opened the season 7-1 and 11-2-1, but went 2-2 in its final four, with a 2-0 loss at D-1 No. 2 seed Minnechaug on Oct. 26 to go with the loss to Smith.

Going 2-2 in their final four games “definitely brought up some concerns that as some teams are peaking, we were having a little bit of a rollercoaster,” Mahar said. “We talked about what it takes to be a Western Mass. title contender, what it takes to be a good team this time of year because that seemed to kind of slip away from us for a couple games. I think we’ve handled that and we’ll be ready to go.”

Rose Moscaritolo leads the Frontier offense with 20 goals, while Sydney Judge is second in points (15) and first in assists (10). Jordyn Roberts and Judge both scored five goals this season.

The field is relatively small for two reasons. Mahar, which is a D-2 program, was moved up to D-1 because it has a boy on its roster. The Senators’ (16-2) resumé includes a 1-0 win over Frontier on Sept. 19.

The other reason is that D-1 East Longmeadow (4-6-8) edged D-2 South Hadley (6-8-4) for second place in the Central and the automatic tourney bid. The Tigers have been a postseason mainstay in recent years, but couldn’t overcome an injury-riddled start to the season and fell just short.

Division 1

Northampton dominated all season and earned the No. 3 seed.

Northampton will host No. 6 Westfield (8-8-2) in the quarterfinals Friday at a time to be announced. The winner of that game plays the winner of the matchup between Minnechaug (10-5-3) and No. 7 East Longmeadow.

“It’s great that we are playing Westfield. They were a competitive team with us the last game and the one previously as well,” Hamp first-year coach Mike Dean said. “You never can tell what is going to happen, but I think we will be able to play our level of hockey and be able to keep up with them.”

The Blue Devils beat the Bombers 1-0 on Sept. 19 and 3-0 on Oct. 26. They didn’t play defending champion and top seed Longmeadow (16-0-2) or Minnechaug this season. Their lone loss was a 1-0 defeat to Smith Academy and they tied Frontier Regional 1-1.

Northampton was undefeated in its final 10 games, going 8-0-2, and has won its last five games by a combined score of 13-1.

“I told the girls that during the last few games we should go in with the same mindset that we want to go into the playoff games with,” Dean said. “We wanted to play well and go into the playoffs with the most confidence that we can have.”

The Blue Devils were better than Minnechaug in both winning percentage and quality of wins, but fell back to the third spot because they had the second-worst strength of schedule in the field, behind only D-2 Mahar.

“Speaking as a coach, you’d always want your team to play competitive teams to make every win or loss more meaningful than breezing over the competition,” Dean said. “It matters who you have played. They’ve had great seasons, but I think all the teams have definitely earned their place. I look forward to perhaps being matched up with a team that is similar to us and perhaps being able to give us a run for a our money.”

Emily Allcroft led the team with 11 goals this year, while Olivia Cotton had a team-high 16 points and nine assists. Missie Maiewski emerged as an offensive force with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists).

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

Field hockey

Division 1

1. Longmeadow (16-0-2)

2. Minnechaug (10-5-3)

3. Northampton (14-1-3)

4. Mahar (16-2)

5. Agawam (8-6-4)

6. Westfield (8-8-2)

7. East Longmeadow (4-6-8)

Quarterfinals

Friday

Game 1: Agawam at Mahar

Game 2: Westfield at Northampton

Game 3: East Longmeadow at Minnechaug

Semifinals

at West Springfield High

Dates, Times TBA

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Longmeadow

Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner

Finals

at West Springfield High

Date, Time TBA

Semifinal winners

Division 2

1. Frontier Regional (13-4-1)

2. Smith Academy (11-3-4)

3. Mohawk Trail (7-6-4)

4. Pioneer Regional (10-5-1)

Semifinals

at West Springfield High

Dates, Times TBA

Game 1: Frontier vs. Pioneer

Game 2: Smith vs. Mohawk

Finals

at West Springfield High

Date, Time TBA

Semifinal winners

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