WMass Boys Soccer Tournament: Athol, Mahar to meet in first round

  • Athol’s Connor Mahony celebrates after scoring the go-ahead goal in the second half to win 3-2 over Mahar on earlier this season at the Woodward Complex in Orange. Mahar won the late-season rematch, and the two rivals will meet in the first round of the WMass Div. 3 Tournament.

Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2019 9:12:43 PM
Modified: 11/1/2019 9:14:59 PM

After splitting their two matchups in the regular season, Mahar Regional and Athol will have a chance to settle things on the biggest stage. 

The stars aligned to create a monster matchup in the first round of the Western Mass. Div. 3 boys soccer tournament, as for the first time since 2015, the Senators and Red Raiders will square off. 

Mount Greylock is the No. 1 seed in the Div. 3 field, with Franklin Tech drawing the No. 12 seed, taking on No. 5 Hampshire.

Mahar (13-2-3) drew the No. 6 seed and will host No. 11 Athol (7-7-4) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Neither game between the neighboring rivals disappointed this season. The first meeting came down to the final minutes, when Connor Mahony broke the 2-2 tie with a breakaway goal to give the Red Raiders the victory. The second match was on Monday, with the Senators avenging the early season loss with a 2-0 victory. 

“No matter what the record is, whenever you play Athol it’s more competitive,” Mahar coach Dan Guertin said. “Even against better teams, it doesn’t have the intensity this rivalry does. The Athol one is always the one our kids look forward to most.”

“I was surprised how it came out but it will be a good opportunity,” Athol coach Ruddy Paulino said. “Hopefully, this time we can finish. There will be a lot of tension. It’s going to be an exciting game.”

Like the two regular season games, the last tournament matchup in 2015 was a thriller. The two squads were evenly matched, battling to a 2-2 tie at the end of the two overtime periods, forcing penalty kicks where the Senators came out victorious.

Guertin had an alumni back at practice on Friday who played in the 2015 matchup to tell the team about the game’s intensity.

“He told them how cool of an opportunity it is for how big of a game it is,” Guertin said. “He talked about what it meant to play that game. It’s really excited. We’re really looking forward to it.” 

Injuries may play a role in the game, as Mahar forward Riley Drew, who missed the first game against Athol, will be a game-time decision on Tuesday. Defenseman Simon Powell has a broken foot and is out for the season. 

For the Red Raiders, forward Bryce King won’t be suiting up. The senior will miss the game after picking up his third yellow card in the final regular season game against Wahconah. If Athol were to win, King would be available for the quarterfinals, as the winner will take on No. 3 Belchertown (8-4-6).

Paulino is hopeful that Dylan Fountain will be a go after suffering a foot injury.

Though missing their top forward in King, Paulino is confident his squad still has enough to pull off a victory. 

“We’re going to play our game and we know what we have to do to capitalize on things,” the Athol coach said. 

Franklin Tech (9-7-2) is the lowest seed in the Div. 3 field, and the Eagles will travel to Westhampton to face a tough Hampshire (8-4-4) squad on Monday beginning at 5 p.m.

Being one of the smallest Div. 3 schools, it’s always a challenge for Franklin Tech to step up in the tournament. The team lost to Monument Mountain, 7-1, in the first round a season ago. 

The Eagles did not face any of the tournament teams in Div. 3 this season.

“They’re always a strong soccer program,” Franklin Tech coach Kurt Richardson said of Hampshire. “They’re a non-football school, always good in soccer. They always field a great team.”

Eagle sweeper Garrett Cole, who was strongly considered for the all-Tri-County League team, will lead a back end that may be without keeper Matt Regnier, who suffered a large cut on his knee at practice on Friday. 

Though it’ll be the toughest challenge to date for Franklin Tech, the Eagles will be ready to go knowing any day can be their day.

“We’re going in as the underdogs,” Richardson said. “We’re the 12th seed which is probably where we should be with the schedule we play. To make the tournament is an accomplishment. The game’s not played on paper. Maybe we’re on and they’re off and we get a couple bounces.”

Belchertown was the Div. 3 winner a season ago, defeating a Frontier squad that failed to qualify for this year’s tourney. 

On the Div. 4 side, Mohawk Trail could not have asked for a better opening-round matchup.

The Warriors (7-7-4) earned the No. 9 seed, and will take to the road to face No. 8 McCann Tech in the first round. The date and time was still to be determined at press time.

The two squads squared off in September, with Mohawk Trail coming out with a 3-2 victory over the Hornets (11-6-1). 

“It’s a great feeling for us,” Warrior coach Nick Brown said. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s not going to be anything easy. It was a struggle last time and we’re going to need to bring out best.” 

The winner takes on Mount Everett (9-6-2), the top seed on the Div. 4 side. No. 2 Lenox defeated No. 3 Westfield Tech in the finals a season ago.

The Mohawk attack has been led by Jaime Colemenjaro, Tyler Dubreuil, Oscar Cassin and Keeman Ramirez all season long, with Reuben Bassett standing strong in goal. 

Getting a victory on Monday would mean getting shots past McCann keeper Andrew Levesque, who made 11 saves in the previous outing. 

“He’s a solid keeper,” Brown said. “The shots we had on net had a tough time finding the back. He’s always in the right spot, our goals came on bouncers in front of net. He’s definitely somebody to watch.”

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