Field hockey: Frontier earns No. 1 seed for Division 2 tourney

  • Frontier’s Olivia Vecellio, front, and Grace Wesoloski watch the action during their game against Greenfield earlier this season. The Red Hawks are the No. 1 seed in the upcoming WMass Division 2 tournament. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield’s Katie Haselton fires a shot against Westfield during the regular season. Greenfield drew the No. 3 seed in the WMass Div. 2 tournament and will play No. 6 Southwick at home on Wednesday. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls’ Jade Tyler clears the ball against Southwick during the regular season. Turners Falls drew the No. 7 seed in the upcoming WMass Div. 2 tournament and will play at No. 2 Smith Academy in Hatfield on Wednesday. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/28/2019 8:42:57 PM
Modified: 10/28/2019 8:42:51 PM

The stage is set for the WMass Division 2 field hockey tournament.

The burning question for Franklin County is whether the tournament will feature a championship-game rematch between Greenfield and Frontier, as the two programs have met in each of the last four Division 2 title tilts.

The Green Wave have three straight championships, with the Red Hawks winning their most recent title back in 2015.

But first things first, the quarterfinals begin on Wednesday. Local teams Frontier, Greenfield and Turners Falls all earned spots in the Division 2 bracket, which was released on Monday morning at Belchertown High School.

The top-seeded Red Hawks (14-2-1) earned a bye into the semifinals of the seven-team field, and they will face the winner of No. 4 South Hadley and No. 5 Belchertown next Wednesday, Nov. 6.

Frontier has reached the sectional final in each of the past eight years. The last time the program didn’t earn a spot in the WMass Div. 2 final was back in 2010, when Mohawk Trail upended Smith Academy.

As for potential opponents in the semifinal round? South Hadley (12-5-1) always plays the Red Hawks tough.

In two meetings this season, Frontier earned a 1-0 win and a 2-2 tie against the Tigers, and the two teams last met in the tournament during the 2017 semifinals. Belchertown finished with a 12-3-3 record and won a share of the Tri-County League championship.

“They are a well-coached team,” Frontier coach Missy Mahar said of South Hadley. “They are fast. They play well on turf and they don’t give up on the ball. They always give us a hard time. Division 2 is wide open this postseason.”

The Red Hawks face a fairly long 12-day layoff heading into the semifinals. To combat that, the team will attempt to schedule a scrimmage on a turf field, possibly against a prep school or a Division 1 team that has a similar layoff.

The Red Hawks, while maintaining a game-to-game approach, have lofty goals heading into the tournament.

“It’s my last year here,” said senior midfielder Olivia Vecellio, who went over 100 career points earlier this fall. “We want to go all the way.”

Frontier last went to a state final in 2004 when it lost to Canton.

Three-time defending champion Greenfield drew the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 Southwick on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the quarterfinal round.

The Green Wave (12-5-1) did not face the Rams (12-5-1) during the regular season.

Greenfield doesn’t have much of a scouting report on Southwick, according to coach Erin Thayer.

“At this stage of the game, it’s tournament and you are one and done,” Thayer said. “You have to come ready to play and put forth your best effort. No matter who your opponent is, you have to go out and leave it on the field.”

Seventh-seeded Turners Falls (9-5-1) faces a trip to Hatfield on Wednesday (3:30 p.m.) to play undefeated Smith Academy (15-0-3), the No. 2 seed in the field, in a quarterfinal matchup.

“They are a really strong team,” Turners Falls coach Becky Dame said of Smith Academy. “They usually are, but I think a lot of their games, even though they are undefeated, have been close.”

During the regular season, the Thunder gave the Falcons all they could handle in a pair of one-goal losses.

“Myself and the team are excited to play them again,” Dame said. “They think we can win. We played them twice and we know what we need to work on. The kids are excited for another chance.”

Generating more offense is paramount for the Thunder on Wednesday.

“I think if we work on beating their defense and getting more shots on goal we have a really good chance,” Dame said.

Smith Academy dropped down to the lower rated Bi-County League for the 2019 season after winning just three games in the Valley League along with Greenfield, Frontier and South Hadley a year ago. The Falcons ran the table without a loss, but their strength of schedule was not on par with Frontier’s, keeping the historic power in the No. 2 spot.

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