Boys soccer: Greylock back in tourney after a year's absence; Lenox seeded second in D-IV
Starting with a run of three squads filling seeds two through four in the Division IV field, led by No. 2 Lenox, and including Mount Greylock's highly-anticipated return to the Division III bracket as a No. 4 seed, and on through a roaring Pittsfield squad representing the county as No. 8 in Division I, the next couple weeks should be very interesting on the Western Mass. pitch.
The Millionaires (10-5-3) highlight an 11-team Division IV bracket that features four local squads vying for a title shot. Lenox slots in just behind No. 1 Hopkins (15-2-1) and earns a bye into the quarterfinals. There, it await the winner of No. 7 Pioneer Valley Christian (12-3-3) and No. 10 Smith Vocational (7-6-5).
Matt Cote's crew didn't put a bow on its regular season in a 5-0 home loss to Greylock on Tuesday, but the team did run much more hot than cold throughout the fall slate. The Millionaires beat up on playoff-bound Drury 7-1 and knotted up Division I Pittsfield late in the year and banked wins over postseason teams Pope Francis and Westfield Tech early on.
Similarly, Drury fell silent towards the end of the year, finishing on a sour 0-3 run. However, the committee and Walker System thought the Blue Devils (11-7) did more than enough this fall to warrant a No. 4 seed and first-round bye. John Jacobbe's unit will host No. 5 Westfield Tech (15-2-1) in the quarterfinals.
"We have some fine-tuning to do, but we worked out our schedule to know that we'd have some tough games at the end to get ready for the postseason," said Jacobbe. "We're excited for the challenge and that we get to have that home game to battle at."
After appearing in the Division III quarterfinals last season, the Blue Devils reclassified to Division IV and are a big wild card in this bracket thanks to the offensive firepower of Reece Racette and Jon Boland. Drury won the Berkshire South title and took two-of-three from Mount Everett.
However, that late loss to the Eagles has jostled things in the Walker System eyes. Mount Everett has been on a bit of a late-season charge that started back with a 1-1 draw against the Millionaires and crested with a late-season victory over Drury. The Eagles (9-2-3) have made the most of their slim schedule and slimmer depth to earn a No. 3 seed and bye entry into the round of eight. There, they will meet either No. 6 Pioneer Valley Regional (13-2-1) or No. 11 Saint Mary's (5-10-3).
"We saw them against Lenox late in the season and they look well-coached and they have some size in the midfield and back. We'll have to attack the corners and try to get them on their heels a little bit," said Mount Everett coach Josh King. "That tie against Lenox was definitely a turning point of our season."
King's boys feature a small cast of seniors that have proven to be catalysts in this drive to the tournament, which has impressed many in the Division IV community.
The McCann Tech Hornets (9-5-4) are making a return to the field after missing Western Mass. in 2016. Their opening round date with Hampden Charter (10-6-2) will be a home contest up in North Adams. Earlier this season, the Hornets snuffed out the Wolves 3-0 on the road.
Before tournament play commences, Mount Greylock may very well be the story of the next few days. After an administrative error forced the Mounties to vacate wins and a playoff spot last fall, they will make their return to the bracket next week.
"We were hoping for a two or three and there we are," said Greylock coach Blair Dils, whose squad earned the No. 4 seed in the Division III bracket. "We're pretty healthy as it is, so we'll double-down on some things with the bye and look forward to hosting a game Monday night."
Greylock (10-4-2) will await the winner of No. 5 Pope Francis and No. 12 Franklin Tech. While both foes are unfamiliar to the Mounties, Greylock will be ready to go. While it is no doubt good to be back in the tournament after a devastating rug-pulling last fall, one issue that could arise for Greylock is a lack of postseason reps. In 2014 the Mounties made a run to the title game, but current senior Sam Dils was likely the lone real contributor to that team. Two years ago the Mounties were one-and-done.
"We were pretty senior heavy in 2014 and that's one thing, I wish we had some more experience," said Dils. "But we've played all the top four teams in the Division I draw and these kids are a level-headed group that doesn't get too high or too low."
Greylock bounced Lenox 5-0 in its season-finale and earlier in the year played West Springfield, Ludlow and Longmeadow to one-point losses.
As for Monument Mountain (7-6-3), a No. 6 seed won't grant them a bye, but they will get to face a Hampshire (7-11) squad that has to make the trek to Great Barrington. Matt Naventi's crew has had some real highs in 2017, but couldn't quite break the Greylock code. Monument can boast a 1-1 draw with No. 1 Belchertown (14-2-2) on Oct. 25, but backed it up with a pair of 3-1 losses to Pope Francis and Division I Pittsfield. The Spartans are solid in back with senior keeper Kevin Kelly, but need to put the ball in net to get by Hampshire and have a crack at potentially No. 2 Southwick (12-3-1).
The Division I field is equally crowded this year, and Pittsfield High is again in the thick of things. The Generals (9-6-3) are always a dangerous team come late fall and after finishing out the year on a 5-1-1 roll, the eight-seed is shaping up to be a tough out again. Andrew Antil's new-look crew went through the regular season ringer and appears to have come out the other side all the stronger for it. That big win over Monument may have pushed the Generals above No. 9 Springfield Central (9-8-1) and resulted in PHS getting to host a first-round home game at Kirvin Park this weekend.
A win would pit Pittsfield against No. 1 Ludlow (13-1-4), who bested the Generals 3-0 during the regular season.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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