Girls soccer: Lenox is No. 2 in D-IV, as eight teams earn tourney bids

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SOUTHWICK — A very healthy field of eight Berkshire County girls soccer teams will see their season extend into the coming weeks of the Western Massachusetts tournament.

In a meeting at Southwick-Tolland Regional High School Wednesday, the seedings for Division I, III, and IV brackets were released. Among the qualified teams were five local squads in the Division III tournament and a strong showing by the Berkshire North division, which saw all five of its competitors earn a berth.

The top seeds coming out the county will be Berkshire South champion Lenox, which earned the No. 3 spot in Division IV, and Berkshire North winner Monument Mountain, which finds itself No. 3 in Division III. Pittsfield High will represent the Berkshires as the No. 8 seed in Division I.

Lenox (10-5-2) received a bye into the quarterfinal round, where it will await the winner of No. 6 Pathfinder (13-3-2) and No. 11 Duggan (9-7-2) for a home contest next week.

"It's always nice to get that high seed and get a home game, but you don't want too much time off, so we'll find some things to do and work on," said Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuk. "We'll try to find out what we can about them. Every team makes to tournament for a reason."

The Millionaires have mixed some young firepower with veteran leadership to scorch through the second half of their regular season slate. Their last loss was in early October to Division III No. 1 seed South Hadley 1-0. Since then, Zinchuk's crew has gotten elite offense from junior captain Nicole Gamberoni and game-changing speed from youngster Mary Elliot. Lenox is a perennial factor late in the tournament and will rely on that experience to make it through a 12-team field.

"We've relied on senior leadership and most of our starters have experience in the tournament semifinals or finals," said Zinchuk. "We've had success late in the season, but you can still draw from games like playing South Hadley really tough and being able to test yourself against the Monuments and Pittsfields."

On the other side of the bracket from Lenox is a burgeoning Lee squad that is making its return to tournament play after a one-year hiatus. The Wildcats (9-8) earned the No. 8 seed and will host an opening-round game against No. 9 Westfield Tech (9-5-3). The winner will have to contend with No. 1 Granby (10-5-3) in the quarterfinals.

"The girls have really clicked and we're playing some pretty good soccer, moving with a lot of confidence. It's a good feeling," said Lee coach Lauren Finnegan. "We've played tough against some really strong teams."

With star senior Brianna Hawley in net and some feisty young firepower up front, Lee is looking to make this more than a feel-good appearance.

Monument (10-3-5) leads a huge Berkshires contingent in the 14-team Division III field. Given the depth of the bracket, Jess Platt's Spartans will not receive a first-round bye like No. 1 South Hadley (16-1-1) and No. 2 Monson (12-2-4). Instead, Monument will host a game against No. 14 Putnam (9-8-1) Saturday afternoon.

"We're excited to have a game and to get the ball rolling, get the jitters out," said Platt. "It's a brand new season we started yesterday and we're looking to put it all together and get our tournament team healthy and ready to go."

The Spartans finished out the season with a 2-0 loss to Pittsfield on Oct. 28, but have a long resume of quality performances that led to a division title, including a 1-0 loss to Monson in September. Should Monument advance into the quarterfinals, it will take on either No. 6 Wahconah (7-7-4) or No. 11 Palmer (7-8-2).

Pulling in right behind Monument is Meg Smith's No. 4 Wahconah squad. The Warriors also suffered a recent loss to Pittsfield, but have an almost equally impressive resume. Wahconah stacked its schedule with eight non-county teams, assuring itself of being battle-tested by the time it takes the field at home against Palmer. That gauntlet of games included a scoreless draw with Monson on Oct. 5.

If Wahconah can take care of business in Smith's second postseason at the helm, fans will get an all Berkshire quarterfinal contest.

Don't forget about the Mounties, either. Mount Greylock (9-6-2) wrapped up their berth a couple weeks back, but has been trying to identify areas of needed improvement lately. Tim Ostheimer's group finished the year an undesirable 0-3-1, but owns quality wins over Pittsfield, Lenox and Hoosac Valley which resulted in a No. 7 seed. In its first tournament appearance since 2014, Greylock earns a home game in Williamstown, where No. 10 Frontier (12-3-2) will have to travel to. The winner of that one dives in head first against No. 2 Monson.

Just behind the Mounties are the Hurricanes of Hoosac Valley (6-5-5). Kathy Budaj's crew did more than squeak into the postseason with a 2-0 statement win over Mount Greylock in the regular season finale. Hoosac will contend with No. 8 Hampshire (8-7-1) on the road.

No. 12 Taconic (7-11), which finds itself tournament-bound for the first time in a few years thanks to a second-place finish in the Berkshire South after sweeping Lee, will visit No. 5 Southwick (8-4-5).

Finally, the increasingly dangerous Pittsfield Generals splashed into the Division I field with a trio of wins over Greylock, Monument and Wahconah to end the regular season. Pittsfield (6-9-3) finished second in the hellacious Berkshire North to rectify a one-season absence from tournament play. As the No. 8 seed in an eight-team field, they will have to visit No. 1 West Springfield (15-0-3) right out of the gate. The Terriers have yet to be beaten, but Andy Waluszko has made sure this iteration is as battle-tested as possible with midseason contests against West Side and No. 5 Chicopee Comp (10-6-2). The winner bounces into the semifinals against either No. 4 Westfield (13-5) or No. 5 Comp.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.

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