The MIAA has released the pairings for this year’s boys’ soccer tournament and once again we are in for a thrilling couple of weeks of top-notch action on the pitch, crowning three new Eastern Mass champions on the way to the state championships. Below is a glimpse into how things may shake out in each of the six sectionals. Please keep in mind that last year we didn’t even have Division 1 EMass champion Masconomet in our Top 20 poll heading into the tourney, so take it all with a grain of salt and feel free to post your own predictions.
DIVISION 1 NORTH:
This sectional boasts defending EMass champion and current No. 1 Masconomet, and is very top heavy with the likes of No. 2 Somerville, No. 3 St. John’s Prep and No. 6 Acton-Boxborough standing out as favorites here.
Best first round matchup: Framingham at St. John’s Prep - Framingham heads to Danvers on Saturday to face off against No. 3 St. John’s Prep. The Eagles stumbled slightly down the stretch, catching two draws over their last three games. The Flyers are always battle-tested come tourney time thanks to their brutal Bay State schedule and have tied No. 5 Needham, 2-2, early in the season and beat No. 11 Wellesley last week.
Finals prediction: Masconomet and Somerville – The two favorites should make it through for a heavyweight collision into the finals.
Sleeper: Chelsea – They are quick, skilled and underrated and despite not losing all season long they have garnered little-to-no fanfare.
DIVISION 1 SOUTH
This sectional is as loaded as it gets. With 25 teams in the mix, it will be a free-for-all, so expect some big teams to get knocked off early. Fourth-ranked Needham and fifth-ranked Weymouth have been top-five teams all season long, but No. 7 New Bedford, No. 12 BC High and No. 16 Nauset are all on the verge. Then there are the Oliver Ames's of the world who bring with them one of the best goalies around as David MacKinnon brings in an EMass best 0.17 goalies against average.
Best first-round matchup: Wellesley at Nauset – If the Raiders can get by preliminary opponent King Phillip, it would set up a solid first round bout with Nauset and Cody Savonen, a scoring machine looking to make a mark in his final season.
Finals prediction: Needham and Weymouth – The Rockets took the season series 1-0-1, but of course things were only decided by one goal. These Bay State behemoths would provide a must-see class in this final.
Sleeper: Silver Lake – The Patriot League Keenan division champions had an impressive closing stretch against ranked teams where they tied St. John’s Prep and Dartmouth and defeated Hingham.
DIVISION 2 NORTH
Concord-Carlisle will be looking for a stunning fourth straight D2 North crown and they hope it will lead to their third state title in four years. It won’t be easy and of course it never is. Teams primed to knock the Patriots off of their perch include No. 18 Pentucket and No. 8 North Andover.
Best first-round matchup: Salem at Lynn Classic - Although Lynn Classical just took down Salem, 4-1, last Thursday, you can always expect the best when two teams from the same league make it a one-and-done deal. These two Northeastern League Large foes will get Manning Field ready for what is always a very busy postseason.
Finals prediction: Concord-Carlisle and Winchester – A rematch of last year’s D2 North semifinal that saw the Patriots escape with a 2-1 win.
Sleeper: Wilmington – Just like his Division 2 state champion hockey team, coach Steve Scanlon will have his Wildcats ready to execute their game plan.
DIVISION 2 SOUTH
It’s the anti-Division 1 North with regards to the team powers that you we may be used to. But don’t for a second take this division and section lightly. There are plenty of teams in this one who may not have had the regular season success that they are used to, but tougher schedules make these contenders strong. See Canton, Milton, Hingham, Holliston, Norton, and Duxbury.
Best first-round matchup: Medfield at Westwood – The Lis brothers (Olek and Seb) will look to defend home turf for the Warriors, but Tri-Valley rival Medfield tied Westwood, 0-0, early in the season and defeated them, 1-0, on October 23rd.
Finals prediction: Hingham and Holliston – The H’s have it in Division 2 South.
Sleeper: Martha’s Vineyard – Opponents should not dismiss the Vineyarders because of their commute. It gives them more time to hammer out their game plan!
DIVISION 3 NORTH
This sectional is maybe the most up-for-grabs in the North. Matignon is poised to push things past their quarterfinals appearance last year, while St. Mary’s wants to catch at least one more win than a year ago to put themselves in position for a D3 North title. Of course you can never count out the ports, as Newburyport and Rockport are always forces to watch in this region.
Best first-round matchup: Georgetown at Watertown – The defending EMass champion Royals have to make the long trek to Watertown to try to defend their title, which won’t come easy with a scrappy Red Raiders team first on the docket.
Finals prediction: Rockport and Matignon – Two years ago the Warriors didn’t even make the postseason, but over the last two seasons coach Michael Haynes has gotten the best of his bunch and now they are serious contenders. The Vikings boast Cape Ann goal scoring leader Conor Douglass (24) who alongside Shaun Aspesi (18 goals) make a lethal scoring combo.
Sleeper: Bishop Fenwick – They have tied (0-0) and beat (1-0) preliminary round opponent Austin Prep and if they get by them it will set up a first round matchup with St. Mary’s, whom the Crusaders defeated, 2-1, in mid-October.
DIVISION 3 SOUTH
This sectional is filled with all sorts of gems that have yet to be admired. From Seekonk to Bourne to Coyle & Cassidy. This region could find some new blood to represent them in the EMass final. Of course, last year’s sectional finalists Cardinal Spellman and Dover Sherborn lurk in the depths of the low seeds, waiting to strike.
Best first-round matchup: Cardinal Spellman at Mashpee – The Cardinals must first take out Holbrook in the prelims, but if they do, they will post a massive threat for Mashpee in round one.
Finals prediction: Nantucket and Mashpee – The Cape and Island teams are a lot stronger this year than in year’s past and these two teams will prove it.
Sleeper: Bourne – The leadership of 30-goal scorer Jack Canterbury can be enough to carry the Canalmen at times.
Best of luck to all the teams who have made it this far. The road to the hardware will be a tough one, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.