By Matt Williams Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — The top two field hockey teams on the North Shore — Beverly and Masconomet — are also the top two seeded teams in Division 1 North.
The Northeastern Conference champion Panthers (16-1-1) and the unbeaten Cape Ann League champion Chieftains (15-0-3) have identical .917 winning percentages. Beverly won the coin toss and drew the No. 1 overall seed Division 1 North, while the Chieftains are seeded No. 2 as the MIAA released its field hockey tournament pairings yesterday.
Beverly, which has won the NEC five straight years, drew the top seed for the second straight season.
“We’re excited, but looking at how it went last year, we were really excited to be No. 1, and we ended up getting knocked out in the second round,” said Beverly junior captain Nicole Woods. “We know we have to keep working hard in practice and take the tournament one game at a time.”
Beverly will host the winner of a Weston/Methuen preliminary round game on Saturday at 2:30. The Panthers’ turf field, which they played on full time this season, gives them another advantage as they look to become a state power. Beverly also had two solid non-conference games with North Andover, and a notable tie with two-time defending state champion Andover.
“Those games gave us a sense of what we need to do to win in the tournament,” Woods said. “To play a team of that skill level, especially late in a season when both teams are at their peak, shows us what we need to work on.”
Masconomet will host the winner of Reading/Needham on Saturday. The Chieftains are in their first season under coach Leah Gunner, who was recently named Cape Ann League Coach of the Year. Masco experienced an incredible turnaround after not making the state tournament in 2011 and is led by captains Becca Phillips, Marylee Hutchinson and Maura Feltault.
Phillips and junior Belle Ives earned All-League distinction from the CAL, while Feltault, Julianna Kostas and goalie Ali Neuenhaus were named all-stars.
Also in Division 1 North, Danvers (9-6-3) is seeded No. 11 and will travel to Lexington for a first-round game on Friday (2:15). Peabody is back in the tournament after missing last year, drawing the No. 10 seed with a 10-5-3 record. The Tanners travel to Newton North for a first-round game on Friday (2).
Swampscott, which finished second to Beverly in the NEC by a point, drew the No. 3 seed in Division 2 North and earned a first-round bye. The Big Blue are led by a core of Tori Thistle, Alexa Steriti and Lisa Vu and will host the winner of a Tewksbury/Bishop Fenwick first-round game on Saturday.
The Crusaders (8-7-3) qualified last week and will travel to Tewksbury for a first-round matchup on Thursday. If Fenwick, which advanced to the North semis as a No. 14 seed two years ago, wins, they’d advance to a quarterfinal game against Swampscott.
Elsewhere in Division 2 North, Marblehead (10-5-3) earned the No. 9 seed and will travel to Wilmington for a first-round game on Thursday night (6 p.m.).
Ipswich (6-6-6) is seeded No. 12 and will face Winchester on the road on Thursday afternoon. The Tigers are led by CAL All-League selection Sarah Antonucci.
Back in Division 1 North, Beverly and Masconomet can’t meet until the finals as the top two seeds. Looking ahead for Beverly, a possible rematch with Andover looms in the semifinals if both schools advance. For Beverly, a host of strong athletes like Woods, Livvy Konaxis, Katie Pietrini and Camden Vitale hold the keys to a long postseason run.
“We did a lot of changing when Kate (Silvestri) broke her hand and the thing I like about this team is we have a lot of athletes, people we can put anywhere on the field that see the whole field,” Woods said.
“We have a great feeling within this team. Everyone’s friends and everyone gets along and likes each other.”