By Gianna Addario
---- — For the second straight season, the Masconomet Regional field hockey team enters the Division 1 North state tournament as the No. 2 seed.
With a 17-0-1 record overall, the Chieftains went undefeated for the second consecutive year in a row. The Cape Ann League champions are a force on both ends of the field; with 10 shutouts this season they’re more than capable of bringing the defensive pressure, but are also known for their scoring prowess.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” said Masconomet senior forward Belle Ives. “We have such great chemistry even off the field and actually enjoy spending time with each other.
“We’re looking to keep the journey going, hopefully all the way to the finals.”
Masco will host 15th seeded Arlington in a first round game Thursday at 2:30 p.m.. The Chieftains are a fairly experienced team when it comes to the state playoffs, having made a deep run last year.
“We talked a lot about what’s expected of our team now,” added Ives, a Salem News all-star as a junior in 2012. “We took the regular season very seriously, but the intensity picks up in the tournament. Things that we could get away with in the regular season could be the difference between a win and a loss in the playoffs.”
Since head coach Leah Gunner took over the program last fall, the Chieftains are unbeaten in 36 games and have yet to lose during the regular season.
“I knew the talent was there, having coached junior varsity as well,” said last year’s Salem News Coach of the Year. “These girls just never give up. I really see their willingness to learn.”
Beverly High, which won the Northeastern Conference for the sixth straight season this fall, drew the fourth seed in the Div. 1 North tournament.
“Last year we were the No. 1 seed and lost right away,” said head coach Tricia Murphy. “So that taste is still in their mouths — and we don’t want that to happen this year. We need to play the full 60 minutes, regardless of what team we play.”
The Panthers (15-2-1) will host 13th seeded Lowell Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the first round. “I don’t know much about them, but I know they come from a tough (Merrimack Valley) Conference,” noted Murphy.
“One thing we’re really trying to focus on this postseason is not looking ahead whatsoever. We’re preparing on one team at a time.”
Murphy, who expects seniors Kate Silvestri, MaryCate Flaherty and Nicole Woods to give the team some added momentum heading into the state tourney, picked up an extra two non-league games this fall in hopes of preparing the Panthers a little bit more for the postseason.
“With Saugus leaving the NEC, we had a chance to play four non-league games,” added Murphy. “We were able to keep challenging ourselves. We wanted to play the best to see where we stood.”
The Panthers wrapped up their regular season against Acton-Boxboro last Saturday, and despite the loss they’re pleased with the level competition heading into Thursday’s tournament game.
Also in Division 1 North, Danvers (11-5-2) is seeded No. 12 and will travel to Needham for a first-round game Thursday (3:15 p.m.).
In Division 2 North, Ipswich finished the regular season with just two blemishes on its record and drew the No. 3 seed. The Tigers (13-2-3) earned a bye in the first round and will host the winner of the Weston/Bishop Fenwick game Friday (4 p.m.) in the quarterfinals.
The aforementioned Bishop Fenwick Crusaders (10-7-1) are the 11th seed and on the road against Weston tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. (location TBA).
Elsewhere in Div. 2 North, Swampscott (12-3-2) earned the No. 4 seed and will host Wayland in the first round tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Mabrlehead (10-6-2) is seeded 10th and will travel to Amesbury Sports Park to take on Newburyport in a first round matchup tomorrow afternoon (3:30).