For the third year in a row, the Peabody girls soccer team is seeded No. 1 in the Division 1 North girls soccer tournament.
That doesn’t mean the defending state champion Tanners have a favorable path to a repeat, however.
Right off the bat, Peabody (17-1) could see the only team it lost to this season. Acton-Boxboro (8-6-3) visits Billerica (10-6-4) for a preliminary game on Saturday with the winner traveling to Tanner Town on Sunday for a 6 p.m. start.
If the Colonials win, the top-seed will be facing the team that ended its 38-game unbeaten streak just two weeks ago.
“That was an off night for us, but Acton-Boxboro was part of the reason for that,” said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. “We were on our heels, hesitant to press forward, and we made two mistakes that they capitalized on.”
Should Peabody and A-B meet, it would be the third state tournament game between the programs in four years and the sixth overall meeting in that time.
“We’re very familiar with each other. We know how they play defensively and we have to come up with something to attack that,” said Desroches. “On the flip side they know how we defend and attack.
“We’re certainly not going to overlook Billerica, either. We’ll be prepared for both.”
Peabody has the majority of its starters back from last season’s state tourney winner, notably strikers Hayley Dowd and Victoria Digiacomo. Defender Kara Digiacomo was the Northeastern Conference Large MVP and Cayla Bucci is a player to watch at sweeper. Goalie Caitlin Lodi, forward Madison Doherty and mid Christa Trombley also started during the state title run.
“Our has been together for a good four years and they have experience in big games. The team we have is extremely good at making adjustments,” said Desroches, whose team could face another Dual County team that knocked them out two years ago, Westford, in the quarters.
“It seems like in order to do anything in this tournament you have to go through the Dual County. You can play them now or later, first round, second, third ... you’re going to see them eventually.”
Beverly (14-3) could also learn about the road running through the DCL. The Panthers are seeded No. 4 and host the Madison Park/Cambridge winner on Sunday at 2 p.m. Should they advance, they’d likely host No. 5 Concord-Carlisle, another DCL power.
Junior Caitlin Harty set a BHS record in goals this season and also became the school’s all-time leading scorer. With a core that also includes Eva Gourdeau and defenders Diandra Crowley and Kristen O’Connor, Beverly is on a mission to earn its first state tournament win since 2007.
Masconomet is the other local entry in D1, drawing the No. 10 seed at 11-4-3. They’ll travel to Newton North for a first round game on Sunday (1 p.m.).
Moving to Division 2, Hamilton-Wenham is seeded No. 2 after a banner 13-1-2 season that already includes the Cape Ann League Large title. CAL Small champion Amesbury (15-0-2) is the top seed.
The Generals, under first year coach Alvi Ibanez and CAL Player of the Year Alanna Vecchiarello, will host the winner of a Gloucester/Melrose preliminary game on Sunday (2 p.m.).
Another staple of the D2 bracket is Danvers (14-2-2), making its 23rd straight postseason appearance seeded No. 3. The Falcons host the Tewksbury/Wayland winner on Sunday at 4 p.m. NEC South MVP Kylie Plaza anchors the middle for Danvers with great support from seniors Chrissy Gikas, Renee Pohle, Jackie Morse and Meghan Kenny.
Marblehead, led by first-year coach Andrew Bub, is back in the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Magicians (9-5-3) are seeded No. 11 and face Wilmington on Sunday (4 p.m.). Also in Division 2, Bishop Fenwick (9-5-4) is No. 12 and will visit Latin Academy on Saturday (2 p.m.). Swampscott (8-6-4) hosts Arlington Catholic in a prelim game tomorrow (2 p.m.).
Looking ahead in Division 2, Danvers could face Marblehead in the second round if both teams advance. The Falcons could also have a rematch of the 2010 North semi’s with Hamilton-Wenham if both local entries are fortunate to win twice.
The only Division 3 team in the area to qualify was Ipswich, seeded No. 14 at 7-4-7. The Tigers host Watertown in a preliminary game tomorrow (4:15 p.m.). If Ipswich and their lock down defense led by CAL All-League selections Courtney Long and Maddie Howe advances they’d face No. 3 Shawsheen.