SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 3, 2013

North Shore boys soccer clubs prepare for new season and alignment

By Gianna Addario
Staff Writer

---- — As this year’s boys soccer season kicks into full swing this week, most of the attention will be on the state’s realignment.

Last year there were only three divisions for boys soccer during the playoffs, but this year’s new alignment offers four divisions under the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s plan.

Schools were given a years notice about the new configuration and had time to review and discuss the proposal. The realigning is based upon boys enrollment within each school. The new four-year realignment cycle (2013-14 through 2016-17) was based upon 2011 enrollment figures.

Many of our local teams are in the mix when it comes to moving into a new tier.

Masconomet, which has had wild success in Division 1 since moving there in 2009, is back down in Div. 2 this fall. Under head coach Dave Mitchell the Chieftains made a Div. 1 state title appearance in 2011 and went to the North semifinals last season against St. John’s Prep.

They were able to take down several Div. 1 powers including Acton-Boxboro, Ludlow and Billerica and will likely do some damage in Div. 2. This year’s schedule kicks off with St. John’s Prep tomorrow and also includes another non-league tilt against Div. 1 North champion Somerville later in the season.

The Chieftains are once again gifted with excellent leadership with seniors Adam Grammer and Jeff Panella. Both have ample tournament experience from the past two seasons and are sure to make a splash in this year’s playoffs.

Every season, Masco seems to have a strong senior class leading the way and this year is no different. Along with Grammer and Panella the Chieftains return seven other seniors on the team. Dylan Zernich, Max Craig and PJ Criscioneon are back at attack, along with Edison Forbes who was one of the leading goal scorers last year. Stephen Pease and Jack Heintzelman round out the midfielders, while Willie Stewart enters the season as the starting goalkeeper.

“Our team chemistry is great and the boys are ready to go,” said Mitchell, who enters his third season as head coach. “Our preseason has been really positive and our senior leaders have been outstanding.”

It will be interesting come tournament time when Masco could potentially play Danvers, which has become one of the area’s most talented programs since Mike Chase returned four years ago.

Marblehead and Swampscott are both making the move from Div. 2 to Div. 3. The Magicians got knocked out in the first round of the tournament last year, while the Big Blue didn’t make the postseason.

Meanwhile, North Shore Tech, Bishop Fenwick, Hamilton-Wenham and Ipswich all move from Div. 3 to the new Div. 4 tier.

Fenwick’s slate is once again packed, playing its usual tough Catholic Central League schedule as well as four Div. 1 teams. Last year, the Crusaders started off slow, but got hot in the second half of the season to nail down a postseason berth.

“This time last year I didn’t know where we were going to go,” said head coach Nick Padovanni, beginning his second season at the helm. “We grew and that’s all that matters.”

Ipswich will meet many of its Div. 4 opponents throughout the regular season. The Tigers are in the Cape Ann League Small with Manchester Essex, Georgetown, Lynnfield and Rockport, all of which are in Div. 4.

“It pretty much keeps our league at the top of the division,” said Ipswich head coach Jon Keefe. “We have an advantage going into the tournament having played a lot of the teams in the North already.”

While numbers are down this season for the Tigers, they’re looking to make their second straight playoff appearance.