Six teams from Cape Ann have survived the regular season and earned the right to compete for a state championship. And out of the six local teams in the postseason, there are serious contenders in every sport including multiple conference champions.
Lacrosse and tennis brackets were released on Friday, with two local teams in the fold. Baseball and softball brackets will come out on Tuesday, where four more teams will participate.
Here's a look at each qualifying team and the challenges they could face in the state tournament.
GLOUCESTER SOFTBALL (17-3)
Section: Division 2 North
Biggest sectional competition: Triton, North Reading, Burlington, Dracut, Whittier Tech, Danvers, Marblehead.
Outlook: Division 2 North is absolutely stacked, so much so that Gloucester will most likely be facing a formidable foe in the opening round. The Fishermen, however, are battle tested, having won a very deep Northeastern Conference North Division, and have tournament experience, having been to at least the sectional quarterfinals in each of the last three seasons including two semifinal appearances.
Gloucester has a pitcher, Sydney McKay, who has already seen action in five postseason games, elite defense and an improved offense which has led to a 17-win regular season.
Head coach John Nicastro's squad is looking at a top four seed in the section, which means it will host through the quarterfinals. That's a big development, especially in a potential second round matchup where the opponent could be Gloucester's equal.
There are a bunch of elite teams that could be potential later round opponents such as Triton, the likely top seed, North Reading and Burlington, a team that has eliminated Gloucester from the postseason in three of the last four seasons. But there are also some big time challenges that could come in the early rounds. Northeastern Conference rivals Danvers and Marblehead could be on the docket in the first two rounds, and Gloucester split two games with both of those teams.
Division 2 North softball is as deep as it gets, but one thing is for sure, Gloucester has the talent and the intangible to compete with all of them, although the same can be said for more than a half dozen other teams as well.
This team is a serious contender to win the section, it will come down to execution in the big moments.
GLOUCESTER BASEBALL (15-4)
Section: Division 3 North
Biggest sectional competition: Austin Prep (potential Super 8 team), Lynnfield, Saugus, Pentucket, Bishop Fenwick, Swampscott.
Outlook: Gloucester's Division 3 North bracket could go from having a big time favorite in Austin Prep, to being a wide open field depending on what happens at this weekend's Super 8 selection meeting. Austin Prep, the defending Division 3 North champ, is 18-1 and has a good shot of getting into the elite field of Division 1 teams.
If Austin Prep is not in the bracket, Gloucester is one of the teams to beat, and is a team built for postseason success. With a one-two combination of Zach Abbott and Ben Oliver, the Fishermen have both a bona fide ace (Abbott) and a No. 2 that could be an ace on most teams and should stack up very well against most second starters (Oliver). Having an elite starting rotation gives Gloucester the chance to win any game against any team in the section.
When it comes to Division 3 North, Gloucester has already played, and beaten a lot of the most dangerous teams including two NEC wins over Saugus and Swampscott and an out of conference win over Newburyport. Cape Ann League Kinney champ Lynnfield is also a team to look out for, a team with postseason experience.
Dracut is another interesting case. The team that knocked Gloucester out of postseason contention needs to beat Gloucester in Saturday's regular season finale to qualify. If Dracut gets in, it is also a serious contender as it plays the most difficult schedule of the teams in the field.
MANCHESTER ESSEX GIRLS TENNIS (14-0)
Section: Division 3 North
Biggest sectional competition: Weston, Austin Prep, Bishop Fenwick, Lynnfield.
Outlook: The defending Division 3 state champs are a legitimate threat to take it all the way again, although the section looks like a more difficult road this season.
Weston was the team that gave Manchester Essex one its toughest test in the 2018 North sectional tournament, which is a bit of a stretch as the team won all of its postseason matches by a score of 5-0. This year Weston is the top seed, sporting a record of 19-0 while Manchester Essex is the second seed.
Cape Ann League rival Lynnfield, a team the Hornets beat 3-2 in the regular season, is also a serious contender in the section.
The Hornets have won three state titles since the MIAA expanded tennis to three divisions in 2011, and they have a real chance to do it again. With elite talent at the top of the lineup, teams have little margin for error against the defending champs.
MANCHESTER ESSEX BASEBALL (14-5)
Section: Division 4 North
Biggest sectional competition: Hamilton-Wenham, Lowell Catholic.
Outlook: After a shocking first round exit in 2018, the Hornets looked like a team primed for a deep postseason run with very few weaknesses.
The Hornets have quite possibly the best pitcher in the section in UMass Lowell bound senior Harry Painter to go along with pitching depth and a lineup that can rake one through nine.
Given their combination of hitting and pitching, the Hornets are one of three favorites in Division 4 North and they have history with the other two teams. CAL Baker rival and defending sectional champ Hamilton-Wenham will also be in the field and Manchester Essex won two of three games against its rival, although the two teams are evenly matched. Lowell Catholic, the 2018 sectional runner up and 2017 sectional champ, which beat the Hornets in the finals, is always a team that is around deep in the sectional tournament.
As is the case in lower divisions, seeding could be a big factor. Some of the teams with the best records in the section, most notably teams from the Boston City League, do not play the quality schedule that Manchester Essex, Hamilton-Wenham and Lowell Catholic plays. The Hornets could see a team early that doesn't have a great record but is dangerous, or a team with a great record that is not quite as dangerous.
No matter who they draw, the Hornets are one of the teams to beat in the section.
MANCHESTER ESSEX GIRLS LACROSSE (12-5)
Section: Division 2 North
Biggest sectional competition: Ipswich, Newburyport, Swampscott, St. Mary's, Austin Prep.
Outlook: The Hornets are very battle tested having played a lot of the most dangerous teams in the bracket, including a 1-2 record against Ipswich and Newbuyport.
This is another bracket that is loaded at the top with about a half dozen teams having a legitimate chance to go all the way.
The Hornets earned the No. 4 seed in the section with Ipswich, Swampscott and Newburyport respectively earning the top three seeds. They will take on No. 13 Lowell Catholic on Tuesday at Hyland Field in the Division 2 North First Round (5 p.m.).
Manchester Essex has experience against the top two seeds as its three games against them all could have gone either way. The team has a one-goal win and a one-goal loss to Newburyport and a 15-12 loss to Ipswich.
The Hornets win with balance between their offense and their defense, and teams have to have a good game to beat them, nothing less. The team should be able to breeze past Lowell Catholic in the first round. After that, it is going to be a battle against a formidable foe the rest of the way.
MANCHESTER ESSEX SOFTBALL (10-9)
Section: Division 3 North
Biggest sectional competition: St. Mary's, Austin Prep, Amesbury.
Outlook: Having qualified for the postseason for the second year in a row, Manchester Essex is scoring hot right now, having won seven of its last eight games to get back to the postseason. The team finishes up the regular season on Saturday night at home against Rockport (6:30 p.m.).
With their record hovering around .500, the Hornets figure to be traveling to a high seed early in the tournament, meaning they will have to pull off a major upset to advance. But they do have an outside shot at a home game in the prelims as Division 3 North is a crowded field with lots of teams.
Manchester Essex's strength is its offense as it can hit good pitching while Sydney Levasseur is turning into a legitimate weapon on the mound.
Austin Prep, St. Mary's and Amesbury are the clear cut favorites in the section. After that the Hornets stack up well with everyone. They may be a bit of an underdog here, but if they can play great defense and keep the scores low, they are capable of pulling off an upset over a higher seed.