After a packed weekend of high school state tournament action, only two teams on Cape Ann remain in the field as the postseason reaches the second round.
The Gloucester boys soccer team took down East Boston in its first round matchup and the Manchester Essex field hockey team eliminated Franklin County in its first round tilt, both by scores of 5-0. Both teams will be back in action at home in the Second Round.
Gloucester, the No. 8 seed, will be hosting No. 9 Greater New Bedford Vocational in Division 3 action at Newell Stadium (6 p.m.). Manchester Essex, on the other hand, hosts No. 15 Frontier Regional in Division 4 Second Round action.
Wednesday’s Division 3 boys soccer match looks like a real barn burner on paper. If the ratings are true, a No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed game should be extremely competitive and, in theory, both teams should be capable of winning.
Teams have to be on top of their game to get to the second round of the postseason and both Gloucester and Greater New Bedford are playing great soccer at the moment. Greater New Bedford has won eight of its last nine games while Gloucester is unbeaten in its last 12 (10-2-2).
The Bears compete in the South Coast Conference where they finished second in the standings behind Dighton-Rehoboth, the No. 4 seed in the section. They enter Wednesday’s game with a record of 13-4-2, but they had a higher strength of schedule rating than Gloucester, which enters with a record of 15-2-2.
Greater New Bedford appears to be a well rounded opponent, just like the Fishermen, who can score goals in bunches when needed and play strong defense when the flow of the game calls for it. Cameron Aguiar and Jose Juarez lead the team in scoring. Juarez had a goal in the team’s 3-1 win over Lynnfield in the first round while Aguiar had a pair of assists.
Gloucester will be looking to make history on Wednesday night. The program has never reached the third round of the state tournament. Although Gloucester knows very little about the Bears, head coach Armando Marnoto knows his team will have to be at its best.
“This time of year everyone is good so we have to take care of what we do best,” Marnoto said after Saturday’s win over East Boston. “There’s no place to hide in the tournament, you have to beat good teams if you want to advance and we know we will be playing another good team in the second round.”
Wednesday’s winner will advance to Saturday’s Division 3 Quarterfinal against the winner of Wednesday’s Second Round game between No. 1 Belchertown and No. 17 Dover-Sherborn.
Manchester Essex field hockey is no stranger to deep state tournament runs and No. 15 Frontier Regional is a new opponent that would not have made its way to Hyland Field in the sectional tournament. Frontier, which is based out of Deerfield, will have to make 120 mile trek to Manchester Essex on Wednesday afternoon, which could be a big advantage for the host Hornets.
Frontier enters with a record of 11-6-2 playing what the MIAA ratings deem a very easy regular season schedule compared to the Hornets, who had the third highest strength of schedule in the entire division. Easy schedule of not, Frontier was still able to get past No. 18 Hopedale, 1-0 in the first round.
On paper, the Hornets look to be heavy favorites in this one. Not only does Manchester Essex have a superior record, entering at 14-4-1, it has put together that record against far superior competition.
If Manchester Essex can get past Frontier a Cape Ann League team awaits in the quarterfinals in the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 10 Georgetown and No. 7 Lynnfield. The Hornets hold a 3-0 record against those two teams in regular season action.
This past weekend was a difficult one for local teams as five local teams were sent packing in games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Gloucester field hockey, Rockport girls soccer and Manchester Essex football, boys soccer and girls soccer. Outside of Manchester Essex football, all the other teams were shutout.
The Manchester Essex football and boys soccer teams were upset by familiar foes. The current MIAA State Tournament format makes it far less likely to see a familiar opponent early in the playoffs, but both Hornets squads drew tough conference rivals that they already played competitive games with.
On the gridiron, No. 12 KIPP, a CAC rival, took home the rematch against the fifth-seeded Hornets, 40-21 as three touchdowns of 80-yards or more was the different. On the pitch, the 12th-seeded Hornets were stymied by CAL Baker rival Amesbury, the No. 21 seed. The Indians were opportunistic in a 2-0 win and proved that familiarity is the great equalizer this time of year.
The Vikings girls soccer program was bounced after making history, however, as the program picked up a win in its first ever state tournament game last Wednesday against Upper Cape Cod Tech, a 1-0 triumph at Ryan Curley Field. No. 9 Douglas proved to be a little too powerful in Saturday’s road match.
Gloucester field hockey and Manchester Essex girls soccer are both young teams that will be on the upswing next year so the experience was important, even in a first round defeat.