Stephanie Zollshan – The Berkshire Eagle Lee’s Courtney Picard returns a serve in a home match against Frontier earlier this month.
Defending state Division III volleyball champion Frontier Regional came to Lee earlier this month and got out with a hard-fought, three-set win. The Wildcat players understand the Red Hawks are the measuring stick for the rest of Division III volleyball.
“We’ve been playing them ever since I was a freshman, and they’re so good,” Lee’s Alyssa Kelly said that night.
Four Berkshire teams will wait until Tuesday when the MIAA holds its Western Massachusetts tournament seeding meeting. The meeting will take place at 11 a.m. at Agawam High School. The first matches start two days later, and the Western Mass. finals are pencilled in for Nov. 8 and 9.
Three teams — Lee, Mount Greylock and Wahconah — will play in the Division III tournament, while Pittsfield will be the only representative in the Division II tournament.
A year ago, Taconic earned a No. 5 seed in Division II and Pittsfield was the seventh seed. Taconic got to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Longmeadow. Pittsfield lost in the first round to Central.
In Division III, Lenox and Greylock got to the quarterfinals while Lee lost to Frontier in the semifinals.
Wahconah was not in last year’s field, and head coach Dave Lussier said the Warriors are looking forward to perhaps playing into November.
“They’re excited” to be in the tournament, Lussier said. “It was one of our goals when we set out this season. They’re focused and preparing to play in the postseason.”
Wahconah’s regular season ended on Monday night with a win over Taconic.
“We set our goals for the second half of the season to beat teams that beat us in the first half,” said Lussier. “We were focusing on trying to get the best seed we could for the postseason.”
Lussier and the Warriors weren’t the only team trying to get the best possible seed in the postseason. Lee has not been ranked lower than third since 2011. In each of those three seasons, the Wildcats have run into Frontier before the championship round.
“I’d love to be able to get to Western Mass. and be on the other side of the bracket,” said Lee coach John Warner.
The Red Hawks have won six of the last nine state championships and, back on Sept. 30, beat the Wildcats 25-15, 25-12, 25-19.
“We played with them, then they’d go on a four- or five-point run,” Warner said. “We feel we can play with them.
“We have the video of the match. We’re going to bring our best game.”
This is the third consecutive season that Pittsfield has reached the Western Mass. tournament. Last year, the Generals lost to Central in the opening round. Had the Generals won the first-round match, they would have faced No. 2 Amherst.
This year, the Generals might run into a very high seed early, but that might be only a number.
“There’s a reason we call it a game,” said Lee’s Warner. “You have to play it.”