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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Westfield State Playoff Preview

(Photo provided by Westfield State University)

As the weather starts to get colder, the action will only start to heat up as it is playoff time at Westfield State University.

For the fall season, the women’s volleyball squad and both men and women’s soccer teams have qualified for tournament play in the MASCAC conference. The Owls already have a conference championship from the women’s cross country team and a runner-up from the men’s team, but they are looking to add more hardware to the trophy case. Here is a quick glimpse into what each team looks like heading into postseason action:

Women’s Volleyball

The Owls have been nothing short of dominant as they made sure the tournament runs through the Woodward Center. The team had a 7-0 undefeated record in conference play on top of a 12-16 overall record and only lost three sets in games against their conference foes. The Owls enter the tournament first in spikes (101), third in kills-per-set (10.10), and third in assists-per-set (9.33). The key for Westfield State has been their ability to sustain rallies as they were tops in the MASCAC with 19.22 digs-per-game, total blocks (154), and blocks-per-set (1.52). All led by senior middle hitter Brianna Starkey (Rockland), who has brought her veteran leadership to this squad along with her 2.52 kills-per-set (5th in MASCAC) and 0.72 blocks-per-set (1st in MASCAC). Starkey isn’t the only though putting up great numbers; senior defensive specialist/libero Lizzie Taylor (Medfield) finished the regular season not only with reaching the 2,000 career digs mark, but topped all players in digs (555) and digs-per-set (5.66).

The first match in the playoffs for this team will be Thursday at 7:00 P.M. at the Woodward Center for the MASCAC Semi-finals. This squad has their eyes set on redemption after coming up short in the MASCAC championship last year and have hopes of clinching their first title since 2013.

Women’s Soccer

With eyes set on their third MASCAC championship in a row, these Owls ended the regular season winning five straight and nine of their last ten games. The Owls finished 11-5-1 overall with a 6-1 conference record earning them the number one seed in the playoffs. The team has shown their dominance at both ends of the field with their conference leading 3.06 goals-per-game and 1.27 goals-against-average. On offense, the Owls have their own triple threat of midfielders in the forms of senior Bella Eduardo (Springfield, MA), junior Lydia Kinsman (Granville), and sophomore Jenn Rennich (Bedford). The former Rookie of the Year Kinsman led the team with thirty points and twelve goals (both 2nd in MASCAC) to spark the offense along Eduardo’s seventeen points and Rennich’s conferencing leading ten assists. What gets overlooked is how well the defenders for Westfield State have been playing led by junior Morgan Remington (Enfield, CT) and senior Gianna Moncecchi (Windsor). The way they shrink the field makes it extremely difficult for any offense to be sustained for a period of time. The x-factor for this team though is freshman goalkeeper Lauryn Davis (Templeton) who lead the conference with a 1.16 goals-against-average. Some could wonder if the inexperience of being in the playoffs could get to Davis, but the way she has played all year long would defy those expectations.

The Owls get their playoffs started with a semi-final matchup on Friday at 7:00 P.M. at Alumni Field. No team has won three consecutive MASCAC championships since tournament play started in 2000, but the Owls are a team determined to break that streak and once again reign supreme of the MASCAC.

Men’s Soccer

It’s almost like a case of deja vu for the men’s team because for the second straight year, the Owls take a fifth seeded team that struggles on offense, but is stout on defense, to Worcester State for a quarterfinal matchup. The Owls finished 5-11-1 overall and 3-4 in conference play including a clutch 2-0 win over Mass. Maritime in the regular season finale to solidify their playoff spot. It’s been a struggle to put the ball in the net for Westfield State as they had a 0.88 goals-per-game average and never scored more than three goals in a game all year. The Owls remain aggressive though as seniors Ryan Della Penna (Enfield, CT) and Nate Weaver (Westfield, MA) along with juniors Ryan Morais (Uxbridge) and Paul Soucy (Acushnet) have combined for ninety of the team’s 187 shots on the season. To compliment this offense is a rock-solid defense that had a goals-against-average of 1.85 anchored by senior Jabari Smith (Enfield, CT). Smith has been the focal point of limiting opportunities for opponents and when it comes to isolation defense, very few can beat Smith. Keeping it steady in between the pipes is junior goalkeeper Tyler Diotalevi (Ludlow) who missed last year’s heartbreaking defeat due to a red card in the previous game. Diotalvei ranks fourth in the conference among eligible goalkeepers in almost every category and some could argue that if not for his play, the team would have a worse record.

It all gets started for the men when they travel to face Worcester State Tuesday at 7:00 P.M. for one of two quarterfinal matchups. The Owls have the capability to make a Cinderella run and as many say: anything can happen in the MASCAC.

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