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Previews of local schools’ NHIAA playoff matchups

High school tournaments today

Field hockey

Division II semifinals

At Bill Ball Stadium, Exeter

No. 6 Merrimack Valley (11-4-1) vs.
No. 2 Lebanon (12-1-2), 5 p.m.

Previous tournament games: MV blanked No. 11 Milford, 2-0, and upended No. 3 Souhegan, 2-1. Lebanon escaped No. 10 Goffstown, 3-2 in overtime, after receiving a first-round bye.

Head to head: MV beat Lebanon, 2-1 in overtime, in mid-September and tied the Raiders, 0-0, in the regular-season finale.

Notes: The Pride is back in the Final Four after a one-year hiatus and will be facing a very familiar opponent in Lebanon. MV is responsible for two of the three blemishes on the Raiders’ otherwise pristine record. And don’t be surprised to see this game go into overtime, seeing as how the first two meetings had extra time tacked on. In MV’s win, its first over Lebanon since 2008, Lily Davis scored the game-winner and Olivia Thurber also scored. Thurber, Cassidy Huckins and Erin Frost have found the back of the net in the playoffs so far. But for MV to succeed, it will need to rely on its team-first mentality, where plentiful passing and sharing the wealth are a must. A solid team defense that has withstood 10 one-goal games this season will need to be at its sharpest against the defending champs and their go-to player Emily Perryman.

Boys’ soccer

Division I first round

No. 13 Keene (5-11-0) at
No. 4 Concord (12-2-2), 3 p.m.

Head to head: Concord took care of Keene, 9-0.

Notes: If the regular season is any indication, the Crimson Tide couldn’t have drawn a better first-round matchup. Concord’s most decisive win was against these Blackbirds, who had only one of their five wins come against a team over .500. The teams are also trending in different directions. The Tide also goes into the postseason playing some hot soccer, as it’s gone unbeaten in its last five games while scoring 14 goals and posting three shutouts. Keene, meanwhile, is stuck on a seven-game losing streak and hasn’t scored more than two goals in a game since September.

Division II first round

No. 14 Plymouth (4-11-1) at
No. 3 Pembroke (13-2-1), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: The teams haven’t seen each other this year, but the Bobcats should know to expect a Spartans squad that doesn’t play down to opponents. Pembroke lost only twice this year, with those defeats coming to Hollis-Brookline (the No. 2 tournament seed) and Lebanon (No. 5). Plymouth also doesn’t have any inspirational victories to turn to; the Bobcats beat 3-13 Kennett twice and Division III teams Laconia and Kingswood.

No. 11 Coe-Brown (5-8-3) at
No. 6 Portsmouth (11-2-3), 4 p.m.

Head to head: Portsmouth beat Coe-Brown, 2-0, in late September.

Notes: The last matchup between these teams came at a pretty low moment for the Bears, as Coe-Brown’s loss to the Clippers was the second defeat in what became a five-game losing streak. The Bears seem to have righted the ship recently, with two wins and a tie in their final four games, and improved defense has been the reason why. Coe-Brown allowed two goals in the four games, which helped make up for an offense that has struggled to put points on the board in the second half of the season. Those four games also marked a difficult part of the schedule in which the Bears faced No. 2 Hollis-Brookline (1-0 loss) and No. 5 Lebanon (1-1 tie), and it should provide them with confidence that, with a little bit more offense, they should have a decent shot at the upset today.

No. 12 John Stark (6-9-1) at
No. 5 Lebanon (12-3-1), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The teams split, with Lebanon winning at home, 3-0, and Stark taking the rematch in Weare, 1-0.

Notes: The first game of the tournament won’t be an easy one for the Generals, but splitting the season series should give them reason to believe an upset is within their grasp. Pulling it off would require Stark’s best soccer, which hasn’t been on display recently in Weare, as John Stark enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak, the final two losses being tough 1-0 defeats. Lebanon, meanwhile, should enter this game brimming with confidence after beating Windham, the No. 1 team in the tournament, 1-0.

Division III second round

No. 17 Somersworth (8-8-1) at
No. 1 Hopkinton (15-0-1), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Previous tournament games: Somersworth beat No. 16 Farmington, 2-1, in the first round. Hopkinton had a bye.

Notes: Somersworth has a dilemma on its hands. Does it focus on stopping the Hawks offense, which has scored four or more goals eight times? Or do the Hilltoppers make a more concerted effort to just put one ball in the net, which 12 of Hopkinton’s opponents have failed to do? The Toppers do deserve some credit (they beat No. 3 Gilford, 2-0, during the regular season, after all), but the Hawks haven’t even been tested by any team other than No. 2 Bow, which battled Hopkinton to a 1-1 tie. If the Hawks play their game, they should be moving on.

No. 18 Campbell (8-9-0) at
No. 2 Bow (14-1-1), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The Falcons swept the season series, winning 2-0 and 5-1.

Previous tournament games: Campbell defeated No. 15 Fall Mountain, 2-1. Bow had a bye.

Notes: The two-time defending champion Falcons drew a favorable matchup for their playoff owner, getting a Cougars squad that they already handled easily in a pair of contests. Bow appears ready to make a run for a third crown, as its defense is humming heading into the tournament. The Falcons haven’t lost since Sept. 18, a stretch of 10 games that includes one tie and nine wins, eight of which were by shutout. The two teams to score on Bow in that time? No. 1 Hopkinton (in a 1-1 draw) and – go figure – Campbell, in a 5-1 decision Oct. 1 that showed the Falcons can play a little offense, too.

No. 9 Kearsarge (10-5-1) at
No. 8 Laconia (11-5-0), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: The Cougars hit a road bump on the way to the playoffs, as four straight wins were followed by back-to-back shutout losses. There’s reason to think those losses were simply an aberration, as Kearsarge showed plenty of offense during the regular season while posting 10 games with three or more goals. Important as getting the ball in the net is, preventing that from happening at the other end could be the key for the Cougars, as Laconia has shown throughout the year that it goes as its offense does. When the Sachems score three or more goals, they’re 10-0. When they score two or fewer, they’re 1-5.

No. 12 Bishop Brady (8-7-1) at
No. 5 Raymond (13-3-0), 3 p.m.

Head to head: Raymond beat Brady, 6-3, in late September.

Notes: The Green Giants were outclassed the last time they squared off against the Rams, but things have changed since then. After all, that loss was more than a month ago, and was part of an ugly start that left Brady looking for answers at 2-4. It appears the Giants have found them, as they march into the playoffs with wins in five of their last six games, the exception being a 1-0 loss to undefeated Hopkinton. Furthermore, the Rams are hardly a juggernaut, with a September loss to No. 14 Sanborn, an October defeat to No. 18 Campbell and only one win against a team over .500 on their resume. This should be close, with Brady having a strong opportunity to make its way into the quarterfinals.

No. 13 Belmont (9-7-1) at
No. 4 Prospect Mountain (12-2-2), 3 p.m.

Head to head: Prospect Mountain swept the series, winning 3-0 and 2-0.

Previous tournament games: Belmont defeated No. 20 Monadnock, 4-0. Prospect Mountain had a bye.

Notes: The Red Raiders made it all the way to the Division III finals last year, but making it to just the quarters will require solving a team they haven’t been able to figure out. Still, the Red Raiders appeared up to the challenge in their postseason opener, trouncing the Huskies behind goals from Nick Oakes, Austin Haddock, Dillon Duclos and Colby Pickowicz and two assists from Joe Boles. If the third time is indeed the charm for the Belmont offense, that would make for an impressive enough feat, as the Timberwolves have posted shutouts in 10 of their 12 wins. That alone could also be enough to get the win for the Red Raiders; Prospect Mountain hasn’t won a game in which it allowed a goal since Sept. 26.

Division IV first round

No. 13 Pittsfield (6-8-2) at
No. 4 Colebrook (11-4-1), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: A quick look at the seedings in matchup suggests this will be an easy Mohawks victory. A deeper look says otherwise. Pittsfield is a pesky team that had a win and a tie in its two games against No. 2 Moultonborough and also scored a win over No. 6 Wilton-Lyndeborough. They could present a surprise to Colebrook, which faced mostly northern teams and beat only two teams above .500.

No. 16 Concord Christian (1-12-3) at
No. 1 Woodsville (14-1-1), 3 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: This showdown has the look of a mismatch, but at least there’s no better time for the Kingsmen to draw the Engineers. After a 13-game winless streak in which it lost by as many as seven goals, Concord Christian managed to get a tie and a win in its final three games, allowing just four goals in the process. It may not be enough to amount to a stunner over Woodsville, but the Engineers’ record may overrate them – eight of their 14 victories came against teams with four or fewer wins.

Girls’ volleyball

Division I first round

No. 12 Concord (9-9) at
No. 5 Bedford (13-5), 6 p.m.

Head to head: Bedford swept the Tide, 3-0.

Notes: It’s been a roller coaster season so far for the Crimson Tide, which opened on a three-match winning streak, lost four straight, won five of seven, then lost three of four to close out the slate. Getting the playoffs started on a positive note would require Concord to play against form, as the Tide went 1-9 against teams above .500, including that blanking at the hands of the Bulldogs. At the same time, Bedford hasn’t suffered a dud match all year, as all of its losses came to teams seeded among the top nine in the tournament.

Division III first round

No. 14 Prospect Mountain (6-10) at
No. 3 Winnisquam (14-2), 6 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: The Bears’ pursuit of a second straight title kicks off against a team that’s unraveling at the worst time. The Timberwolves were at .500 just over halfway through the year, but losses in five of their final six matches caused them to sink in the standings. Winnisquam, meanwhile, is red hot, with a streak of six straight 3-0 victories, and nine such victories in the last 10 matches. The Timberwolves might be able to steal a game against the defending champions, but winning three would be a major surprise.

No. 10 Farmington (10-6) at
No. 7 Belmont (11-5), 6 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: After a nearly unhindered first half of the season, the Red Raiders are showing some weakness and looking for answers. Belmont got off to 8-0 and 11-1 starts, but four straight losses caused them to slip in the standings and drop to the middle of the pack. The Red Raiders will face a team that’s had opposite fortunes; the Tigers began the year 3-4, but have won seven of their last nine. Belmont will need to rediscover its early form if it wants to prevent a strong season from resulting in a one-and-done.

No. 16 John Stark (6-10) at
No. 1 Nute (16-0), 6 p.m.

Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.

Notes: The goals for the Generals should start small: Win a game. If successful, they’d be the first team to do so against the Rams all year. Even that might be too much to ask, considering Nute’s dominance and the fact that John Stark didn’t record a win against a team that qualified for the playoffs.

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