Monday, June 2, 2014

Central Mass Lacrosse District Semifinals Preview

Shrewsbury's Joe Buduo
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The MIAA boys lacrosse district semifinals begin tomorrow, and five Central Mass teams remain alive in three different brackets. Let's take a look at those squads, and what they must do to advance to their respective district championship games.

Division 2 Central/West

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Central Mass Game to Watch: Shrewsbury at St. John's. Tuesday at 4 pm

The winner of this game will get the unofficial title of "best team in Central Mass," and will end the year on top in what has been a banner season for the Town of Shrewsbury.

With the old Central Mass tournament gone due to realignment, this game is, in my mind, the true Central Mass title game, but the road won't get any easier for the winner. Waiting for them in the Division 2 Central/West final will either be defending state champion Longmeadow, or a talented Westfield team that took out Westboro Friday.

When these teams met in late April, St. John's smothered Shrewsbury's offense, and was able to capitalize in transition, as well as possess the ball for nearly the entire second half. Expect things to be closer this time around, as Shrewsbury's attack and scoring middies have come alive in recent weeks.

Speaking of that...

Player to Watch: Joe Buduo (pictured above), A, Shrewsbury

The last time these teams met, Shrewsbury struggled to even create a scoring chance, let alone score enough to play with the explosive St. John's attack. The Colonials are hoping the experience gained by junior attackman Joe Buduo since then will benefit the entire team.

Buduo has shown the ability to find the back of the net (38 goals), but his passing is what makes him truly special. His 36 assists rank second in Midland A play, behind only Groton-Dunstable's Quintin Forbes, and his ability to find open cutters and send the ball across the field with pinpoint accuracy helped Shrewsbury find holes in Minnechaug's defense Friday.

Those holes will be smaller against St. John's, and Pioneer goalie Steven Kerr is playing at a very high level, but if Shrewsbury is to keep pace with St. John's, it will need a big day from Buduo.

Division 3 Central/West

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Central Mass Game to Watch: Assabet at Grafton. Tuesday at 3:30 pm

It took four overtimes, but Assabet scored one of the biggest wins in its program's history, knocking off Blackstone Valley Tech in the D3 CW quarterfinals. Prior to that, the Aztecs played for a state Voke championship, but came up just short against South Shore Voc-Tech.

Certainly, Assabet has earned the distinction of best Voke School team in Central Mass, and one of the best in the state, but the Aztecs will face their toughest challenge yet, as they travel to face regional power Grafton. The Indians are co-Mid Mass. champions, and have the talent throughout to win a district, and maybe, state championship in Division 3.

Player to Watch: Wyatt Doyle, G, Assabet

Beau Beardsley was the hero last Friday, ripping in the game winner to end a four overtime marathon against BVT. The 6-5 win avenged a previous loss to the Beavers and shot the Aztecs into the next round.

But none of that would have occurred if goalie Wyatt Doyle hadn't played the game of his life. With 17 saves and numerous solid clears, Doyle kept the Aztecs in the game by keeping the Beavers out of the net.

Things will be even tougher against Grafton, as an attack led by Chase Kapuscienski and Hunter Fraser, along with middies Evan Johnston and Nick Hart, should put a ton of pressure on Doyle and the Assabet defense.

It Doyle can again stand on his head, the Aztecs will have a shot. If not, it could be a long day of Indian scoring.

Division 3 Central/East
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Central Mass Game to Watch: Groton-Dunstable at Arlington Catholic. Thursday at 4 pm

As I've said before, Groton-Dunstable is a team that could have made the playoffs in Division 2, so I certainly would not count out the Crusaders against anybody in this D3 CE bracket, despite their No. 6 seed.

Their minor upset over No. 3 Ashland shouldn't really surprise anyone, but Arlington Catholic will be a much larger challenge. The Cougars blasted scrappy Littleton 15-2 over the weekend, and have as much firepower as anybody in the state in Division 3.

Player to Watch: Zach Cotoni, A, Groton-Dunstable

It will be on Cotoni, a lethal goal scorer, to match the firepower that Arlington Catholic brings to the table Thursday. Along with Quintin Forbes and Austin Hourani, Cotoni leads a G-D group that can find the back of the net, but he's their best natural scorer.

While slowing the Courgars down will be priority No. 1, it's almost impossible to see anybody in this bracket stopping them entirely. To beat AC, you're going to have to score, and the Crusaders would benefit immensely from a big day by Cotoni.

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