Friday, June 13, 2014

CMass Lax Power Rankings: End of a Tremendous Season

St. John's and Shrewsbury locked horns twice this season
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

A fantastic season for Central Mass lacrosse came to an end Tuesday night when Shrewsbury fell to Medfield in the Division 2 state semifinals. But, like the Colonials, the region as a whole earned a ton of respect in 2014.

So, we will get to my final Power Rankings of the year at the bottom, but first let's look back on the players, stories and games that made 2014 a special year for Central Mass lacrosse.

St. John's Dominates the Regular Season

They may not have had the postseason run they wanted, but I'll be darned if these Pioneers didn't have one of the greatest regular seasons in Central Mass lax history. St. John's went undefeated against CMass competition, and knocked off three Eastern Mass Catholic school programs in BC High, St. John's Prep and Xaverian, the latter an absolute beat down in favor of the Pioneers, and scored a huge win at state power Acton-Boxborough.

For their dominance, the Pioneers were awarded two All-American selections in attackman Drew Smiley and goalie Steven Kerr, but you could make the case that other St. John's stars, namely Jared Ward, Will Roberts and Connor Maloney, deserved that distinction as well.

WooLax Arrives

The Warriors enjoyed a storybook season, ending a streak of 10 consecutive losing campaigns to capture their first ever league title and playoff win in the same year.

James Bowler and Jack Gallagher emerged as one of the best attack duos in the region, and middie Jahmal Bryan-Massop turned into one of the scariest scoring midfielders around these parts as well. Everything came together in a rematch with Mid-Mass power Grafton at Foley Stadium, where a deflection goal by Gallagher at the buzzer of regulation sent the game to OT, then Gallagher scored again in the extra frame to give the Warriors a historic victory.

Grafton Reloads

But as great as Worcester's story was, there needed to be a dominant team in the league to make it compelling. After losing All-Americans Tyler Reilly and Bryan Rotatori from last year's squad, few thought Grafton would be a force in 2014.

But, thanks to coach Alan Rotatori revamping his system, sophomore Chase Kapuscienski emerging as a star in his own right and Cadrin Msumba playing well between the pipes, Grafton was again one of the region's best teams.

The Indians were the only team to beat Worcester in the regular season, and shared the league title with the Warriors. Considering where Worcester has been and what Grafton lost from last year, it's a testament to both coaches and teams that each of their games was so thrilling and meant so much.

Shrewsbury's Run

Shrewsbury has been oh so close to a title before, but it took this year's Colonial squad going on a magical run to deliver the program its first ever district crown.

The Colonials endured a three-game losing streak in May and had already suffered a humbling 9-0 defeat at the hands of cross-town rival St. John's. But, this team was certainly made up of fighters, as the Colonials closed the regular season on four-game winning streak, then made short work of Shepherd Hill in their playoff opener and avenged a loss to Minnechaug before getting their desired rematch with the Pioneers.

In one of the best games of the year in the entire state, the Colonials came back from down 5-3 in the fourth quarter to score a stunning 7-6 win. Shrewsbury then followed up that amazing victory with a double overtime win against Westfield in the Division 2 Central/West title game.

For the first time in program history, the Colonials were district champs.

Westboro is Back

The Rangers took another step forward in coach Tom Baker's second season at the helm, ending an 11-game losing streak to constant nemesis Algonquin, and breaking through against a Grafton team that has had their number in recent years.

Westboro enjoyed its best season since 2008, when the Rangers were CMass champs, and made it back-to-back years with a playoff win under Baker. Kevin Skirvin stepped in for the now graduated Dan Terry between the pipes and helped stabilize the Ranger back line, and a midfield led by Jake Foster and Mike Gallo was again among the best in Central Mass.

With the help of Kyle Lemack and emerging star Jack Pierce on attack, the Rangers were the most balanced team in the region, and Baker seems to have built a program that will again contend annually for district championships.

Algonquin Lays the Foundation

Algonquin entered 2014 in an unusual position: Underdog.

The T-Hawks are used to being revered, feared even, in CMass lax circles. But, with only Mike Wood returning up front and Joe Mariano coming back on defense as established names, there were plenty of holes in the Tomahawk lineup.

Those holes were filled by capable youngsters Ryan King, Charles Kinne, Paul Luongo, Mike Martens and a host of others. With the help of the aforementioned veterans, the Tomahawks ended the year with big wins over Westboro and South Hadley, the latter in the Division 2 playoffs, and seem poised to again contend in 2015.

Leominster Leaps Forward

Lost in the amazing story that was Worcester lacrosse were the steps that Leominster lacrosse took in 2014. The Blue Devils rode Andrew Bouchard (54G, 41A) and Cameron Cordio (43G, 29A) to the third-best offense in Central Mass (11.9 goals per game), and improved six-games from last year's final record.

Leominster also enjoyed a fine year in net from Alex Brown, and pole Keenan Vella was again one of the finest defensive players in the region. A league title is a great first step, but the Blue Devils have the potential to take another step and make some noise in the playoffs in 2015.

Final CMass Lax Power Rankings of 2014

1. Shrewsbury: 20-5, 11-1 Midland A

Season Highlights: Division 2 Central/West champion, state semifinalist, Midland A champion, 6-1 vs CMass powers (SJS, WB, ARHS, Graf.), goalie Chris Gorman named All-American

2. St. John's: 19-2

Season Highlights: Division 2 Central/West semifinalist, undefeated vs CMass in regular season, 4-0 vs EMass powers (BC, SJP, X, AB), attackman Drew Smiley and goalie Steven Kerr named All-Americans

3. Westboro: 13-5, 9-3 Midland A

Season Highlights: Best finish since 2008, Division 2 Central/West quarterfinalist, snapped 11-game losing streak vs Algonquin

4. Worcester: 16-2, 11-1 Mid-Mass

Season Highlights: Mid-Mass. co-champion (first league title in program history), recorded first playoff win in program history vs Leominster, snapped string of 10-consecutive losing seasons

5. Algonquin: 13-9, 9-3 Midland A

Season Highlights: Division 2 Central/West quarterfinalist, 8th straight season under coach Rich Luongo with a playoff win

6. Grafton: 15-8, 11-1 Mid-Mass

Season Highlights: Division 3 Central/West finalist, Mid-Mass co-champion

7. Groton-Dunstable: 12-9, 6-6 Midland A

Season Highlights: Division 3 Central/East finalist, middie Quintin Forbes named All-American

8. Leominster: 16-5, 13-2 Midland B

Season Highlights: Midland B champion, six-game win improvement, Andrew Bouchard leads Midland leagues in scoring

9. Tyngsboro: 13-6, 11-3 Midland B

Season Highlights: Division 3 Central/East quarterfinalist, Middie Ben Foley named Academic All-American, goalie Austin Castagno leads Midland B in goals against average

10. Wachusett: 11-10, 4-8 Midland A

Season Highlights: Scored upset win over Shrewsbury, qualified for playoffs in Division 2, LSM Tom Bishop named All-American

First Five Out: Shepherd Hill, Tantasqua, St. Bernard's, Assabet, Blackstone Valley Tech

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Worcester above GONK? Worcester and Grafton above GD? Strength of Schedule and common opponent analysis would make these two very debatable. Either way great season for all the CMass boys and thank you for the coverage.