Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 Central Mass Lax Previews: Westboro Rangers

Westboro senior middie Jake Foster.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Over the next few days I will be unveiling season previews of the top high school lacrosse programs in Central Massachusetts, leading up to the season opening in early April on what we can only hope will be snow-free fields.

You can access past previews here in our SuitePreps section, and we continue our look around the region with talented Westboro. The Rangers took another step in 2014, finishing second in the competitive Mid-Wach A, notching sweeps over league foes Wachusett, Nashoba and Groton-Dunstable, and scoring impressive wins over regional powers Algonquin and Grafton.

Led by a sensational midfield and improving back line, the Rangers won a playoff game for the second year in a row under coach Tom Baker. After two years of improvement under Baker, Westboro is preparing for yet another transition under new coach Kyle Biancardi, and the former Grafton star will certainly have the talent to win immediately at his new gig.

At a Glance

Key Returnees: Jake Foster, Sr. (M), Jack Pierce, Sr. (A), Trevor McNamara, So. (M), Charlie Katz, Jr. (M), Steve Falvey, Sr. (D), Hakeem Abrahams, Sr. (D), Dan Boucher, Jr. (D)
Key Losses: Kyle Lemack (A), Mike Gallo (M), Connor Joyce (A), Kevin Skirvin (G)

The Rangers were one of the most balanced offensive teams in the region last year, and return leading scorer Jack Pierce up front, plus perhaps the region's most talented middie in Jake Foster. A Division I commit set to play at Hartford after high school, Foster brings great size (6'3'', 190 lbs) and a powerful shot to the plate. He finished second on the team in goals last year with 32 but, like Jared Ward of St. John's, I'd look for him to take another step as a creator and improve greatly upon his assist numbers in 2015.

Charlie Katz brings a physical presence to the midfield as well, but I'd look for him to become more involved in the offense as well with a void left by Lemack up front and Gallo in the midfield. Sophomore Trevor McNamara came on strong late in the year offensively, picking up a hat trick in the Rangers' first round playoff demolition of Chicopee. If the shifty offensive middie can continue to improve, it could go a long way toward spreading the scoring load in 2015.

The defense will be loaded with experience as all three starting poles return from a year ago. The Rangers ranked right in the middle of the Mid-Wach in terms of goals allowed last year, but with Abrahams, Boucher and Falvey all returning on the back line, they should be able to improve upon that, even if they do need to break in a new starter between the pipes.

Early Season Game to Watch: April 7th at Algonquin

We'll get to see what Biancardi's new-look Rangers are made of right away as Westboro travels to face what looks to be a loaded Algonquin team.

Last year, the Rangers edged the young T-Hawks 5-4 early in the year, but a more mature Algonquin squad knocked off Westboro 18-11 to end the regular season. This season Algonquin will come in as the favorite, but with an experienced defense, and a goal-scoring pair like Pierce and Foster, the Rangers could score the road win and prove they will once again contend for league and regional supremacy.

Joe's Forecast

There can be growing pains any time a team switches coaches, but Biancardi understands the culture of Central Mass lacrosse, and many of these Rangers have gone through this transition before. I would look for Westboro to again be competitive near the top of Mid-Wach A, and if Foster take another big leap, they could surprise and take the league title away from preseason favorites Algonquin and Shrewsbury.

Westboro will need to find another viable option up front next to Pierce, and plug in yet another goalie after Kevin Skirvin played so well as a senior in 2014. Having a ton of experience on defense will help whomever settles in between the pipes, but depth and cohesion will be keys for this team. Can the Rangers again be one of the most "together" units in Central Mass? And, can they find third and fourth scoring options to take the pressure off their top two guys?

If the answers to both those questions are yes, then Westboro could be a league champion this year.

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