Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 Central Mass Lax Previews: Algonquin Tomahawks

Seniors Stu Bleck (3) and Paul Nardone (5) will lead what could be a suffocating Tomahawk defense.
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 perennial power Algonquin. The T-Hawks captured Central Mass titles in 2011 and 2012, appearing in the state title game in the latter season, and again contended for a district title in 2013. After "only" making the second round of the Division 2 Central/West playoffs last year, Gonk appears ready to break out with a talented, and now, experienced team.

At a Glance

Key Returnees: Paul Luongo, Sr. (M), Colton King, Jr. (G), Paul Nardone, Sr. (D), Stu Bleck, Sr. (D/LSM), Zach Skowronek, So. (A), Mike Martens, Jr. (M)
Key Losses: Joe Mariano (D), Mike Wood (A), Ryan King (M), Charles Kinne (M)

Algonquin may have its most talented team since the aforementioned 2012 squad, and a late-season surge last year has many around the region pegging the Tomahawks as a preseason favorite. It's easy to see why with a talented midfield led by Paul Luongo, and a back line headlined by two of the very best poles in the region in Stu Bleck and Paul Nardone, plus Colton King, one of the state's top returning goalies, coming back between the pipes.

It's a foregone conclusion that Algonquin will be among the best defensive teams in Central Mass, but the development of sophomore attack Zach Skowronek and several other young players up front will be key if the Tomahawks hope to challenge St. John's and Shrewsbury, not to mention Western Mass powers like Longmeadow, Westfield, South Hadley and Minnechaug, for a D2 Central/West title.

Early Season Game to Watch: April 11th vs Longmeadow

Speaking of Longmeadow, the Lancers will provide a HUGE test for the Tomahawks early in the year. Longmeadow isn't quite the juggernaut it was a season ago when it was defending a state championship, but it still appears to be the class of Western Mass.

We'll find out just how strong Algonquin's midfield is against a program that has had its fair share of sensational middies in recent years, and the T-Hawk defense will no doubt be challenged by a talented Lancer attack.

If Algonquin can score this early-season win, consider the rest of the region, and state, on notice.

Joe's Forecast

Just like every other team in the region, Algonquin has questions to answer and holes to fill, but you have to like this group's potential. We know they'll play hard and lock it down on the defensive end, and they look like a team that can control possession and grind out those 50-50 ground balls.

The T-Hawks will need to replace Mike Wood's scoring punch, but they always seem to have kids in the pipe that are ready to step up. Skowronek appears to be that guy, but you never know who it will be.

I would put Algonquin up there with Shrewsbury and St. John's as a regional favorite, and a contender to qualify for the state championship game. Like I said, they've got questions to answer, but this T-Hawk team has the potential to be great.

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