Monday, April 13, 2015

CMass Lax Power Rankings: 4/13/15

Senior middie Jake Foster (7) will lead Westboro into a pair of league clashes this week against Nashoba and Shrewsbury.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Many of the best teams in Central Mass tested themselves out of region last week, with varying results, while a pair of big Mid-Mass. wins put Grafton in the driver seat for another league title and high seed in the Division 3 tournament.

Let's take a look at our latest Power Rankings.

1. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 2-1, 0-0 Catholic Conf. Division 2

The Pioneers have gone out of region to face Eastern Mass foes the last two Saturdays, coming up with a win over Mansfield on the 4th, but falling to one of the state's best teams, BC High, two days ago. Jared Ward has been a goal machine as many expected, but the defense has shown some cracks early on.

Still, I think the Pioneers are the class of CMass for now, and they'll face a test this week against Wachusett, before hitting the meat of their schedule at the end of April/beginning of May.

2. Shrewsbury: 4-1, 2-0 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Shrewsbury lost its fist game of the year to what it appears to be a loaded Marshfield team, but the Colonials remain the team to beat in Mid-Wach A. That could change this week, as Shrewsbury will welcome rival Algonquin Tuesday and travel to challenger Westboro Thursday. It's going to be a huge week in the Mid-Wach, but more on that later.

The one thing that has to excite you if you're a Shrewsbury fan is the offensive balance the Colonials have found early in the year. I thought this team would be all Joe Buduo and Derick Tinsley up front, but players like Matt Ward, Braydon Carroll and Jack Campanale have made it impossible for opposing teams to focus on just one of Shrewsbury's options. Add in the fact that the defense again appears to be among the best in the region, and you've got all the ingredients for a repeat, in both the league and the district.

We'll find out about the league this week, then a Shrewsbury will host Longmeadow and Minnechaug in potential playoff previews the following Wednesday and Thursday.

3. Grafton: 5-0, 4-0 Mid-Mass. Division 3

The Indians scored two huge league wins last week against Tantasqua and Worcester, and now have a stranglehold on the Mid-Mass. title. They'll play the Warriors again this Thursday, and then a brutal non-league schedule featuring St. John's, Weston, Amherst-Pelham, Shrewsbury and Westboro kicks in during the following weeks.

The Indians will be battle tested come tournament time, that's for sure. But, with a loaded attack and, arguably, Central Mass' best defense, Grafton should be up for the challenge.

4. Westboro: 2-0, 1-0 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Westboro barely escaped league foe Wachusett, and we'll find out just how good the talented Rangers are this week. Tuesday brings a home game against upstart Nashoba, then Thursday Westboro welcomes reigning league champ Shrewsbury.

Westboro has big aspirations, and senior middie Jake Foster looks to be as good a player as there is in Central Mass, but the Rangers really need to pull at least one win out of this week to stay alive in an already intense Mid-Wach A race.

5. Algonquin: 1-2, 1-0 Mid-Wach A. Division 2

Algonquin fell to Longmeadow 9-2, but the T-Hawks weren't really out of it until the dam finally broke in the fourth quarter. Up until then, Gonk had played great defense, holding the Lancers to just four goals in the first three quarters of play, led by junior goalie Colton King's 12 saves, and some aggressive play by senior pole Stu Bleck. Junior middie Mike Martens also controlled the faceoff-X, and pitched in a goal and an assist in the loss.

Some late defensive breakdowns and poor shooting (not to mention an unbelievable day by Longmeadow goalie Matt Pierson) made the score look worse than it was, but the Tomahawks know they've got a way to go before they are again a team to be feared in D2 Central/West. Still, Algonquin is 1-0 in Mid-Wach A, and has the chance to seize control of the league this week with games against Shrewsbury (Tuesday at Clark) and Groton-Dunstable (Thursday at home).

In the Hunt: Nashoba (2-2), Worcester (2-1), Wachusett (3-2), Tantasqua (0-1), Tyngsboro (2-0), Marlboro (3-1)

Nashoba continues to make strides, with only respectable losses to St. John's and Algonquin on its resume. T-Hawk coach Rich Luongo came away from his team's game against the Chieftains impressed with this year's Nashoba squad.

"I do think Nashoba will be in the tournament this year," Luongo said. "I think they're very competitive. They only lost to St. John's 9-7, and it's tough to tell who is where right now because of the weather situation, but Nashoba's right there."

Nashoba claimed a close win over Groton-Dunstable last Tuesday, putting the Chieftains in great position for a Top-4 finish in loaded Mid-Wach A. It was a breakthrough in a lot of ways for a Nashoba team that has had such bad luck in close games recently, but the work is far from done. Critical league home games against Westboro (Tuesday) and Wachusett (Thursday) await the Chieftains this week.

As for Worcester, the Warriors came up short in their first of two games against Mid-Mass. rival Grafton, falling to the Indians on the road 7-3. They won't have to wait long for redemption, as Worcester will welcome Grafton to Foley Stadium this Thursday. In a move that should make the Warriors even more tournament read this season than last, coach Harry Jones has beefed up Worcester's schedule. Non-league games against teams Nashoba and St. John's may push Worcester down a few seeds, but they'll be better prepared for playoff lacrosse when it's time.

Wachusett already has a pair of losses, but the Mountaineers' one-goal loss to Westboro last Friday was actually an encouraging sign. Mid-Wach A looks like it's going to be a meat grinder, and Wachusett is one of the reasons why.

Tantasqua is a team I admittedly know very little about, but if these Warriors can play Grafton down to the wire, they deserve a mention here. It will be interesting to see how this team develops, and if they can truly challenge Grafton for the Mid-Mass. title. If not, a pair of games against Worcester late in the season could tell the story of Tantasqua's year.

Tyngsboro is still undefeated and able to score, while Marlboro only has a loss to Shrewsbury on its resume. We may not get a real idea of how good these teams are until they play each other on the 24th, but they certainly appear to be the teams to beat in Mid-Wach B and C, respectively.

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