Saturday, May 30, 2015

2015 Central Mass Lacrosse Playoff Preview

Shrewsbury took the Division 2 Central/West title last season. Which teams will celebrate a district championships this year?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Yesterday the MIAA lacrosse tournament brackets were released, and today we take a bit more of an in-depth look at each of the three districts Central Mass teams will be competing in.

Let's get right to it.

Division 2 Central/West

The Favorite(s): Longmeadow

The Lancers come in as a prohibitive favorite again in D2 CW after defeating Algonquin and St. John's once, and Westfield twice this year. I'll defer to Western Mass experts on what makes Longmeadow so good, but the Lancers have weapons all over the field, and can get physical on defense as well. It will take a complete game from one of CMass' top teams to knock Longmeadow off.

The Contender(s): Westfield, Algonquin, Shrewsbury, St. John's

The Bombers have just a pair of losses to Longmeadow against them, and their nine-goal victory over Mt. Greylock is impressive, regardless of what division the Mounties play in. Other than those games… The schedule isn't exactly brutal, Westfield has knocked down just about everybody in front of them, including South Hadley and Minnechaug, so it would be unwise to underestimate them.

Algonquin draws a rematch with South Hadley, whom the T-Hawks defeated last year, and face a tough draw for a 3-seed. The Tomahawks have the talent to get through it though, as Mike Martens, a sensational face-off specialists and all-around middie, and goalie Colton King are among the best in the state at what they do. Algonquin also benefits from its position on the right side of the draw, delaying a potential rematch with Longmeadow until the district finals.

Shrewsbury will face a scrappy Leominster team in the first round, and if the Colonials get past the Blue Devils, we could have another cross-town classic between Shrewsbury and St. John's in the second round.

Shrewsbury won the first matchup between these old rivals 8-3 earlier this year, and knocked the Pioneers out of the tournament last year on its way to a district tittle. St. John's would like nothing more than to turn the tables on Shrewsbury, and we could see another great battle between St. John's attackman Jared Ward and Shrewsbury pole Tim Hally.

The Sleeper(s): Westboro, Tantasqua

Neither of these teams has an easy draw, but each has the chance to make some noise. Westboro's balanced attack gets a winnable game against a Minnechaug team that went 0-3 against CMass' top teams (Algonquin, Shrewsbury, St. John's). It won't be easy, as the Falcons have played everybody tough, but should the Rangers get through, they'll get a shot at revenge against a Westfield team that ousted them in last year's playoffs.

Westboro didn't end the regular season the way it wanted, but redemption could await it in the tournament.

On the other hand, Tantasqua couldn't come into the playoffs any hotter. The Warriors have won 13 in a row, with a pair of victories over Worcester, and one over Mid-Mass. power Grafton in that span. Andrew Tichy and Mike Frio have powered the Warrior offense, but pole Zach O'Brien and goalie Jared Mesick have been just as important for Tantasqua lately.

The Warriors haven't allowed double-digit goals in a game all season, and could be a dangerous opponent for Algonquin should they get past Chicopee.

First Round Game to Watch: Worcester at Marlboro

Worcester (listed as Doherty here) defeated Marlboro in a thrilling 15-14 shootout in late April, and I would expect an equally exciting game this time around. Each team features one of the region's most prolific scorers, as Marlboro's Billy Doherty (115 points) and Worcester's James Bowler (98 points) can each find the back of the net, and their teammates for open chances.

The difference in this one could be on the back end, where Worcester appears to have the advantage with poll C.J. Gallagher and goalie Sean Moran. Still, don't sleep on the Panthers, who have won nine in a row, surrendering just 4.9 goals per game over that stretch.

Division 3 Central/West

The Favorite(s): Mt. Greylock

The Mounties have been great all year, scoring in the 20s an absurd six times this season. Slowing the Mounties down will be a tall task for anybody in Central or Western Mass.

The Contender(s): Grafton, Assabet

The Indians are probably Mt. Greylock's biggest challenger, though Grafton hasn't scored a "statement" victory since defeating Algonquin the first week of the season.

Still, with a powerful attack led by Chase Kapuscienski, three capable poles and a pair of solid goalies, the Indians have the talent throughout to play with anybody.

Much less is known about Assabet, which grabs the 2-seed after destroying its Voke and small school schedule. We'll find out just what the Aztecs are made of pretty quickly. If they can win their first game, they'll host the winner of Grafton-Northbridge in the district semis. Grafton beat Assabet 11-0 in last year's playoffs, so we may see how much the Aztecs have grown.

The Sleeper(s): St. Bernard's

St. B's and CMass' leading scorer Curtiss Vachon will present an interesting challenge for Mt. Greylock, should they get past a very solid Wahconah team. With 94 goals (nearly 30 more than anyone else in Central Mass), Vachon is must-watch if he gets into a scoring battle against the Mounties' powerful attack.

First Round Game to Watch: Northbridge at Grafton

I guess this technically isn't a first round game, but each of these teams has a first round bye, and it will be the third time they've played each other this year. The Indians have won both, but things have gotten closer lately, with the Rams keeping it within six the second time around.

Most will expect Grafton to roll again, but Northbridge has proved resilient all year. The Rams won't go down without a fight.

Division 3 Central/East

The Favorite(s): Dover-Sherborn, Weston

Each of these Eastern Mass powers comes in with something to prove. D-S came away with an 8-6 win in last year's playoffs, and most believe the road to a district championship will again go through the Raiders.

Don't sleep on the Wildcats though, who have a pair of nice wins of Bedford, and a victory over Grafton on their resume.

The Contender(s): Tyngsboro, Watertown

Both these teams can score goals in bunches, and Tyngsboro features two of the district's best all-around players in middies Kyle Laforge and Austin Coene. The Tigers' powerful and balanced offense seem to have them on a collision course with Weston in the semis.

The Sleeper(s): Groton-Dunstable

G-D made a surprise run in last year's tournament, but they've still flown a little under the radar this year. Part of that is a brutal schedule that hasn't allowed the Crusaders to put up gaudy numbers and win totals, but the coaches in the district clearly respect G-D, voting it No. 3 in the coach's poll during the seeding process.

With a balanced attack and midfield led by Zach Cotoni, as well as a solid defense led by goalie P.J. Kendall, the Crusaders should present some problems for Watertown in the second round, and maybe for D-S in the semis.

First Round Game to Watch: Littleton at Oakmont

Don't look now, but Oakmont might be back. After a pair of down seasons, the Spartans again look dangerous this year, and a powerful offense led by Nate McCartney and Jarrod Moeckel has been key down the stretch.

Littleton, meanwhile, has been a small-school mainstay in recent years, and once again feature a high-scoring offense, this time led by Griffin Shoemaker. Littleton won the first meeting between these two by 10-goals, but Oakmont has won three in a row since then, outscoring opponents by over 10 goals per game in that span. Can the Spartans compete this time around?


Anonymous said...

Joe are the CMASS all Americans just seniors?

Joe Parello said...

The CMass coaches aren't naming All Americans until June 11th so that they can consider some tournament play when choosing kids. And the All Americans can be from any class.

Anonymous said...

In your opinion who do u think should be all Americans

Joe Parello said...

That's a tough call. Vachon's had another monster year for St. B's, the Doherty kid from Marlboro has produced like crazy, and Kyle Laforge may have had the best all-around year of anybody in the region given his numbers and abilities at the face-off X.

But, looking beyond eye-popping stats, I think Algonquin has two juniors that could make the team in middie Mike Martens (stud FOGO and productive) and goalie Colton King, while Shrewsbury could place Joe Buduo or Tim Hally, and St. John's attackman Jared Ward has a great shot as well. Personally, I think Jake Foster from Westboro plays better than his numbers indicate, because the Rangers are so balanced on offense, and Chase Kapuscienski has been so good for so long (still somehow only a junior!) that you've gotta give him, and Grafton pole Dan Bartosiewicz, a look as well.

Also, how long does James Bowler have to produce for Worcester before anyone gives him his due? He'd definitely be on my short list as well.

I won't narrow it down any further than that, because I've got my own All Star team to release, but I could see any of those guys making it, and there always seems to be a selection I don't see coming (maybe someone from upstart Tantasqua?). Will be interesting how playoff performances affect the process this year.

Anonymous said...

all americans should be based on an overall body of work … not just 1 year .. strength of schedules should also be taken into consideration … this may or may not come out right .. but there is no easy way to say it .. marlboro and st bernards play 2 of the weakest schedules in central mass .. would those players have as many points playing tougher competition? probably not … not to mention the sores tend to be "run up" often times .... there are many other players that could get the nod for all american ,,, many mentioned in your "players to watch" list .

based on what i said above … buduo from shrewsbury . all american.
jake foster .. good shot at it as well

Anonymous said...

Strength of schedule and body of work are key phrases. Given that Kapuscienski from Grafton should be considered a very viable candidate. Grafton plays the toughest schedule in Central Mass, and has consistently turned out competitive players and teams. In both head to head meetings this year, his numbers were equal to or better than Buduo or Foster

Anonymous said...

When you see a player play a game, in person, then you can have a negative opinion about them. If you have not done that, you can not deflate them as a player, because you simply have no idea. There are great players everywhere in cmass, many of which are not on this list, and that is absolutely fine.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe just heard a bunch of seniors on the Longmeadow team got in trouble with the law and the High School Principal is envolved. Parents looking at legal council.

Joe Parello said...

I hadn't heard about the Longmeadow kids getting in trouble, but that's unfortunate. Hopefully it was just "kids being kids" stuff and nothing more.

As for the All American debate, it's obviously a matter of opinion. I personally don't view them as "lifetime achievement awards" the way some do, though I don't have a problem with that viewpoint. I would want to select the best players from that current year, and if it's close, maybe use past performance as a tie-breaker.

Also true that numbers don't tell the whole story, but I don't like to hold a kid's schedule against him. Plus, Vachon almost scored 100 goals this season... That's hard to do no matter who you're playing, and he was amazing last year as well.

Ultimately, you've got to find a balance, and that's why I believe Buduo from Shrewsbury and King from Algonquin have very good shots (great numbers in a great league), along with Ward from St. John's for his production against a brutal schedule.

Still, some "big number" kids like Vachon and Laforge should be in the conversation, if only so they can be more seriously considered when they come back next year.

But hey, I don't make these decisions. There are more strong candidates this year than I can remember, so it will be interesting to see who the coaches pick.

Anonymous said...

Another thing to look at is that Laforge kid has 3 game winners as a sophomore and St. Bernard's plays 20 games in the regular season every other CMASS team plays 18

Anonymous said...

I have been coaching youth lacrosse for many years and am now fortunate enough to watch all my boys play. I have sons who play at a high level but this isn't about them. What is great is to see the high level of skilled players playing throughout the state. No one use to look at MA as a power producing state. Now we have top players playing in every D1 and D3 school. I applaud all of the youth coaches who taught these boys the basics and all of the club and high school coaches who fine tuned these boys.

Good for the Lacrosse, Good for MA and Good for the boys and us parents so that we get to watch some great boys play a great sport.

Honor the Game

Coach King

Anonymous said...

If Chase Kapuscienski isn't an All American then they might as well not hand it out. He led a victory over #1 Gonk alongside his ability to put up points against the best not just goals, but numerous assists making everyone around him better. Chase Kapuscienski is good if not better than Buduo and Ward because he torches their defenses but when almost any other "top tier" attackmen come to play Grafton you can't even tell they are playing. He's a big time player who's been doing it now for multiple years.

Additional All Americans (In my opinion)
- Colton King
- Mike Martens
- Joey Buduo
- Jake Foster