Monday, April 4, 2016

CMass Lax Power Rankings: The Beginning of 2016

Marlboro sophomore Evan Doherty looks for room against Tyngsboro last Thursday.

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Some teams in the region have already played, but most are kicking off this week, so we thought there was no better team to unveil our first Power Rankings of 2016.

Expect a ton of change from week-to-week because, as we've seen in years past, teams always come from out of nowhere to contend, and with the region improving as a whole, things are getting harder and harder to predict. In fact, I've already had to tweak my rankings to account for Marlboro's big win over Tyngsboro last Thursday.

Some might accuse me of overreacting to that one game, but it's the only one I've seen this season, and the Panthers appear to be for real.

Anyways, without further ado, here are your first CMass Lax Power Rankings of 2016.

1. Grafton: 1-0

Last Year: 16-7, Mid-Mass Co-Champion, Division 3 State Finalist

A Division 3 state finalist last season, Grafton just might be the best team west of 495, regardless of division, this year. The Indians return a loaded attack, led by now-healthy senior Chase Kapuscienski, along with his classmates Cole Fontana and Hunter Fraser. As good as the attack is, the midfield is just as loaded, with face-off ace Matt O'Brien, postseason hero Josh Birdsall and high-scoring Anthony D'Angelo all returning, among several others.

But could the strength of this squad actually be its defense? Returning junior poles Dan Bartosiewicz and Tom Nicalek sure think so, and stud senior goalie Cadrin Msumba will again be among Central Mass' best.

For more on Grafton, click here. 

2. Algonquin: 0-0

Last Year: 16-6, Mid-Wach A Champion, Division 2 Central/West Finalist

Seniors Mike Martens (M) & Colton King (G) lead a loaded T-Hawk squad, but they'll be breaking in a new coach, as retired longtime boss Rich Luongo will be replaced by former Westborough coach Matt Nofsinger. Look for hockey star and current LSM Mike Tascione to wreak havoc on opposing offenses, as Algonquin rebuilds it's line of defense in front of the cage.

Also, keep an eye on junior attackman Zach Skowronek, a player with a ton of length and athleticism, who just might break through and become the program's next great offensive threat.

3. Marlboro: 1-0

Last Year: 15-4, Mid-Wach C Champion, Division 2 Playoffs

Perhaps I'm caught in the moment, but I came away extremely impressed with the Panthers after their win over Tyngsboro Thursday. If there's a program with more productive young talent in the region this year, I haven't heard of them.

From freshman Dominic Carter's career-opening hat trick, to the all around games of sophomores Shane Mechler and Evan Doherty, Marlboro is flushed with underclassmen who can play with anybody. As with any young team, there are bound to be bumps in the road, but watch out for this Mid-Wach C team down the road.

4. Shrewsbury: 0-0

Last Year: 16-6, Division 2 Playoffs

The Colonials always have one of the best defenses in the state, and this year should be no different, as senior goalie J.T. Rothera returns after a stellar junior campaign, while sophomore LSM Chris Campbell may be the toughest guy to shake in Central Mass.

Up front, replacing 200-Goal scorer Joe Buduo will be no small task, but junior Matt Ward seems ready to shoulder the scoring load. Expect the Colonials to again contend in a loaded Mid-Wach A, and be a tough out for anybody, due to their trademark grit.

5. Tyngsboro: 0-1

Last Year: 18-2, Mid-Wach B Champion, Division 3 Central/East Quarterfinalist

The Tigers were the highest-scoring team in Central Mass a season ago, and with explosive All-American middie Kyle Laforge returning at both the face-off X and on offense, look for Tyngsboro to again put up video game numbers.

Aiding Laforge up front will be senior attackman Russ Gillis, and look for senior captain Matt Sola to get more opportunities this season, after willingly anchoring the Tigers' second line of middies a year ago. Goalie Dan Powers returns alongside two close defenders, and senior captain Brendan Bartlett will move from LSM to pole to tie together what could again be one of Central MA's most underrated defenses.

The Tigers took a tough loss to Marlboro Thursday, but expect this team to bounce back and again contend for a league title. For more on Tyngsboro, click here.

6. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 0-0

Last Year: 15-6, Division 2 Central/West Semifinalist

The Pioneers will also be breaking in a new face on the sidelines, as Terry Leary gives way to former Hopkinton coach Justin O'Leary. St. John's has plenty of holes to fill, replacing all three starting attackmen, and a pair of poles, but star middie Andrew Cox returns alongside last season's breakout star, now-senior goalie Hunter Gaither.

St. John's is known for turning JV standouts into immediate varsity contributors, and that skill will certainly be put to the test this year. With a new coach, and ton of new faces all over the field, it would be easy to sleep on the Pioneers. But, if history has taught us anything about this program, it's that doubting St. John's is never a good idea.

7. Tantasqua: 0-0

Last Year: 15-3, Mid-Mass Co-Champion, Division 2 Central/West Quarterfinalist

Led by a trio of dangerous junior attackmen, the Warriors should have one of the best and most balanced offenses in Central Mass. Finding a goalie to go with an experienced defense will be the next step, but last year's surprise Mid-Mass co-champions should be able to contend for another league title and playoff berth.

For more on Tantasqua, click here.

8. Groton-Dunstable: 0-0

Last Year: 11-9, Division 3 Central/East Quarterfinalist 

Competing in the brutal Mid-Wach A always prepares Groton-Dunstable for the Division 3 playoffs, and this year's team looks like another tough one, despite the losses of middie Zach Cotoni and goalie P.J. Kendall.

Led by senior attackmen Ryan Dodge and Nick Irby, the Crusaders should still pack plenty of scoring punch, and sophomore FOGO Liam McDonough has the talent to be one of the best face-off men in the region.

Senior poles Shane Dawson and Dan Howes round out a team brimming with potential, but one that will also need to see young players emerge.

9. Littleton: 1-0

Last Year: 11-7, Division 3 Central/East Quarterfinalist

Led by junior attackman Griffin Shoemaker, who opened the season with 7 goals against a good Leominster defense, the Tigers should be able to score with anybody. Challenging for the Mid-Wach B title will be tough with Tyngsboro being as good as it is, but if you're looking for a dark horse league winner, the explosive Tigers are as good a bet as anyone.

10. Worcester: 0-0

Last Year: 13-7, Division 2 Central/West Quarterfinalist

Replacing prolific scorer James Bowler and star goalie Sean Moran, two guys who helped turn the program into a consistent winner, won't be easy, but coach Harry Jones likes the look of this year's squad. Led by a stout defense featuring junior pole C.J. Gallagher, senior Joe Arsenault and junior LSM Luke Hanlon, the Warriors should be able to slow even the best of offenses down.

Finding their own offense is the real question, but senior Quinn Robert appears ready for a featured role up front, and junior midfielder Andrew Williamson is a talent as well. It may take some time for this team to gel, but don't expect Worcester to fade away from contention in Mid-Mass any time soon.


Anonymous said...

I like the 10. Of course the order will change and a couple, or few will fall out here and there and will be replaced, but overall, your knowledge and gut feelings are solid.

Thanks for your efforts

Anonymous said...

St. Johns is much better than 6th. Not sure about Marlboro but need to look at Nashoba. Lots of great players were graduated and it will all be about what Juniors and old JV players can step up.

Anonymous said...

St. Johns is always a contender. Pulling from a huge pool of boys (full Var, JV and Fr squads), many of whom from the greater Worcester area that go there to play lax, always puts them in a better position than others. This often gives them a depth that smaller schools, like Grafton, have a hard time matching. Though often as good for the starting 10, there is a unavoidable tendency, often, to be weaker (for lack of a better word, sorry) on second and, if they have them, third lines.

** not a criticism of Grafton or Joe's placements in his list, just making observations.

Anonymous said...

Don't pay for high school kids... P.S. Was SJ in the state championship game?

Anonymous said...

^ Nice chirp

BishopMVP said...

Nice job Joe, loving all the expanded coverage here!

Joe Parello said...

Thanks Bishop, hopefully I'll see you one of these days out here. As for St. John's- They could be way better than 6th, but I don't really know anything about them yet, since they're replacing so many guys and have a new coach. I guess I could just say, "they're St. John's, so they're probably Top-3," but that doesn't seem very fair. That's the beauty of these rankings: I don't have to be right, because teams will move up and down based on what happens on the field. As for Nashoba- I know they have a ton of young talent and a really good goalie, but we'll need to see how all those pieces fit together.
For what it's worth, my "next five out" was going to be Westboro, Wachusett, Shepherd Hill, Nashoba and St. Bernard's. I fully expect at least a couple of those teams to enter the Top-10 before year's end.

Anonymous said...

nashoba and westboro graduated 10-13 seniors + each .. see what they have for upcoming young talent … shep. hill returns almost their whole starting lineup . many of who were talented freshmen last year … wachusett should be strong again and st. berns has some talent to go along with vachon. going to be an interesting year for central mass ..

Anonymous said...

New Coaches at SJS, Westboro and Gonk; 3 perennial powers! Will the transition be smooth or bumpy? They will surely have players with the basic skills, but can they merge the teams into working units? Any others new coaches?

Anonymous said...

not sure i understand the above comments regarding st. johns … st johns pulls from a wide area .. the goalie ( who i heard wasn't playing this year? its a shame if true ) is from charlton- dudley .. st johns will always be st johns…..its's all about getting kids involved at a young age .. youth programs … grafton has one of the best in central mass.and has for years ,,, they have depth because of this. shepherd hill ( dudley charlton) started one 5 years ago and their program is now seeing the results …that coupled with the fact they now have one of the nicest fields in central mass.. it's all about spreading the word in your towns and keeping the youth movement alive !!!

Anonymous said...

The early season scrimmage between St J and Gonk resulted in a definitive win for St J. Both teams had varsity starters sidelined by injuries though.

Anonymous said...

"not sure i understand the above ":

I think it is referring to the fact that St Johns is a Private school whose players are not there based on the circumstance of municipal residence, but through choice to pay and attend a school they choose and, with a solid, well deserved reputation for athletics, including lacrosse, many families from the greater Worcester area send their children there. As opposed to Grafton, Shep-Hill etc., etc., whose teams can only be formed by students from those towns. Surely, youth programs in towns play a huge role, but if a school can expect to get some of the better players from various surrounding youth programs, then they are in a very good position. Also, SJS has a much lager "pool" (1200 male students) to pull from than all other programs in the area with, maybe, the exceptions of Wachusett and Gonk and surely larger than Grafton with, what, 3-400 male students?

Anonymous said...

all true in the above statement … 100% .