Monday, May 9, 2016

Central Mass Lax Power Rankings: Week 6

Evan Doherty of Marlboro (20 in Orange) and Liam McDonough of Groton-Dunstable (12 in white) both have bright futures, already starring for their teams as just sophomores.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We're now a bit past the halfway point of the 2016 lacrosse season in Central Massachusetts, and contenders are beginning to emerge in each district and league. While many league titles are all but locked up, and several teams have already punched their tickets to the state tournament, plenty of playoff spots are still up for grabs, and much is still to be determined in terms of tournament seeding.

We'll do a blog on postseason qualification and seeding in the coming days, but for now, here is this week's Top-10.

1. Algonquin: 9-2, 6-0 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 1. Defeated No. 2 Westboro 8-6. Lost to Hingham 16-1.

While the T-Hawks ended their week on a low note against state power Hingham, they did still defeat No. 2 Westboro last week, thanks to a Herculean effort from junior Zack Skowronek. The lethal attackman scored six of Algonquin's eight goals against the Rangers, helping the Tomahawks put a stranglehold on Mid-Wach A, and take a step closer to a Top-3 seed in Division 2 Central/West.

This week brings two rematches against league teams that have improved by leaps and bounds since the last time Algonquin faced them. The Tomahawks travel to Groton-Dunstable Tuesday, then Nashoba Thursday, before hosting Western Mass' South Hadley on Saturday. A clean sweep of the league slate this week will lock up at least a share of the Mid-Wach A title for Gonk.

2. Westboro: 8-2, 4-2 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 2. Defeated Shepherd Hill 11-3. Lost to No. 1 Algonquin 8-6.

The Rangers opened the week by winning their seventh in a row against high-powered Shepherd Hill, but couldn't quite win at Algonquin last Thursday. Still, with attackmen Trevor McNamara and Luke McGrath playing at this high of a level, and goalie Jeff Bernard continuing to develop as one of the region's best between the pipes, Westboro isn't going anywhere any time soon.

This week brings a huge rematch against a Wachusett team that Westboro defeated in a 14-13 thriller earlier this year. That game will take place at Wachusett on Tuesday, followed by Westboro hosting Nashoba on Thursday.

3. Grafton: 10-2, 7-0 Mid-Mass. D3 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 3. Defeated Hopedale 15-4, Tantasqua 19-10 and No. 9 Worcester 14-3.

The Indians continued to assert their dominance in Mid-Mass, topping another trio of league foes in convincing fashion. The offense was humming last week, led by senior attackmen Chase Kapuscienski, Cole Fontana and Hunter Fraser, who each had at least eight goals on the week.

Grafton now sits just two games away from a perfect league record, but the Indians will put Mid-Mass play on hold this week for a pair of huge non-league contests. First, Eastern Mass power Franklin comes to town today at 3:30 pm, then Grafton hosts No. 4 St. John's Friday night under the lights at 7 pm.

4. St. John's: 8-3, 1-0 Catholic Conf. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 4. Defeated Westford 12-7 and No. 8 Groton-Dunstable 11-6. Lost to Minnechaug 11-4.

While St. John's was the latest team to fall victim to a very, very good Minnechaug team, the Pioneers did score a pair of nice victories this week against solid Westford Academy, and against red-hot Groton-Dunstable. Saturday's win over the Crusaders halted an eight-game run by G-D, and showed St. John's had maybe found its footing defensively.

This week brings a massive test at Grafton Friday night, but St. John's can't look past today's home game against Nashoba, or Saturday's against St. John's Prep.

5. Wachusett: 9-4, 3-3 Mid-Wach A. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 5. Defeated St. Bernard's 12-10. Lost to Shrewsbury 10-7.

It was a down week by the standards the Mountaineers have set for themselves this year, but Wachusett still has the feel of a Top-5 team. Plus, I knew Shrewsbury was going to upset SOMEBODY in Mid-Wach A, so I'm not gonna dock the Mountaineers too much for falling victim to the Colonials putting it all together.

That said, Wachusett won't be a Top-5 team much longer if it doesn't step things up this week against two tough league foes. First Wachusett hosts No. 2 Westboro on Tuesday, then travels to Groton-Dunstable on Thursday.

6. Groton-Dunstable: 8-4, 2-3 Mid-Wach A. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 8. Defeated No. 7 Marlboro 13-9 and Nashoba 10-7. Lost to No. 3 St. John's 11-6.

Speaking of G-D, that game against Wachusett will loom large both in our Power Rankings, and in the Mid-Wach A standings. Last week brought another league win against Nashoba, as the Crusaders continue to bounce back from a slow Mid-Wach start, and a statement victory over a very good Marlboro team.

While G-D's eight-game winning streak did come to an end against St. John's, this is still one of the hottest teams in the region, and they'll get two more chances to pick up statement wins this week, with home games against Algonquin and Wachusett on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

7. Littleton: 11-1, 5-0 Mid-Wach B. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Ranked No. 6. Defeated Lunenburg 16-5, Leominster 12-4 and Arlington Catholic 13-2.

I finally got to see the Tigers play last week against Leominster, and came away very impressed with their aggressive offense, led by junior attackman Griffin Shoemaker, and surprisingly stingy defense, led by junior goalie Erik Rauker and senior pole Ben Church.

This team only falls a spot because Groton-Dunstable was also impressive when I saw them live last week, but make no mistake, Littleton is a threat to make a deep tournament run as well in D3 C/E. This week is another big one for the Tigers, who will host league foe Tyngsboro tomorrow, before traveling to Shepherd Hill Thursday and Hudson Friday.

8. Marlboro: 9-2, 4-0 Mid-Wach C. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 7. Defeated Nashoba 11-10 and St. Peter-Marian 21-1. Lost to No. 8 Groton-Dunstable 13-9.

True, the Panther couldn't quite overcome G-D in the second of back-to-back games, but this team is still in line for a Mid-Wach C crown, and has as much young talent as anybody in the region.

This week will tell us even more about the young Panthers, as they make the trip to Worcester tonight at 6:30, then travel to scrappy Bromfield tomorrow. Marlboro will then round out the week by hosting Fitchburg on Thursday.

9. Worcester: 7-4, 4-3 Mid-Mass. D2 Central/West

Last Week: Ranked No. 9. Defeated Hopedale 7-5 and Nashoba 14-8. Lost to Grafton 14-3.

While wins over Nashoba and Hopedale don't look huge on paper, don't be fooled. Hopedale is a MUCH improved team this year, and actually has a shot of making the playoffs with the way it has played thus far, while Nashoba must be the best winless team I've ever seen, giving everybody they play a good run.

Those are solid wins, but ones you expect a Top-10 team to earn at this point, while the loss to Grafton is understandable: The Indians are the class of Mid-Mass this year, seemingly by a wide margin.

So we'll call last week even for WooLax, and move onto big games against Marlboro today, and at St. Bernard's tomorrow. Worcester will then make a trip to struggling Milford Friday, but we should know a lot more about this team by midweek.

10. Tyngsboro: 9-4, 4-1 Mid-Wach B. D3 Central/East

Last Week: Unranked. Defeated Fitchburg 16-4, Shepherd Hill 12-6 and Tewksbury 15-4.

After a pair of weeks outside our Top-10, the Tigers have played their way back in with six consecutive victories, and can actually grab a share of Mid-Wach B this week with a win at Littleton tomorrow.

It's been a long road back for the Tigers, who lost three of four in mid-to-late April, causing many around the region to forget about them. That may have been premature, as middies Kyle Laforge and Matt Sola, along with attackman Russ Gillis, have the offense rounding into form, while Dan Powers is regularly registering double-digit save performances between the pipes.

As I said earlier, tomorrow's game at Littleton is huge, but the Tigers will need to focus on every game from here on out, hoping to keep that momentum they've built. That means not looking past today's home game against Hudson, or Thursday's against North Middlesex.

Dropped Out: Nipmuc (10)

Also in the Hunt: Tantasqua (4-4), St. Bernard's (8-3), Oakmont (5-3), Shrewsbury (4-8)


Anonymous said...

Outstanding as ever. Love the work and appreciate it as well!!

Anonymous said...

Looking at the T&G leaders I think it speaks volumes that only 3 of the top 20 and 1 of the top 10 scorers are from Mid Wach A. So many good players, but playing grueling, tough, schedules against quality opponents, in and out of conference, game after game keeps their numbers on a "workman's level."

Anonymous said...

Each of the top 10 T&G leaders are exceptional players. They earned their spots. Laforge is the best in Central Mass. Sorry the poster above is trying to down play what each of them achieved with hard work and talent.

Joe Parello said...

There are a few things to consider here, but first I'll say that guys like Kyle Laforge, Griffin Shoemaker and Curtiss Vachonn would put up big numbers no matter where they played. Secondly, that Top-10 or 20, or whatever, is incomplete, because Grafton and Westboro (2 of the 3 best teams in the region) haven't submitted their stats. Pretty sure Westboro's Trevor McNamara or Luke McGrath would be in there somewhere, and I'm sure somebody from Grafton, perhaps Chase Kapuscienski, would be as well.

Thirdly, Westboro and Wachusett are the only two teams I've seen in Mid-Wach A that push the pace, so you'd expect scoring to be a little lower in that league.
That's not a bad thing, as Mid-Wach A is annually the toughest in the region (and best defensively), it's just a stylistic thing. Year in and year our, teams like Algonquin and Shrewsbury win by playing 6-on-6 lax on each end, where as teams like Marlboro, St. Bernard's and Littleton run a bit more.

Are some systems and schedules more conducive to putting up big numbers? Of course, but the guys at the top are obviously great. On the other side of that, there's somebody like Algonquin's Mike Martens, who never puts up video game numbers, but does so much, and when his team badly needs a goal, and can produce with the ball on his stick.

Anyways, sorry for the rant, and hopefully those teams send their stats in soon, because I'm curious to see the numbers those Westboro/Grafton kids are putting up.

Anonymous said...

Well stated Joe
Westboro's guys are racking up good numbers. Is their coach trying to hide that? If he is the news is out. :)

I also imagine, as you state, some of the Grafton players and St. John's guys would be up there

Systems/philosophy defense etc.. play a big role in players numbers.

There are plenty of players, in all the different conferences, that could play for almost anyone, anywhere and put up good numbers.

As to Martens, CLASS ACT. Saw him yesterday, 3 yards, alone in front of the net in the last seconds of the game against GD, with GD extending trying to get the ball back. He could have shot but turned away and moved the ball along to the next guy!!

I don't think the the poster was downplaying the accomplishments of some (he didn't mention any...LaForge [because he was mentioned], as usual, had a great game against [Mid Wach A] GD), but only referencing the fact that some mid wach A kids would have greater numbers in different systems against different defenses. Referencing the (universally) acknowledged toughness of that league and the out of league competition those teams usually choose.

Love the discussion here though. CMass Lax is growing and getting better every year

All the best