|Westboro's Trevor McNamara tries to get past Grafton's Tom Nicalek, as goalie Cadrin Msumba looks on.|
We've finally reached the end of a historic 2016 season for lacrosse in Central Mass, and we're ready to bring you our final Power Rankings.
While hairs can be split and debates had for each of these spots, here are the 15 teams (yep, we've gone from 10 to 15 to finish the year) that shined above the rest. For more on the 2016 season, check out our Year in Review, and be on the lookout for our 2016 All-Star team and Award Winners later this week.
1. Westboro: 16-3, 8-2 Mid-Wach A
Accolades: Mid-Wach A Co-Champs, D2 C/W Semifinalist
You could certainly make a case for St. John's or Grafton here, as both went deeper into the tournament, but the bottom line is, Westboro defeat both St. John's and Grafton (twice) when they met the other top CMass teams on the field.
All-American Trevor McNamara and star goalie Jeff Bernard led one of the best turnarounds in the state, as the Rangers went from a good team, to arguably the best in the region. As I said, St. John's got a game farther in the D2 tournament, but both teams lost to eventual district champion Longmeadow by about the same (Westboro by 10, SJ by 9), and the Rangers' pair of one-goal victories over Grafton puts them ahead of the historic Indians in my book.
Congrats to Westboro, our top team in Central Mass lacrosse for 2016!
2. St. John's: 15-7, 1-0 Catholic Conf.
Accolades: D2 C/W Finalist
But, for the second consecutive year, St. John's was the most impressive D2 team in the tournament. This season, the Pioneers' upset of top-seeded Minnechaug in the D2 C/W semis was almost enough to push them to the top of my list.
Hard to deny the potential of this team moving forward, however, as attackmen Jack Donahue and Drew Kozub, along with goalie Matt Mongeau and a host of other stars return from a team that was maybe a year ahead of schedule in 2016.
3. Grafton: 19-6, 9-1 Mid-Mass.
Accolades: D3 State Finalist, D3 C/W Champs, Mid-Mass Champs
I'll be honest, it feels wrong to rank the Indians this low after making a second consecutive run to the D3 state championship game, but the ball just didn't bounce Grafton's way in a few high-profile CMass games.
Grafton lost a rainy slop-fest to St. John's, and dropped a pair of one-goal games to Westboro, but overcame those disappointments to knock off Mt. Greylock for another district title, and turn away Hanover to get to BU for the state championship game.
A tremendous senior class, led by All-American Chase Kapuscienski, goalie Cadrin Msumba and attackman Hunter Fraser have nothing to be ashamed of. This team caught fire at the end of the year for a second consecutive season, and made another historic run.
4. Algonquin: 13-7, 8-2 Mid-Wach A
Accolades: Mid-Wach A Co-Champs, D2 C/W Quarterfinalist
It will be an off-season of "what ifs" for the Tomahawks, who battled injuries down the stretch and limped to the finish. With a defense decimated by injury, and All-American middie Mike Martens hampered by a broken wrist, the T-Hawks dropped a late pair of league games, settling for a shared Mid-Wach A title, and didn't have enough for St. John's in a playoff rematch.
Martens and All-American goalie Colton King will both be playing Division 1 lacrosse next year in college, but look for guys like Zack Skowronek and Matt Cannon to pick up the slack next season.
5. Groton-Dunstable: 13-7, 5-5 Mid-Wach A
Accolades: D3 C/E Semifinalist
Going .500 in a D2 league as a D3 team is nothing to sneeze at, and anybody that saw Groton-Dunstable this season knows the Crusaders were a force to be reckoned with.
After an 0-3 start, G-D rattled off eight straight wins, including victories over Littleton, Marlboro, Shrewsbury and Tyngsboro.
The Crusaders would go on to defeat Bedford convincingly in the D3 C/E quarterfinals, but fell victim to eventual state champion Dover-Sherborn in the semis. Still, the foundation has been laid for a big run next season, with rising seniors Michael Tammaro and Jack O'Neil, along with rising junior Liam McDonough set to lead what should be a loaded G-D attack and midefield.
6. Littleton: 18-3, 9-1 Mid-Wach B
Accolades: Mid-Wach B Co-Champs, D3 C/E Semifinalist
One of the stories of the season, Littleton jumped out to an 11-1 start, and finished the season strong with seven consecutive victories, including a rubber-match playoff win against rival Tyngsboro, before falling to Weston in the D3 C/E semis.
It was a banner year for a number of Tigers, most notably All-American Griffin Shoemaker, but Littleton will bring back of wealth of talent for another run next year. With LSM Cam Shoemaker, attackman Jared Collari, middie Anthony Rausa, goalie Eric Rauker and a host of others returning around Griff, the Tigers should be even better in 2017.
7. Tyngsboro: 15-5, 9-1 Mid-Wach B
Accolades: Mid-Wach B Co-Champs, D3 C/E Quarterfinalist
Many people gave up on Tyngsboro after the Tigers began the year 3-4, but 2015 All-American middie Kyle Laforge put the team on his back, leading Central Mass in scoring with 115 points, and helping Tyngsboro win 12 in a row to end the regular season, including a rematch win over Littleton.
While their year did end at the hands of Littleton in the playoffs, Tyngsboro proved its 2015 was no fluke, and with Laforge returning alongside Matt Butler and underrated goalie Dan Powers, don't expect Tyngsboro to concede Mid-Wach B to Littleton any time soon.
8. Tantasqua: 15-7, 7-3 Mid-Mass.
Accolades: D2 C/W Quarterfinalist
Another team that started slow and finished strong. The Warriors also started their year 3-4, but ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, and won a thriller against Marlboro in the first round of the Division 2 C/W tournament.
Led by a trio of junior attackmen, expect big things again from Tantasqua in 2017, as Mike Frio, Anthony Law and Ben Beaudry will all be seniors, and young middie Tom Muir will have a year of staring experience under his belt.
9. Wachusett: 13-9, 4-6 Mid-Wach A
Accolades: D2 C/W Quarterfinalist
The Mountaineers were another surprise team in 2016, scoring several significant victories, including wins over Algonquin, Shrewsbury, Groton-Dunstable, Nipmuc and St. Bernard's.
Led by a high-powered offense that featured three of Mid-Wach A's four leading scorers (Dan Turgeon, Mike Fritscy and Griffin LaPosta), a midfield headlined by the do-it-all Dion Dixon, and a defense featuring star pole Connor Dubzinski, Wachusett was a team nobody wanted to face.
With Dubz, LaPosta and Turgeon all coming back for their senior seasons, expect Wachusett to again contend in Mid-Wach A.
10. Marlboro: 15-4, 8-0 Mid-Wach C
Accolades: Mid-Wach C Champs, D2 C/W Playoff Team
If there was ever a team ahead of schedule, the 2016 Panthers would seem to be it. With a roster full of underclassmen talent, Marlboro could have easily looked toward the future, but instead, this year's Panthers were a great team in their own right.
Led by sophomores Ryan Mechler, Devin Raun and Evan Doherty, along with freshman Dom Carter, Marlboro had enough young firepower to score on anybody. While they were ultimately defeated by Tantasqua in an 18-16 playoff thriller, the future is obviously bright for a team that will be loaded for the next two seasons… At least.
11. Nipmuc: 13-8, 6-4 Mid-Mass.
Accolades: D3 C/W Semifinalist
Another program on the rise, Nipmuc scored its most impressive victory of the season against Grafton in late May, then followed that win with impressive victory over St. Bernard's. Nipmuc also scored impressive victories over Worcester and Wahconah (in the playoffs) on the year.
Give a ton of credit to Ryan Richards and Mike Manning for powering one of the region's most improved offenses, but man could this team play some defense. Led by goalie Drew Cannistraro, the Warriors surrendered just 5.7 goals per game (0.1 better than eventual state finalist Grafton), and made it all the way to the district semis.
12. St. Bernard's: 15-7, 2-0 Catholic Conf.
Accolades: D3 C/W Semifinalist
Another brilliant campaign by senior attackman Curtiss Vachon helped lead St. B's to within a goal of the district finals. A pair of wins over Western Mass mainstay Pope Francis (including one in the playoffs), and a victory over Worcester served as the season's highlights for the Bernardians, who enjoyed one of the best years in program history.
While St. Bernard's did lose a late lead to Mt. Greylock in the D3 C/W semis, this team fought through adversity to make it deeper in than tournament than anyone expected.
13. Worcester: 11-8, 6-4 Mid-Mass.
Accolades: D2 C/W Playoff Team
Now an annual contender, we're no longer shocked when Worcester is one of the better teams in Mid-Mass, and a playoff team in Division 2. Still, WooLax scored some big wins this year, earning victories over Tantasqua, Nipmuc and Agawam, and seemed to get better offensively as the year progressed.
With pole C.J. Gallagher and LSM Luke Hanlon both coming back for their senior seasons, expect Worcester to again be one of the better defensive teams in the region, but they'll need to find some more firepower up front next to Andrew Williamson to offset the loss of Quinn Robert to graduation.
14. Shrewsbury: 8-12, 4-6 Mid-Wach A
Accolades: Wins over Algonquin, Wachusett, Groton-Dunstable and Sharon
The Colonials fell victim to a brutal early schedule, and just never could dig themselves out of that initial hole to make the playoffs. Still, Shrewsbury was able to score victories over some of the very best teams in Central MA's toughest league, and junior Matty Ward emerged as one of the region's best scorers.
With Ward and LSM Chris Campbell both returning, expect a return to the tournament for Shrewsbury in 2017.
15. Blackstone Valley Tech: 10-9, 9-0 Colonial
Accolades: Colonial Conference Champs, D3 C/W Quarterfinalist
The Beavers join Marlboro as the only team to sweep its league en route to a conference championship. BVT also scored a huge playoff victory against rival Monty Tech, and rode senior Mike Jango to one of the more impressive offensive seasons in the region.