Monday, April 24, 2017

Central Mass Lax Power Rankings: Week 4

Groton-Dunstable pole Nate Forbes tracks down a ground ball against Tyngsboro Saturday.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

It was an eventful vacation week in Central Mass, as several of our top lacrosse league races heated up, and a few of the season's surprise teams continued to roll.

The top of our Power Rankings remain largely unchanged, but that doesn't mean there aren't any surprises this week. Continue below for our complete Top 10.

1. St. John's (Shrewsbury): 6-1, 1-0 Catholic Conf.
Last Week: Ranked No. 1, defeated No. 6 Marlboro 16-11, and Shrewsbury 17-4. Lost to BC High 15-8.

The Pioneers suffered their first loss last week, but also solidified themselves as the top team in the region at this point. St. John's won a shootout against up-and-coming Marlboro, and blew away rival Shrewsbury. The loss to BC High is discouraging, simply because St. John's led at halftime before losing by 7. That said, Tuesday's home game against Grafton presents a big chance to get back on track, and Thursday brings a tough challenge against D1 East program Framingham.

2. Groton-Dunstable: 7-0, 2-0 Mid-Wach A.
Last Week: Ranked No. 2, defeated North Middlesex 6-5 (Tues), North Middlesex 13-4 (Thurs), and No. 10 Tyngsboro 10-3.

The Crusaders shook off a slow start against North Middlesex Tuesday to rout the Patriots in a rematch two days later, then closed out their vacation week with a big win over rival Tyngsboro. The emergence of junior goalie Nevin Tardif makes G-D as complete a team as there is in the region.

The Crusaders can put a stranglehold on Mid-Wach A this week with a home game against Shrewsbury Tuesday, followed by a trip to Algonquin on Thursday. G-D will then finish its week with a massive road test at Littleton.

3. Grafton: 7-2, 4-1 Mid-Mass.
Last Week: Ranked No. 3, defeated Worcester 10-3 and Weston 14-0. Lost to Cohasset 10-4.

It was another productive week for the Indians, who are still breaking in some new faces up front, as Grafton rolled over rival Worcester, and crushed Eastern Mass foe Weston in the first round of Weston's own tournament. Grafton couldn't hang with D3 power Cohasset, however, in the finals of that tournament, but this is a team that is only going to get better as the year continues.

The Indians would like to see some drastic improvement Tuesday, when they travel to St. John's for a game that has gotten away from them the past few years. Then, a surprisingly important league home game against Hopedale is set for Thursday.

4. Nipmuc: 5-0, 4-0 Mid-Mass.

Last Week: Ranked No. 5, defeated No. 7 Wachusett 9-5, and Auburn 20-1.

Nipmuc proved its mettle outside of Mid-Mass. with a big win over Mid-Wach A standout Wachusett, and as the year goes on, the Warriors' opening day win over Grafton is looking bigger and bigger. This week brings a surprising battle for first place in Mid-Mass, when Nipmuc hosts Hopedale Tuesday in a battle of conference unbeatens.

The Warriors will then travel to Northbridge Thursday, before heading to Belchertown Saturday.

5. Littleton: 3-1, 1-0 Mid-Wach C.
Last Week: Ranked No. 4, defeated Shrewsbury 7-6.

The Tigers gutted out a win against hungry Shrewsbury, and should be well-rested when they re-enter league play against Leominster on Tuesday. The Tigers will then host Nashoba Thursday, and play host to Groton-Dunstable in one of the games of the week Saturday.

6. Marlboro: 3-1, 1-0 Mid-Wach B.
Last Week: Ranked No. 6, lost to No. 1 St. John's 16-11.

I can't knock the Panthers for losing respectably, and putting up double-digit goals, against the region's top team. This group can really score, and will have a chance to flex their muscles in the league Tuesday at Nashoba, then Thursday against Tyngsboro.

7. Tantasqua: 3-2, 0-2 Mid-Mass.
Last Week: Ranked No. 8. Idle.

Nothing like a well-timed bye week. The Warriors were out of action over vacation week, but move up a spot as teams lost in front of them. They'll have to work a little harder for their ranking this week, with Western Mass power Minnechaug coming to town today, then three league games, starting at Northbridge Tuesday, continuing at home against Worcester on Thursday, and concluding Saturday at Auburn.

8. Wachusett: 4-3, 1-1 Mid-Wach A.
Last Week: Ranked No. 7, defeated St. Peter-Marian. Lost to No. 5 Nipmuc 9-5.

The Mountaineers couldn't quite gut out a win against Mid-Mass surprise Nipmuc, but they did take care of business against SPM, and still sit in decent shape in Mid-Wach A. A win at Shrewsbury this Tuesday would go a long way toward keeping pace with Groton-Dunstable, then a Saturday showdown with Shepherd Hill will tell us a great deal about both teams.

9. Hopedale: 6-0, 3-0 Mid-Mass.

Last Week: Unranked, defeated Bellingham 20-1 and Sizer 24-0.

Hard to keep the Blue Raiders out of our rankings any longer after another pair of dominating wins. Say what you want about the level of competition lately, Hopedale has been the story of the young season, surging toward its first tournament berth, and sitting undefeated atop Mid-Mass.

All that said, the competition really ramps up this week, as Hopedale travels to Nipmuc Tuesday and Grafton Thursday for battles against the two favorites in the league. The Blue Raiders will then host high-scoring Cam Peritz and Western Mass sleeper Pope Francis Saturday.  Regardless of the outcomes of those games, Hopedale has come a long way these past few seasons.

10. Shepherd Hill: 5-2, 3-2 Mid-Wach B.
Last Week: Ranked No. 9, defeated St. Peter-Marian 17-7. Lost to Oakmont 10-8.

With a large portion of their team away on a school trip, the Rams suffered a setback against scrappy Oakmont. Still, this young group has the talent to compete in the suddenly hyper-competitive Mid-Wach B. Shepherd Hill will look to get back on track with a league game against Leominster Thursday, then has the chance to make a statement at Wachusett on Saturday.

Dropped Out:
Tyngsboro (3-2, ranked No. 10 LW)

The Tigers' lone game last week was a tough one against Groton-Dunstable, but have three chances to get back on track this week, beginning with a home game against Lowell Catholic today. Then, a big trip to league foe Marlboro awaits the Tigers on Thursday, before a trip to struggling Westboro Saturday.

Tyngsboro is breaking in a bunch of new faces, but senior middie Kyle Laforge and classmate goalie Dan Powers are too good for the Tigers to stay down long.

Next Five: Nashoba Valley Tech (5-0), Shrewsbury (2-5), Algonquin (1-3), Nashoba (3-3), Oakmont (3-3)

Nashoba Valley Tech was idle last week, as the Vikings remain in first place in the Colonial. Games against Assabet and Monty Tech give the Vikings a chance to grab a commanding lead in that league race. Shrewsbury, meanwhile, played three brutally difficult games, and couldn't steal one of them.

The Colonials did play Littleton to the wire, and were able to hang with Western Mass power Minnechaug, however, so it's safe to say that Matty Ward and company are better than their record indicates. Still, you've got to start winning at some point, and Tuesday's league game against Wachusett would be a great time to start. After that, Shrewsbury travels to Groton-Dunstable before hosting Nashoba.

Algonquin is in the same boat as league rival Shrewsbury, as the T-Hawks have started slow against a brutal slate. A hard-fought loss to Hopkinton kept Gonk out of the win column last week, and the Tomahawks host Groton-Dunstable in a huge Mid-Wach A showdown Tuesday. Thursday will bring a trip to Westboro, followed by a Saturday home game against Leominster.

Back-to-back wins over Worcester and St. Bernard's put Nashoba back in the conversation, but the Chieftains need a league win badly if they want to factor into the Mid-Wach B race at all. League games await Nashoba Tuesday against Marlboro, and Thursday at Littleton, before the Chieftains head to Shrewsbury for a Saturday morning tilt.

Finally, give some props to Oakmont, which nipped Shepherd Hill last week, and is off to a 2-0 start in Mid-Wach C. The Spartans will now travel to Hudson Tuesday, but keep an eye on their Thursday home game against Lunenburg. That one could go a long way in the race for a league crown.

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