Saturday, April 1, 2017

Your 2017 MIAA Lacrosse Primer: Division 2

Medfield is used to celebrating, having won three consecutive D2 state title.  Photo from @Med_Lax

By Mike Abelson (@ABELS0N)

There is no more consistent program in Massachusetts lacrosse than Medfield. The three-time reigning Division 2 state champions have made high-level play on the field their calling card under head coach John Isaf.

This year the Warriors will, once again, be among those at the front of the D2 field in the quest to lift the trophy at Boston University, but Isaf is firmly planted in the present, as he will put together a team that lost three Division 1 talents last season- Kevin McCordic, Jack-Henry Vara, and John Maclean, as well as scorer Matt Trieber (Tufts) and starting goalie Kyle Gately (Hamilton).

“Number one, we’re not state champ,” Isaf said. “It’s 2017 and this team hasn’t done anything yet. We really don’t look at ourselves as state champs. This is a new team and a new season. We’re in pursuit, and we’re pursuing being the best team we can be. We have some good talent coming back.”

Among the returning leaders will be Jack Cahill on the attacking end and Matt Dold with a longpole. The X factor will be sophomore attack Owen Murphy. The Johns Hopkins commit was a consistent presence on the field last year, and will have to step into a bigger role in the offense this season.

“We try not to rest our offense on any single player,” Isaf said. “We try to be balanced and try to be a threat at any spot on the field. We have some seniors in Jack Cahill and Mark Nevins and Kyle Keegan that I think are going to carry a big load. Certainly we expect a guy like Owen to contribute and grow his own game, and make guys around him look better. He sees the field well and is an excellent dodger. We hope that within our offense he can make plays for us this year.”

Even with Medfield returning key talent, the D2 field is still the deepest in the state. Last year’s state runner-up, Hingham, brings back stars Marc O’Rourke and Frank Higgins.

Western Mass power Longmeadow may not have star middie Max Stukalin, but the likes of Kyle Campbell and an ever-reloading roster will keep the Lancers, 2015 runner up, in the mix.

Beverly may have lost head coach John Pynchon to St. John’s Prep, but the Panthers return a slew of talent that will keep them in the mix up North.

Add in the likes of Walpole, Westwood, Concord-Carlisle, along with rising programs like Falmouth and Sandwich down on the Cape, and Division 2 looks to be a full field in 2017.

“We’ve got our own section to worry about before we can worry about the south and north and west,” Isaf said. “Division 2 I think is the true statewide tournament. When you factor in a lot of teams from out west and the central we don’t get to see those teams and know them as well as we do the teams in eastern Mass. It’s a challenge to go up against those teams in the playoffs.”

Isaf is right that the field is deep throughout, as St. John's (Shrewsbury) also returns a lethal attack combo in Drew Kozub and Jack Donahue, along with stellar senior goalie Matt Mongeau out in Central Mass. The Pioneers will have to deal with with Westboro and returning All-American Trevor McNamara, along with traditional powers Algonquin and Shrewsbury, along with rising Wachusett and Marlboro in the Heart of the Commonwealth.

Farther west, everyone thinks of Longmeadow, but you also can't count out Minnechaug. Though the Falcons were upset by St. John's in the D2 Central/West tournament, and lose stud goalie Brett Jones, among other, Chaug still brings back one of the best attack duos in the state. Andrew Fidalgo and Stephen Kane can each put the ball in the back of the net and get their teammates involved, and Minnechaug should once again be one of the best passing teams around.

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