|Hanover middie Abdullah Nassif will look to push the Indians into the state championship game after coming up just short in 2016.|
We continue our look at each MIAA lacrosse division with our preview of Division 3, where Dover-Sherborn hopes to win a third consecutive state championship. Here's a look at D-S, and several other teams and players you need to keep an eye on across the state in 2017.
Teams to Watch
Dover-Sherborn: The two-time defending state champions don’t look to have lost a beat heading into 2017 and, led by Bailey Laidman, remain the favorites to pick up a title. D-S won 15 straight contests en route to a 2016 title game victory over Grafton. Laidman tallied 55 goals last season, and the North Carolina commit has been a part of the foundation of a budding dynasty.
Bowdoin prospect Jack Mahoney will be the secondary attack with Laidman, so he could benefit from teams keying in on the D-S star, especially early in the season. Joe Paolatto leads the Raiders at the faceoff X, and was a key last season in D-S continuing to dominate possessions.
Hanover: Hanover is the sleeper pick if Dover-Sherborn can’t repeat. The duo of attackman Neil Calkin and middie Abdullah Nassif should be one of the better offensive units at the top of the division. The Indians also face a tough schedule, and face D-S early in the season to see if they can contend with the class of D3 from the get-go.
The Indians lose one of their top goal scorers, and their goalie Noah Clapp, but remain a team to look out for after going 17-5 last season. Nassif is expected to carry the load for a Hanover team in a top-heavy Division 3. Ryan Strome also returns after missing last season with injury.
Cohasset: Led by Will Thomas, who has the potential to break out as a goal scorer, Cohasset has a chance to make some noise this season, and they’ll be tested early with one of the toughest schedules in all of D3. The Skippers, who lost two important players in the off season in Dan Axelson and Jack Donohue, still have high hopes following a 14-8 season in 2016.
Cohasset had a premature playoff exit to Norwell last season, and while losing some talent, is expected to make a deep run in 2017. While a lot of the offense remains intact, even with Axelson gone, it’s the defense that lacks some depth and might be the area that gets exposed for the Skippers, especially with such a difficult schedule early on, that includes a heavy D1 slate.
Ipswich: The Tigers lost only two players from last season, so they have an opportunity to make some noise and contend with the experience that they have while other teams struggle to find their footing. Aidan McAdams established himself last season as the starting goalie, and now going into his junior year, the Tigers will continue to rely on him to backstop them. Senior Dukey Kriksceonaitis leads the way on attack.
Norwell: Norwell is also looking to be a deep sleeper in 2017. The Clippers lose several seniors, but are expecting to improve upon a 15-6 campaign in 2016 that led them to a sectional semi final. They’re relying on freshman goalie Griffin Pithie to carry the load along with senior Liam Connolly, who has been a solid backup thus far in his Norwell career.
Central and Western Teams by Joe Parello
Grafton: Following back-to-back state title game appearances, Grafton is now a known commodity across the state. But, after graduating one of the most accomplished senior classes in Central Mass history, can the Indians conquer D3 Central/West for a third straight year?
If they do, it will start with defense, where senior poles Tom Nicalek and Danny Bartosiewicz return in front of junior goalie Matt Nicalek. The junior must replace star goalie Cadrin Msumba, but the younger Nicalek has seen some action early in his career, and has the trust of his teammates. Of course, it helps to have one of the best defenses in the state in front of you.
Generating offense could be the tricky part for Grafton, who loses stars Chase Kapuscienski, Cole Fontana, and Hunter Fraser, along with dirty-work middie Matt O'Brien. State semifinal hero Brendan Coates returns up front to lead a largely rebuilt attack, and he'll get some help from Anthony D'Angelo and an always versatile Indian midfield. While this team is replacing a lot, look past Grafton at your peril.
Mt. Greylock: Ever since the MIAA realigned the lacrosse divisions in 2014, it has been Greylock going against Grafton in the D3 Central/West final. The Mounties bested the Indians that first season, but have fallen in the sectional final the last two years. Still, Mt. Greylock brings back a talented group that hopes to get over the hump in 2017.
With a lethal attack, led by senior Pat Storie and super soph Michael Wellspeak, and a versatile midfield headlined by seniors Thomas Astle and Sean McCormack, Mt. Greylock should again be one of most prolific offensive teams in the state. The only real question mark for the Mounties will be replacing star goalie Cal Filson, but with senior pole Kyle Bazonski returning, the Greylock defense will again be better than you think.
Players to Watch
Bailey Laidman, Dover-Sherborn: After scoring 55 goal last season, Laidman returns as one of the top three players in the entire state. After committing to North Carolina as a freshman, Laidman has continued to prove himself as one of the top prospects Massachusetts has to offer.
Will Thomas, Cohasset: Thomas is a part of a solid Cohasset offense, and as a junior captain, is their leader from the attack. Every starter is back on offense, but Thomas is expected to take that next big step this season. The Providence commit scored 31 goals last season.
Abdullah Nassif, Hanover: Committed to play D1 lacrosse for Manhattan, Nassif is expected to carry the pace for the Indians on offense this season. He’s part of a Hanover team that has potential, but a lack of depth, so the Indians will need him to have a huge season.
Central and Western Players by Joe Parello
Griffin Shoemaker, Littleton: As a Littleton fan, it would be easy to bemoan this budding Central Mass program being placed in the same bracket as Dover-Sherborn, or the loss of star senior goalie Erik Rauker, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury before playing college football. But, with Shoemaker and the rest of the Tigers playing such a fun brand of lacrosse, it's easy to forget all that and just watch them work.
Our reigning CMass Offensive Player of the Year, Shoemaker was perhaps the best pure scorer in Central Mass, finishing 2016 with 70 goals, but proved effective as a table-setter as well, dishing out 37 assists on the year. Shoemaker also came up the biggest in the biggest games, as he pushed Littleton past rival Tyngsboro in the D3 Central/East quarterfinals with a monster five-goal performance. Expect some more big numbers, and big-game heroics, in the coming months.
Cam Peritz, Pope Francis: Pope Francis enters the season as a potential sleeper in D3 Central/West, and if the Cardinals are to realize their potential, it will be behind the scoring prowess of their senior leader.
As a junior, Peritz led Western Mass in scoring with 135 points, and enters 2017 with a chance to make some history. Having already tallied 419 points in his career, Peritz has 500 points in sight, which would put him among the Top-5 scorers in Massachusetts history. Alongside senior midfield twins Ryan and Trevor Crawford, Peritz is poised to make Pope Francis one of the most entertaining teams in the state, and a tough out for anyone.