Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Central Mass Lax Power Rankings: Tournament Time

Algonquin defied the odds to qualify for the postseason, and now the T-Hawks are back in our CMass Top 10.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The MIAA lacrosse tournament begins today, so let's break down where the top teams in Central Mass stand heading into postseason play. This will be our last Power Rankings for a while, as we will not release a new set until after the state championship games.

1. Grafton: 18-2, 11-1 Mid-Mass.
Last Week: Ranked No. 1, defeated No. 9 Wachusett 16-9, and Auburn 21-2.

The Indians head into the D3 Central/West tournament looking for a third straight trip to the state finals. Riding an 11-game winning streak that began with a come-from-behind victory over St. John's over a month ago, Grafton couldn't have much more momentum. The outright Mid-Mass. champions have as much firepower as anyone in D3, but it could once again be the Grafton defense that makes the difference in the tournament.

The Indians will begin tournament play later this week against the winner of the Monty Tech/Blackstone Valley Tech first round game.

2. St. John's: 15-3, 1-0 Catholic Conf.
Last Week: Ranked No. 2, defeated Mansfield 19-8, and St. John's Prep 13-12 (OT).

The Pioneers continued to pick up big wins against out-of-region competition last week, and head into the Division 2 Central/West tournament as a two-seed, and possibly the only team that can stop top seeded Longmeadow.

St. John's opens its tournament today at 4:30 pm when it hosts Chicopee Comprehensive.

3. Littleton: 16-2, 10-0 Mid-Wach B.
Last Week: Ranked No. 3, defeated No. 10 Nashoba 11-2, and Tyngsboro 8-4.

Like Grafton, the Tigers are also riding an 11-game winning streak heading into the tournament, and will start things off by hosting Bromfield Thursday at 4 pm. Littleton was remarkably dominant in Mid-Wach B, breezing through the conference with a 10-0 record, and winning those games by a combined 80 goals.

As the two-seed in D2 C/E, Littleton seems on a collision course with the last team it lost to this season, Groton-Dunstable.

4. Shrewsbury: 13-7, 7-1 Mid-Wach A.
Last Week: Ranked No. 4, defeated No. 6 Groton-Dunstable 8-7. Lost to Algonquin 14-8.

We'll forgive the Colonials their season-ending loss against desperate Algonquin, especially as it came the day after they clinched an outright Mid-Wach A title with a one-goal win against Groton-Dunstable. The Colonials were the opposite of Littleton in their league; instead of dominating from start to finish, Shrewsbury simply won every close game it found itself in.

Five of the Colonials' seven league victories came by one goal, meaning Shrewsbury should feel right at home when things tighten up in the tournament. The Colonials begin their run in the D2 Central/West tournament this Wednesday at 4 pm when they host Marlboro.

5. Nipmuc: 17-2, 10-2 Mid-Mass.

Last Week: Ranked No. 5, defeated St. Bernard's 15-4, Ashland 12-6, and No. 8 Hopedale 14-8.

Though they missed out on a league title by one game, the Warriors still have plenty of goals in front of them. The biggest, of course, being a sectional title, and that could mean a rubber match with Mid-Mass. rival Grafton in the D3 Central/West finals.

Nipmuc will look to keep its scoring spree going when it opens up tournament play later this week against the winner of the Pope Francis/Hoosac Valley game.

6. Groton-Dunstable: 14-5, 5-3 Mid-Wach A.
Last Week: Ranked No. 6, lost to No. 4 Shrewsbury 8-7.

It's hard to believe, but the Crusaders will enter the D3 Central/East tournament on a three-game losing streak. Well, hard to believe until you look at the schedule and see tight games against Algonquin, Ipswich and Shrewsbury.

That said, G-D needs to re-gain its mojo quickly, and a Thursday home game against Arlington Catholic to open the tournament could just do the trick. After that, it's a race to the semifinals, where G-D could again see Littleton. The Crusaders are the only Central Mass team to beat the Tigers this season.

7. Tantasqua: 15-5, 8-4 Mid-Mass.
Last Week: Ranked No. 7, defeated Pope Francis 13-6, and Agawam 14-9.

The Warriors rolled over two solid Western Mass squads, which should prepare them well for a game against Northampton Wednesday at 6 pm. That home game will be the first one of what Tantasqua hopes will be a deep tournament run. With one of the best offenses in the region, the Warriors look like a tough out.

8. Algonquin: 8-10, 5-3 Mid-Wach A.

Last Week: Unranked, defeated Westboro 15-8, and No. 4 Shrewsbury 14-8.

The Tomahawks never said die, and found their way into the state tournament by grabbing a share of second place in Mid-Wach A. To do that, Algonquin defeated Wachusett, Groton-Dunstable, Westboro and Shrewsbury all in the last three weeks.

Despite the losing record, Algonquin has the look of a dangerous team in Division 2 Central/West, and will open up at East Longmeadow Wednesday at 7 pm.

9. Hopedale: 13-7, 6-6 Mid-Mass.
Ranked No. 8, defeated Auburn 20-2. Lost to Archbishop Williams 11-10, and No. 5 Nipmuc 14-8.

The Blue Raiders finish the regular season in our Top 10, and will play their first ever tournament game Thursday night at Tyngsboro in the Division 3 Central/East bracket. Can Hopedale slow down Kyle Laforge and company to earn its first ever tournament win?

10. Wachusett: 10-8, 3-5 Mid-Wach A.
Last Week: Ranked No. 9, defeated Westboro 11-9. Lost to No. 1 Grafton 16-9.

The Mountaineers do just enough to end the regular season in our Top-10, but won't have much time to rest, as they open up their D2 Central/West tournament run at Chicopee tomorrow at 5 pm. It's been an up-and-down past few weeks for Wachusett, but this team has the talent and senior leadership to get things right for the tourney.

Dropped Out: Nashoba (Ranked No. 10 LW, 10-8)

Next Five: Tyngsboro (12-6), Nashoba (10-8), Shepherd Hill (11-9), Blackstone Valley Tech (13-5), Worcester (8-10)

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