The Division 2 scene could have the most exciting battles this year, as there don’t seem to be any real “dominant” teams out there, like in the other divisions.
Over on the girls’ side, Millbury looks to be the favorite once again, but I don’t think they’ll have an easy ride to the title. The Woolies should be playing at WPI again this year with great players like Julie Frankian, Chelsea Perkins and Sydney Bloomstein helping out. Millbury lost to Quaboag already this year, but I don’t see them losing too much more before the season is over.
Millbury should get a good test with games against Shepherd Hill, but the one I want to keep an eye on is a much-improved Northbridge team, which will play the Woolies twice this year and I think can earn a split of the series. The Rams look good with players like Sarah Phelan and Katie Pryor, and they match up well with quite a few teams in the tough SWCL. The Rams are one of my final four picks this year.
Another team I like is St. Bernard’s, and I think they’ll meet Millbury in the final. The Bernardians have great players like Laura Cote and Meaghan Secino, while Madison Marek and Katy Hartnett will have St. B’s in many games this year. They’re already 3-0 and look strong.
My sleeper pick would be Notre Dame Academy. They’re young, but made a tremendous hire in the offseason by bringing over Jeff LaCure to coach. LaCure had the Tigers in the D3 final last year and knows how to build up a program. NDA has some solid players in Jackie O’Connor, Taylor McVey and Danielle Gaudette, so after a season’s worth of games against teams like SPM, St. Bernard’s, as well as Doherty, Hopedale and Holy Name, the Rebels will be tested. They could be that team that gets in at 12-8 and upends a few teams along the way.
Also look out for Blackstone-Millville, as I think players like Jen Zagaglia and Alycia Dery are the real deal. The Chargers play in a tough conference and that will pay off once the tournament starts.
The boys’ teams in Division 2 are a hard to read bunch. Unlike over on the girls, where I’d be shocked if Millbury wasn’t playing at WPI, I think there are about 4-5 teams that have a good shot of raising the trophy at the end of the year.
I’m going to ride Groton-Dunstable to the title this year, as the Crusaders return a handful of all-stars in Derek McCaffrey, Ryan Romich and Cam Willcox to the mix. They came within an eyelash of beating Tantasqua last year in the playoffs, and I think their size is going to give a lot of people trouble this year. They’re 2-1, but their loss was to Dracut to start the year, and that’s not going to be a bad loss. They finish up with Quabbin, Marlboro and Doherty before playing in the Clark, so that’s a good test for the Crusaders heading into some important games.
I don’t think you can count out St. Bernard’s this year. The Bernardians had a slow start last year, losing about seven games to start the year before winding up with the Division 2 crown. They return Super Teamer John Henault and Andrew Gosselin. They’ve started off 5-1 with wins over Clinton, Sutton and Leominster, but they have to be concerned with a 90-52 thumping by Whitinsville Christian. They’ve got to make sure that was just a blip on the radar and that doesn’t happen in the tournament.
Northbridge should also be in the mix with players like Casey Hippert, Corey Pryor and Tyrell Damon putting up points. They’re 2-1, but got knocked around a little Tuesday night with a 62-50 loss to a good Tantasqua team. I am hoping they can come around and get people taking the SWCL a little more seriously.
Clinton is probably the best 3-2 team in Central Mass. right now, as the Gaels dropped games to St. Bernard’s and Fitchburg to start the year. I like Alvin Mayard and Sergio Colon and I think Clinton can keep things together long enough to make a run at a title.
Two players I liked last year were D.J. Guillette and Mike Xarras from Lunenburg. I’m hoping the Blue Knights can find a few more scorers to help out, because they could contend this year. They’re 2-2, but one loss was to D3 power Maynard and the other was to a North Middlesex team (75-70) that is better than people think. They play in the Auburn Holiday Tournament next week, so we should see how for real they are.
Speaking of “for real” – Millbury jumped out to a surprising 3-0 start before dropping a 63-60 game to Bartlett on Tuesday. Tim Swenson and Ryan O’Leary have the team playing well, but it will be interesting once those games against Northbridge and Tantasqua come around to see how well the Woolies fare.