With the pairings released today, let’s take a look at some intriguing first round matchups and how the pairings should shake out over the next week.
Groton-Dunstable (13-3) and St. John’s (13-4) earned the byes with the top two seeds, as lacrosse does things right by using a form of the Walker ratings system that weights strength of schedule and all that good stuff. If the Pioneers want to go out and play teams like Longmeadow, they should be rewarded for it. Grafton (19-1) has a very strong team and deserved a high seed, but with 14 teams making the postseason there wasn’t enough byes to go around. One thing about these seedings, it makes upsets rare, so when they do happen, it’s a big deal.
The first round matchups:
No. 3 Grafton (19-1) vs. No. 14 Nipmuc – I think the Indians will have a tremendous showing in the postseason this year and they will be the proverbial, “I hope we don’t face these guys” team. Grafton has two 100-point scorers and nearly knocked off St. John’s last week, so the Indians are legit. The MMLL rivals met twice this year and Grafton rolled both times, 20-6 and 19-8. The Warriors will have their hands full, as I haven’t seen a good 1-2 punch like Dan Rotatori and Tyler Reilly in a few years in Central Mass. And if they stop them – somehow – they still have to account for Mike Bane.
Jim’s pick: Grafton
No. 4 Wachusett vs. No. 13 Oakmont – Watch out for the Mountaineers this year, as Wachusett is one of the more balanced teams in the tournament. The Mountaineers have some solid attacks like Chris Murphy, Steve Iacaboni and Brian Ritter – all 30-goal scorers – that Oakmont should be chasing over the field all day. The Spartans have some firepower of their own with Matt Biggs, Alex Tourigny and Kyle Billings.
Jim’s pick: Wachusett
No. 5 North Middlesex (11-7) vs. No. 12 Nashoba Tech (9-9) – The Patriots are much better than their record indicates and have a history of giving teams fits. They’ve beaten Algonquin, Nashoba (twice) and lost by a goal to Groton-Dunstable, so don’t be surprised if North Middlesex puts together a good run this postseason. They have an outstanding player in James Armstrong, who notched over 50 goals this year and I don’t think the Vikings have played a team as good as North Middlesex this year.
Jim’s pick: North Middlesex
No. 6 Algonquin (11-9) vs. No. 11 Assabet (13-3) – The Tomahawks have been the most inconsistent team in Central Mass this year. Algonquin has replaced over 20 players from last year due to graduation and just when you think they have things figured out they play a game where they look like a first-year club. They seem to have things pulled together at the end of the year with wins over Groton-Dunstable (8-7), North Middlesex (9-5) before dropping games to St. John’s (8-5) and Longmeadow (9-5) heading into the postseason. With players like Connor Healey and Zach Tarralo, they should get past Assabet.
Jim’s pick: Algonquin
No. 7 Littleton (13-3) vs. No. 10 Leominster (11-5) – This should be an outstanding game between two good teams. The Tigers beat Leominster twice this year, 6-5 and 4-3, so both games were ultra-close. The Blue Devils will be tough to beat a third time, as Leominster has some strong scorers in Peter Jakola and Jon Careau. Also, goalie Ryan Fioretti can steal a game better than anyone else in the league. The Tigers need to keep dong what worked for them this year: pump the ball to guys like Kevin Dargin, James Williamson and Mike Mizzoni and don’t make mistakes they let teams back into it.
Jim’s pick: Leominster
No. 8 Northbridge (12-6) vs. No. 9 Nashoba 9-9) – This should be another good matchup, as the Rams have two players that will be tough to stop in Devin Dube and John Perro and that will test a very good Nashoba defense. Meanwhile the Rams will have to do the same against guys like Tyler Gold, Max Doucette and Scott Lovington, who all are 30-goal scorers. This is a toss-up game and should be a good one.
Jim’s pick: Northbridge