Boston High School: Wachusett

C-C caps regular season as boys' soccer No. 1

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
3:40
PM ET
Concord-Carlisle scored in the final minute of its final regular season games against Acton-Boxborough to earn a draw and stay in the top spot in the final MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll of the regular season. The Patriots had only given up two goals in 15 games before the final game, which ended 4-4.

That draw keeps C-C ahead of also unbeaten Needham, which closed out its season with a 3-0 win against Lexington on a hat trick by midfielder Aram Ouligian, who is making a push for Player of the Year with his scoring run in the final stretch of the season. This is the second consecutive unbeaten regular season for the Rockets, who have not lost in the regular season since a defeat to Wellesley in early September 2012.

The big move up the rankings into the top 10 was by Amherst, which completed an unbeaten season out west, The Hurricanes took advantage of some of the teams ahead of them dropping points to jump into the third spot. Defending D1 champ West Springfield is the other West team in the top 20; moving from last 10 out to No. 15 after a win over previously ranked Belchertown.

D1 South is going to be a war of attrition with one quarter of the top 20, and three of the top seven, all coming from that bracket. Add in Brockton and Wellesley from the last 10 out and other Bay State teams, such as Natick, Braintree, and Weymouth, to that list and there will be no easy path to the sectional final.

The Boxers were one of four teams that dropped out of the top 20 this week after losing their final four games of the season. Wachusett, Belchertown, and Wellesley were the other three teams to move into the last 10 out, while West Springfield, Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Duxbury all move into the top 20 heading into the postseason.

For this week's complete rankings, click HERE.

Conference Breakdown:
Patriot - 3
Mid-Wach - 3
Bay State - 2
Catholic - 2
DCL - 2
Smith - 2
ACL - 1
Big 3 - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Hockomock - 1
TVL - 1

Concord-Carlisle takes over boys' soccer No. 1

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
2:01
PM ET
There is a new No. 1 in our MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll with just one update remaining before the start of the playoffs. Concord-Carlisle, which has been less No. 2 than No. 1A in recent weeks, jumps up one spot after another comprehensive victory on Tuesday over Cambridge. The Patriots have now recorded 13 clean sheets in 14 games and have only allowed two goals all season. The perennial Division 2 power has dominated like the best team in the state should over the course of the season and, thanks to a small slip by Needham, takes the top spot.

The drop is slightly unfair to Needham, which also is less of a No. 2 than a No. 1A, because of the Rockets' overall strength of schedule in the deep Bay State Conference. Two draws against Top 20 squad Framingham and a draw with Top 10 BC High are the only blemishes on the record, but with Concord-Carlisle continuing to stay perfect the Rockets take a tiny drop.

There were several losses in the middle of the rankings, but not a lot of movement. Sutton fell to Algonquin but stayed at No. 11 then the Tomahawks lost the next day to Wachusett, which enters the rankings at No. 17, but remained at No. 9. Despite a second defeat to New Bedford, Brockton stayed put at No. 10 ahead its second meeting with BC High on Thursday.

There were three additions to the rankings this week. Wachusett's aforementioned win over Algonquin earns it a spot along with reigning Division 3 champion Belchertown, which enters at No. 19, and No. 20. Wellesley, which has taken the lead in the Bay State's Herget division. Duxbury moves into the Last 10 Out after three straight losses, as does Minnechaug after a loss to Ludlow, and Lexington after a slip-up on Tuesday.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

(Editor's note: Records are as of Tuesday, Oct. 21.)

Conference Breakdown:
Bay State - 3
Big Three - 2
Catholic Conference - 2
DCL - 2
Midland - 2
Patriot - 2
ACL - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Churchill - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Hockomock - 1
Smith - 1
TVL - 1

Franklin, Scituate enter boys' soccer poll

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
6:15
PM ET
The top seven teams all stayed the same this week. The first big change was at No. 8 with Brockton dropping down four spots following a defeat to unranked Xaverian. Medway continued its strong start to the season and jumped up into the top 10 as the top Division 3 team in the rankings. Ludlow also returned to the top 10 after a scoreless draw with West rival Amherst on Friday.

The big move up the rankings was made by Algonquin, which jumped five spots to No. 10 after another perfect week. Tyler Morin has provided the offensive punch for the Tomahawks this season, who will face a very difficult final stretch of the season beginning with next week's matchups against Shrewsbury and No. 11 Sutton. Algonquin will also have to face Wachusett, St. John's (Shrewsbury) and Westborough, which are all teams with winning records.

Two new teams have entered the rankings this week with league leaders Franklin and Scituate making their first appearances this season. Franklin has been unbeaten in its last 10 games and currently leads the Kelley-Rex division and is in search of its fourth straight league title. Scituate takes over the No. 20 spot after a big win over then No. 19 Pembroke that gave the Sailors the lead in the Fisher division of the Patriot League.

For this week's complete Top 20 poll, click HERE.

(Editor's note: This week's rankings do not reflect the forfeiture of 11 wins by Ludlow, which will inhibit the Lions from participating in the MIAA postseason tournament. Records are as of Wednesday. )

Conference Breakdown:
Patriot - 3
Smith - 3
DCL - 2
Bay State - 2
Big Three - 2
Catholic - 2
ACL - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Hockomock - 1
Midland - 1
TVL - 1

All steady atop boys' soccer Top 20 poll

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
1:08
PM ET
The top eight teams have stayed the same for the second week in a row, which sets up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between Needham and BC High at Saturday's Bay State Conference/Catholic Conference Challenge. Prior to that game, BC High will take on No. 12 Brockton on Thursday.

Brockton and Dartmouth are the two teams that dropped out of the top 10 this week after both teams lost to New Bedford in the past week. The Indians nearly dropped out of the top 20 after Tuesday's loss to Barnstable, but Dartmouth stays in the rankings at No. 18. Last year's state seimfinalist Silver Lake has moved up to No. 9 and 2012 finalist Amherst has taken over the No. 10 spot.

Two teams have moved into the rankings. Duxbury makes its first appearance in the Top 20 after a 6-0-1 start, while Nauset returns to the rankings after a three-game win streak over the past week. Milford, which has struggled over its past three games, and Wachusett, which fell to Algonquin on Tuesday, were the two teams to drop out, although the Mountaineers stayed in the last 10 out.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

Conference Breakdown:
Bay State - 3
Big Three - 2
Catholic - 2
DCL - 2
Patriot - 2
Smith - 2
ACL - 1
Cape Ann - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Midland A - 1
MVC - 1
OCL - 1
TVL - 1

Needham ascends to No. 1 in boys' soccer poll

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
4:32
PM ET
Ludlow drops from the top spot in the ESPN Boston MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll this week after being beaten by unranked and defensing state champ Belchertown. In the Lions place is Needham, which was held to a scoreless draw against top 10 rival Framingham on Tuesday and faces No. 2 BC High this weekend. Concord-Carlisle stays at No. 3 with St. John's Prep and Masconomet rounding out the top five.

Attleboro's inconsistent form has dropped the Bombardiers out of the top 20 along with Nauset, Somerville, and Westborough. Amherst, which is now 5-0 on the season, has moved into the No. 13 spot, while Milford, Braintree, and Wachusett have all earned spots in the Top 20.

There is a very close race for the final few spots in the top 20 with unbeaten teams like Duxbury and Boston Latin sitting in the last 10 out and several teams, such as the four that moved out of the rankings this week, that have the potential to make a charge up the standings if they can find a run of good results.

For this week's complete poll, click HERE.

This week's poll by conference:
Bay State - 3
Big Three - 2
Catholic Conference - 2
DCL - 2
Midland - 2
Smith - 2
Cape Ann - 1
Dual Valley - 1
Hockomock - 1
MVC - 1
Old Colony - 1
Patriot - 1
TVL - 1

L-S on the move in girls' soccer Top 20

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
4:27
PM ET
Lincoln-Sudbury was on the move in this week's statewide MIAA girls' soccer Top 20 poll.

The top four stayed the same again this week. Wilmington dropped out of the top five after a pair of draws and was replaced by Bishop Feehan. Lincoln-Sudbury, Concord-Carlisle, and Medway join Wachusett as the big movers in the past two weeks with L-S and C-C getting ready to square off next weekend at Kicks for Cancer.

North Attleborough's impressive start to the season sees the Rocketeers jump into the rankings for the first time along with the West sectional's only representative, West Springfield. Hingham is the other team to jump from unranked into the top 20 after the Harbormen beat Whitman-Hanson.

Newburyport held on to the No. 20 spot after losing to Hamilton-Wenham on Wednesday. It was the team's first loss since 2012 after finishing undefeated and winning the state title last fall.

Central Mass. lax All-Americans announced

May, 29, 2014
May 29
1:55
PM ET
The Central Mass. Lacrosse Coaches Association unveiled its boys' lacrosse All-American list Wednesday night.

Here's a look at the honorees, per correspondent Joe Parello:

All-Americans:
Quintin Forbes, M, Groton-Dunstable, Bentley

Chris Gorman, G, Shrewsbury, Eastern Connecticut

Drew Smiley, A, St. John's, Navy

Steven Kerr, G, St. John's, Western New England

Tom Bishop, LSM, Wachusett, Clarkson

Academic All-Americans:
Miles Massida, M, North Middlesex, BU

Ben Foley, M/A, Tyngsborough, James Madison

Nabeel Tokatli, M, Worcester, WPI

Marshfield's Cataldo leads South in romp of All-Star Classic

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
11:56
PM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Team members of Saturday's 5th annual Aleppo Shriners/Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association All-Star Classic show up knowing little about the strengths and weakness of their fellow linemates. Having not practiced together, the only thing to do is learn on the fly.

The South stars were the quick learners, as all of its lines meshed brilliantly en route to a one-sided 7-1 triumph at the DCU Center.

"You don't really see an all star game finish 7-1," said South and Braintree head coach David Fasano. "It's usually 8-7 or 9-8. But all of our goaltenders played great. We were putting lines together an hour before the game so to come out and move the puck around the way we did was pretty incredible. There was some very good play making out there. There is no system in place so to speak and the goaltenders know they are going to see a lot of shots so to their credit they made some great stops. The way our kids were moving the puck around they looked like they had been playing together for a very long time."

After racing out to a 4-1 lead after the first period, this game was never in doubt. Despite facing 43 shots, South's three goaltenders (St. John's of Shrewsbury’s Mario Pizzeri, Framingham's Al Lynch and Brookline's Jake Paul) were outstanding between the pipes.

"We got an early goal on them and I think that sort of set the momentum for us," said Pizzeri, who will play at Assumption College next year. "This was certainly a fun way to go out and a great way to end my high school career."

Offensively, Marshfield forward David Cataldo led the attack as he found the back of net twice. His rebound goal coming at 6:46 of the opening period set the gears in motion for the South squad. Three minutes later, Braintree's Nick Ward made it a two-goal affair after taking a diagonal pass from Trevor O'Brien and beating Springfield Cathedral goaltender John Liquori low glove side.

Wachusett Regional's Marc Happy, taking a well-executed behind the net feed from Jim Currier, ripped a one-timer past Pizzeri to bring his team to within a goal at 10:21 but that is as close as the North stars would get.

"I'm disappointed in regards to the final outcome but this is truly a great event and the fact that it is helping a great cause with Shriners Hospitals," said North and Winchester forward Brendan Greene.

Just 32 seconds after Happy's score, Duxbury's Nick Marrocco, standing in front of the crease, back-handed a shot by Liquori to give South back its two-goal advantage.

Things seemed to snowball from there. With less than three minutes remaining in the period, Cataldo, off a well-timed pass from Robbie Souza, ripped a shot into the back of the net from the left slot to send South into the first intermission leading by three goals.

"Surprisingly we had some very good chemistry among all of us despite having never played together," Cataldo said. "All of the lines seemed to be clicking today. You are going to develop chemistry with all of these kids coming to this game. All of them can play hockey, they can adjust and they learn to play with other kids very quickly. That is why they are here.

“It's cool to play with all of these guys because you read about them during the season."

Early in the middle frame, South picked up right where it left off to end the first. Just 2:21 into the period, Archbishop Williams forward Mike Sorenti, taking a pass from Xaverian's Antonio Marini down low, skated across the front of the crease and patiently waited for St. Mary's of Lynn goalie Bailey MacBurnie to commit before sending a shot beyond the senior's out-stretched right leg pad to make it 5-1.

With North seeing its opportunities being stoned regularly, South continued to maintain its offensive charge. Xaverian's Ricky Smith padded the lead to five at 13:56 with a laser from 20 feet out that MacBurnie never saw.

"It was fun to go out there and play with a bunch of new guys," said South defenseman and St. John's (Shrewsbury) standout Bryan Nelson. "A lot of the guys I knew from playing with or against in squirts and pee-wees. It was nice to see them and catch up on things with them. This felt more like a summer tournament game. It was a lot of fun."

To its credit, North wasn't about to go down easily during the final period. Opening up the offense a bit more, they sent 19 shots toward Paul but none got past him. Meanwhile, Dartmouth's Joseph Correia added to North's misery by tallying an unassisted goal at 13:10. South also finished with 43 shots.

"The real surprise in all of this is the one goal by them on the other end," Fasano said. "That is unheard of in these types of games whether it be high school, college or the NHL. Usually those kinds of games have some pretty-big numbers. This was a lot of fun to be apart of and was a great show put on by both the Shriners and the Worcester Sharks."

D3 Central final: Shrewsbury 4, Wachusett 1

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
1:49
AM ET
FITCHBURG, Mass. -- There were little reminders left everywhere. Shrewsbury head coach Steve Turnblom made it a habit to remind his team about the past.

So too, did his assistant coaches. Previous articles on unforgiving postseason losses to Wachusett were taped to locker room walls for all eyes to see and ponder.

To know the history of the Colonials' underachieving battles against the Mountaineers in the Central Mass. Division 3 tournament in recent years is to understand that Wachusett has owned Shrewsbury. In the last three seasons, the Colonials have been bounced out of the playoffs by Wachusett.

So in Monday night's Central Mass. Division 3 final between the two powers, questions lingered as to whether or not history would reap its ugly head yet again on Shrewsbury or would the script be different this time around?

As a result, the Colonials chose the latter, scoring a pair of goals in each of the first two periods and, in the process, posted a 4-1 triumph at the Wallace Civic Center. The win was the Colonials third over Wachusett this year, after beating them twice during the regular season.

No. 1 Shrewsbury (19-2-1) moves on to the state semifinals where it will meet defending state champion Westfield (14-5-3) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.

"Everyone was telling me all week that you can't beat a team three times in a season so I was a little worried," admitted Turnblom. "But I knew if we came to play we would have a good shot. It is very impressive for these kids to beat them three times in a season."

To get over the hurdle of believing they could defeat the No. 3 Mountaineers (16-5-2) when it mattered most, the Colonials went out and did just that. Goals by Tyler O'Keefe and Cole Amback (on the power play) at 14:01 and 14:57, respectively, of the opening period had Shrewsbury on top 2-0 heading into the first intermission.

After going toe-to-toe against its Quinn Conference rivals for the first 13 minutes of this contest, giving up those two late markers sent Wachusett into the dressing room a deflated and dejected bunch.

That demeanor seemed to carry itself over into the middle frame. At 2:31, junior Joseph Buduo, taking a diagonal pass from Dave Belbin, sent a shot into the top right corner of the net to extend the Colonials advantage to 3-0. Five minutes later, Buduo would answer the call again. This time the forward gathered a bouncing puck in front of Wachusett starting goaltender Jake Strasser (16 saves on 20 shots) and hoisted a quick wrist shot past the senior's catching glove.

"We just went out there and played as hard as we could," Buduo said. "We wanted to crash the net on Strasser because he likes to play out a lot. That team has knocked us out of the playoffs the past three years so getting a little revenge tonight really feels good."

Following Buduo's second tally, Strasser was pulled in favor Andrew Carter. The junior managed to hold down the fort for the remainder of the game, stopping all 8 shots he faced. By then, though, the damage had already been done. The Mountaineers offense struggled mightily throughout, unable to gain much consistency with the puck as Shrewsbury's defense and forwards swarmed all over them once they got across the red line.

Wachusett was also playing shorthanded. Defenseman Matt Cappucci did not dress due to a concussion. Sam Pridotkas, another defenseman, received a season-ending disqualification for a hitting from behind penalty in an first round game against Westboro. In addition, center Brian Boulette was home with flu-like symptoms. Never one to make excuses, Wachusett head coach Matt Lane said that was not the difference in the outcome of this one.

"The kids who came to the rink tonight gave it all they had," he said. "I told them for the last 22 minutes of this game it was 1-0 us and we held them without a score. But Shrewsbury caught fire at the end of the first and later in the second period with a couple of nice goals. But we cannot and will not make excuses. Our guys played their hearts out. We never seemed to recover from the goal they got with 3 seconds left in the first period. They move the puck well all night and are always cycling to the slot and it's tough to stay with them. We just couldn't break the ice against them."

With less than two minutes remaining in the second, Wachusett senior forward Marc Happy scored a power-play goal but it did little to rattle Shrewsbury. The Colonials blanketed the Mountaineers over the last 15 minutes, limiting them to just five shots.

"We had two articles posted in our locker room showing last year's loss to them," said Turnblom, referring to his club's 2-1 overtime defeat in the CMass semifinals. "I told the kids to remember the tears and all the sadness they felt after that loss and take it to the ice tonight because they had a good shot to win. That was certainly momentum for us. We got those two goals in the first period to give us the lead, and once we got those, we tried to play solid defense after that and I felt we pretty-much achieved that."

D1 Central: Franklin 56, Wachusett 38

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
12:56
AM ET
HOLDEN, Mass. -- Just because it happens in the regular season, doesn't mean it will carry over to the playoffs.

But that was okay for Franklin, which ditched its slow starts it had seen in the regular season for a very strong one, jumping out to an 11-2 early lead and never looking back on their way to a 56-38 win over Wachusett.

"My assistants were saying yesterday in practice how its been a while since we got out to a good lead early," said Franklin head coach Dean O'Connor. "We came out and shot the ball well early. We knew they'd be in a zone and its important to hit some early so they start coming out on you so you can start getting the ball inside. Getting off to a good start was huge, especially on the road."

Wachusett's zone was no match for Chris Rodgers, who drained 3-pointers in the opening quarter and Dylan Reno and Quenten Harrell each added one apiece. The Panthers jumped out to a commanding 21-8 lead after one.

"We saw them against Brookline and you have to pick your poison with them," said Wachusett head coach Tom Gibbons. "We needed to get off to a good start I thought so them making those shots early, it forced our hand a little bit and we had to change the game plan."

It looked as though Wachusett was going to close the gap, as they twice got the game within two possessions early in the second quarter, but Franklin rattled off 10 straight points to turn a 23-17 lead into a 33-17 lead and Franklin took a 35-20 lead into halftime.

The Panthers really put the game out of reach in the third quarter even though they scored just 12 points. It was their defense that dominated the game from start to finish, limiting Wachusett to just six points in the third quarter, on their way to a 47-26 lead going into the final frame.

"We knew they were good defensively," said Gibbons. "We were not getting any rhythm to say the least. We really struggled in all areas but you have to give them credit. They really get after it defensively and they have nice pieces. They beat us to every loose ball, they beat us on the glass. They're a dangerous team, they could go far."

Though the hot start wasn't something they carried in from the regular season, their strong defense was after giving up just over 55 points a game in the regular season.

"We played well," O'Connor said. "We really pride ourselves on playing good defense. I was really worried about rebounding with their size but I thought we did a good job on that and holding them to one shot. We tried to make it tough to score on us. We played a solid game so I'm happy."

Franklin was held to just nine points in the final quarter (allowing 12 to Wachusett), but all of their points game at crucial times that killed any Wachusett momentum. Tim Prunier hit consecutive three-pointers, beating the shot clock buzzer and the other off an offensive board. Rodgers was able to bury another three too, this one also late in the shot clock.

Rodgers finished with a game-high 16 points but Franklin finished with four players in double figures as Harrell, Prunier and junior Marcus Giese all added 10 points.

"The other guys really stepped for [Franklin]," Gibbons added. "We knew Rodgers was good, we knew he gets the ball to the rim so we tried to provide good help and stop him early, but the other guys stepped up to their credit."

Sophomore Tyler Dion led Wachusett with 11 points while Brad Durkin added nine points and Justin Bowker finished with eight points.

Franklin will now play Worcester South in the D1 Central Semifinals on Sunday at 6:30 at WPI. South upset top-seeded Fitchburg 64-51.
Some quick-hit thoughts from the week’s high school basketball action around Massachusetts:

1. Don’t look now, but it’s looking like that time of year again for Lynn English. Last season, after a 4-4 start, the Bulldogs won 15 of their next 16 games before bowing out in the Division 1 North Final, their first such appearance since the fabled 2009 state final run. When they are fully healthy and in full swing, the Bulldogs’ backcourt of Freddy Hogan, Erick Rosario and Stevie Collins is among the state’s best, and they’ve proven as much with two gutsy wins over NEC rivals -– first a 15-point rally over Danvers, then a dramatic victory over Salem to avenge the loss two weeks prior.

The excuse for the early slump last year was that coach Mike Carr’s run-and-gun, full-court man-to-man pressure system takes about half a season to get used to. With a year of that system under their belts, that doesn’t feel applicable for the recent spell of three losses in four games that ended with the Danvers win. Perhaps it had more to do with the need for more assertion on the boards, a problem that tends to arise as the Bulldogs sometimes surrender the offensive boards in order to prevent a fast break going the other way. The return of Collins from injury should bolster the backcourt, but if the “Runnin’ Dawgs” are to replicate last year’s success, promising athletic forwards Danny Lukanda and Johnny Hilaire are going to be the key.

2. Went and saw Marshfield host Barnstable on Saturday night, a battle between two unranked teams in our Top 25 poll, and I got the feeling one of these teams –- maybe both -– could steal a game in what should be a wide-open D1 South tournament. Bob Fisher has won everywhere he went, which includes this latest stop at Marshfield, where he always seems to move past the first round. Against Barnstable, the Rams were 11-of-26 from three-point range in a 63-53 win, including a 5-for-7 mark in the first quarter. They get a night like that in D1 South, combined with their speed in transition, and I could see them dealing haymakers to a high seed.

Realistically, Barnstable might be a year away from being a bona fide contender, but first-year coach Chuck Kipnes has this program going in the right direction, and there is plenty to like with this young group. Two underclassmen in particular to keep an eye on are sophomore point guard Izaiah Winston-Brooks, a transplant from Boston, and junior forward Elijah Baptiste, a long and lanky slasher who excels on the wing and has deep range. Winston-Brooks is strong on the ball and vicious driving with his left, and made a few nifty dishes to post players for some sweet assists. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kipnes score an upset on somebody in the South.

3. Seeing Shabazz Napier’s jersey retired at Charlestown on Friday night conjured up a lot of memories for what was a brilliant high school career split between the Townies and Lawrence Academy. My favorite memory of Napier is his final game in an LA uniform, the 2010 NEPSAC Class B Final against St. Mark’s. The undersized Spartans were getting hammered underneath in the first half by the likes of Nate Lubick and Kalb Tarczewski, with many of LA's stars (including Napier) racking up three first-half fouls. Throughout his career Napier wowed fans with no-look passes and dagger three’s, but in this battle he took control of the game in second half by slowing the game to a crawl. Literally, each trip down he would bring the ball over halfcourt and huddle up with the other four players on the floor as he continued dribbling, milking the shot clock for all its worth. The Spartans rallied to win by 10 in that game, still one of my favorite NEPSAC games I’ve covered in my career.

4. It there is one weakness with No. 1 Springfield Putnam, it is its shooting ability. But then again, that was the Beavers’ glaring weakness last year, and they rode that deficiency all the way to a D1 state title. Call me crazy, call me whimsical, but I’m a firm believer that there is a difference between a good shooting team and a timely shooting team. The Beavers certainly aren’t a great shooting team, getting most of their baskets off turnovers and fast breaks. But I saw Ty Nichols hit a gutsy three against Nazareth (N.Y.) back in December to force overtime, and apparently he was up to his old tricks against Holyoke this week, hitting a buzzer-beater to rally the Beavers from down five with 1:30 to go. When their feet are held to the fire, the Beavers pride themselves on not being out-toughed or out-played.

5. Continuing with the “defense trumps offense” theme over in girls’ basketball, I thought No. 1 Braintree made a statement in sweeping its season series with Newton North, even if the Tigers were without star guard Infiniti Thomas-Waheed. The Tigers have been a tough out for the Wamps the second time around. Defense has never been a question in Braintree, but if you’ve been following our girls basketball coverage the last two seasons, you know my biggest criticism of the Wamps is their scoring ability. Well, they put up 70 on a pretty talented Newton North team tonight, so I guess that shows how much I know. Don’t be surprised if there is a third installment of this growing rivalry in the D1 South tournament, either.

6. Two milestones that deserve some praise: Wachusett’s Tom Gibbons, who earned his 200th win in an overtime victory over Fitchburg; and Mahar’s Chad Softic, who earned his 100th win in his seventh season at the helm of the Senators’ program. Under Gibbons’ watch, the Mountaineers have always scheduled tough, and been consistently in the upper echelon within its division. Like his brethren in the famous Gibbons coaching family of Central Mass.,Tom is as genuinely good a human being as you’ll come across.

Softic inherited a program at Mahar that was just looking to get off the canvas, and after going 1-19 his first season he brought the Senators hardware in year five, beating heavily-favored Brighton in the 2012 Division 2 State Championship. The Senators basically played six kids that on paper did not hold water to All-State Brighton players Malik James and Nick Simpson; but they ate the Bengals' much-vaunted extended 3-2 zone alive, jumping out to a 17-3 first quarter lead and making it hold up for a four-point victory. To this day, that is one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen in my time covering high school sports in Massachusetts.

No. 22 Shrewsbury eyes D3 state title

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
9:58
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- It was right around the midway point of last year's hockey season when people began taking notice of Shrewsbury High's upstart team.

The Colonials were being reminded often on how good it looked and how great they could be. But it wasn't too long after when the Colonials, themselves, started buying into the hype — perhaps a bit too much.

You could make a case that Shrewsbury's top-scoring line of a year ago was as good as any in the state; it was certainly best in Central Mass. They were a multi-talented group with an uncanny ability of moving the puck around on a dime inside an opponent's defensive zone. The trio worked so beautifully together that they combined for an eye-catching 125 points.

The belief was that Shrewsbury had enough talent to whisk past its competitors in district play and would finish it off with a MIAA state championship trophy in tow.

It didn’t go quite according to script.

In last February's Division 3 Central Mass. semifinal played at Fitchburg's Wallace Civic Center, the favored Colonials endured a gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss to Wachusett Regional. Suddenly, in the span of a millisecond, all of the talk, predictions and championship dreams had vanished.

Even today, almost a year later, the loss continues to gnaw at them. But instead of feeling sorry for themselves, the Colonials are using it as motivation.

Just a month into this season and it appears as though the motivation is working.

The Colonials, ranked No. 24 in ESPN Boston’s MIAA Top 25 poll, have sprinted out of the starting block with reckless abandon. Following Monday night's win over Hudson, Shrewsbury presently sits at 8-0. They are averaging over seven goals per game and have yet to be seriously tested. For this team, which last won a state championship in 2009, it has an agenda to meet and it won't conclude until they are the last ones standing come March inside TD Garden.

"That loss to Wachusett last year is what is driving us this year," said junior forward and leading scorer Dan Quinlivan (11 goals, 6 assists), who is paired with twin brother Jack and junior Trevor Shea to form one of Shrewsbury's four solid lines. "You never want to go out that way, especially in overtime like we did. It was a lesson learned."

Last year, the Quinlivans were teamed with first-line center Dave Belbin in forming one of region’s most formidable trios. The chemistry between them, not to mention their speed, puck-handling accuracy and precision-like passing skills were crisp and fluent.

This season, third-year head coach Steve Turnblom made a surprise move when he decided to tweak his lines a bit in an attempt to get more scoring production from other team members. Belbin now anchors a line with fellow senior Derek Dell'Olio and sophomore Adam Twitchell.

"Moving guys around has helped us a lot," sophomore defenseman Matt Dillon said. "Last year Dave, Jack and Dan were putting up most of the points. This year we have Dave's line and then we have Jack and Dan's line. Our third and fourth lines are contributing as well. The depth we have in all four of our lines has helped out quite a bit."

Dan Quinlivan said, "Last year the better programs had players who could shut our first line down at times. This year we have goal scorers on every line."

With each shift, Shrewsbury appears to be playing with a purpose. Its tempo is fast and furious the entire 45 minutes. Its hybrid offensive style has left a few opponents scrambling for the bench in an effort to catch their breath.

"Our speed is a factor no doubt," said Belbin, who netted 22 goals and added 20 assists a year ago. "But at the same time we knew we needed to be more-sound defensively. I think that is where we have stepped it up this year (having allowed just 12 goals). Last year the focus was on scoring points. This year, there is more attention being paid to keeping teams off the boards, create some havoc in our defensive zone and finish off our checks. The points will come off of that."

With upcoming games against such powers as St. John's (Shrewsbury), Wachusett, Groton-Dunstable and Longmeadow, the Colonials realize they have the firepower to win a state title. But the Colonials can also expect to see the best from every opponent they face. No matter the record.

"We know we are going to get everyone's A-gamem which I think is good because our guys will be ready for it," Turnblom said. "However, there is that old cliché that anyone can beat anyone. We certainly understand that. How we get better from game to game is the key for us. It's all about the little things you need to do to get better as a team. Going out and slapping teams around, but being sloppy in doing it, does us no good.

“Eventually that will come back to bite you as we know, especially when you are in a big game against a Wachusett, or St. John's, or during the playoffs. We still need to tighten things up at both ends of the ice and keep our minds focused in every game that we play. It is so important for all of us to know exactly what each one is doing out there."

Perhaps, most importantly, there is no trace of selfishness to be found in Shrewsbury’s game. To a player, all have a particular role and they execute.

"Come playoff time everyone should understand their roles here," said winger turned center Jack Quinlivan, who paced Shrewsbury with 25 goals last season. "Everyone will get their shot at some point, you just don't know when. But when that opportunity does come you have to be ready for it."

An area that plagued the Colonials a year ago was an inconsistency in goal.

As productive as Shrewsbury's offense was, its goaltenders were allowing nearly as much at the other end of the ice. It was an issue Turnblom knew he needed to address once the season came to an end. This year, he has three goaltenders, all of whom, he says are capable of stoning the opposition.

At present, seniors Will Shipman and Matt Andrews are the front-runners with sophomore Shane Gorrie not far behind. Combined, the team’s goals against average sits below 2.00.

Andrews came on board this year after transferring from nearby St. John's of Shrewsbury. Dropping down from a Division 1 level program to Division 3 did raise a few eyebrows but Andrews stands by his decision.

"I've known most of the guys on this team for a very long time," Andrews said. "This was something I really wanted to do. I hang out with most of these guys all the time. It wasn't really a sports thing for me but more about being with my friends. It's a joy playing with all of them again and being apart of this team."

Turnblom felt he also needed to shore up his team's defensive play. New addition Sean Hallice, who spent the last couple of seasons playing juniors before opting out and joining Shrewsbury this season, has been nothing short of spectacular. Not only can the senior shadow an opposing club's top offensive threat, but has also proven to be a valuable commodity offensively, registering six goals and seven assists. He, along with Dillon, Cole Vincequere and Cole Ambach have given the Colonials' defense some much-needed depth. In addition, their ability to transition the puck swiftly up ice to the forwards has been well-received.

"Between our offense and defense it gives you a good feeling of confidence in all of our lines," Hallice said. "You quickly realize that if I screw up or someone else screws up we all have each other's backs."

Said Jack Quinlivan, "The defense has been very good at getting the puck up to forwards quickly. We constantly try to suck the life out of teams with our speed. If teams can't stay with us they eventually wear down."

There are some pessimists who are quick to point out that the majority of Shrewsbury's schedule offers little challenge. Even though the Colonials traditionally play in the most-competitive Division 3 conference (the Quinn) in Central Mass., there are some weaknesses this year. Hudson, Marlborough and Auburn, all of whom have enjoyed success in the past, are in rebuilding modes and not expected to contend this year. Therefore, Shrewsbury will rely heavily on its upcoming confrontations against conference foe Wachusett (twice), St. John's, Groton-Dunstable and Longmeadow to prepare them for what lies ahead.

"You cannot take anyone lightly no matter who we play," Dillon said. "You have to treat every team the same and be ready to play every game."

Wachusett has been a thorn in the Colonials' sides the past few seasons. The Mountaineers, who fell to eventual state champ Westfield in last year's state semifinal, have not lost to Shrewsbury in three years. They look to keep that trend going when the two clubs square off next Saturday.

"We realize it will be a difficult task to try and stop a team that is averaging nearly eight goals a game," Wachusett coach Matt Lane said. "They have something like 10 different players who have already scored multiple goals. We know it'll take a strong defensive effort and outstanding goaltending on our part to stay in the game with them."

Should the Colonials stumble a bit during the season, it still appears likely they will have sewn up a playoff spot by month's end. When this does occur, don't expect them to rest on their laurels.

The team's first priority is to be the No. 1 seed in next month's Central Mass. tournament and begin, what they hope, is a solid postseason run that will carry them to Boston this time around.

"We know we have a good team," Ambach said. "But we can't go out there thinking we are best team because we all know what happened last year. We are always looking for ways to improve. We just need to keep things on an even keel throughout the entire season and not get too far ahead of ourselves."

MIAA Boys Hoop Countdown: Nos. 25-21

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:41
PM ET
To kick off the start of the MIAA basketball season, ESPNBoston.com will spend the next five days counting down the teams in our Preseason MIAA Top 25 Poll, starting with Nos. 25 through 21 today and concluding with the state’s top five teams on Friday.

Today’s previews include Hockomock members Taunton and Sharon, a Bishop Feehan squad who is moving up to Division 2 with a solid core coming back, and Central Mass. foes South and Wachusett, along with our “Last 10 out”.

For a refresher on how the final 2012-13 poll ended up, CLICK HERE.

Be sure to check back each day this week for the latest in the boys basketball top 25 countdown.

Last 10 out: Braintree (13-10), Doherty (14-7), East Boston (11-7), Fitchburg (13-9), Franklin (16-8), Lynn Classical (15-9), Milton (15-9), North Quincy (18-6), Quincy (14-7), Watertown (13-8)

25. WACHUSETT
Coach: Tom Gibbons
2012-13 results: 19-5, reached Division 1 Central Semifinals
Key players: Tyler Dion, Justin Bowker, Kevin Durkin, Brian Quinn
Analysis: The Mountaineers lost a lot of leadership off of last year’s team, including graduated seniors Zack Berman, Jesse Maresca, Trevor MacNeil, Zach Knapp, and Alex Cooper, but Coach Tom Gibbons returns what may be the biggest frontcourt in Central Mass. in juniors Kevin Durkin and Justin Bowker. At 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-5, respectively, the Mountaineers’ twin towers will man the post, while sophomore point guard Tyler Dion, who picked up plenty of big-game experience last year, will be expected to fill Berman’s shoes at point guard.

24. BISHOP FEEHAN
Coach: Matt Freeman
2012-13 results: 18-4, Division 3 South quarterfinals
Key players: Mike Nelson, Frank Oftring, Austin Burlone
Analysis: Feehan has to be one of the favorites in Division 2 following their run in last year’s playoffs. The Shamrocks return senior Austin Burlone, junior Frank Oftring, and sophomore star Mike Nelson in hopes of building off an 18-win season last year. With games in the opening few weeks against Archbishop Williams, Westford Academy, and Martha’s Vineyard, we’ll find out soon enough just how far this Feehan squad can be expected to go this year.

23. WORCESTER SOUTH
Coach: Pat Williams
2012-13 results: 14-7, lost in Division 1 Central First Round
Key players: Kasheen Cunningham, Nate Mensah, Khalil Bryan-Robinson, Aaron Maday
Analysis: The Colonels will be living life without last year’s star Rod Milton, but the cupboard is far from bare for South coach Pat Williams. South returns three of their top four scorers from last year, including point guard Kasheen Cunningham, combo guard Nate Mensah, and forwards Khalil Bryan-Robinson and Aaron Maday. As has been the case for the last three years, the top dog in the Inter-High will likely come down to South or Doherty, a fierce rivalry that has been a must-see matchup every time the two meet.

22. SHARON
Coach: Bruce Jackman
2012-13 results: 15-8, Division 2 South semifinals
Key players: Brian Mukasa, Jimmy Firtzson, Erik Kushner, Ade Bright
Analysis: There aren't many backcourts in the area that are going to be stronger than the pair of seniors Brian Mukasa and Jimmy Fritzson. Both finished in the top 10 in scoring in the Hockomock last year and both have the chance to eclipse the 1,000-point mark this season. The biggest question will be down low, were the Eagles graduated Kevin Bartas and Ian Beach, but they will rely heavily on Erik Kushner and players from last year's JV squad, who only had one loss last season.

21. TAUNTON
Coach: Charlie Dacey
2012-13 results: 16-7, reached Division 1 South semifinals
Key players: Gerald Cortijo, Shaq Davis, Corey Green.
Analysis: Taunton had a strong first campaign in the Hockomock League last season, and will look to try and upset Mansfield as the top team in the Kelley-Rex this year. Shaq Davis, who has been making plays for Taunton for some time now, will be back with another year of experience under his belt as. Sharpshooter Gerald Cortijo and Corey Green, who is just a junior, will also be big playmakers for the Tigers.

Soccer Roundup: Silver Lake routs New Bedford

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
1:05
AM ET
WEYMOUTH, Mass. -– Paul Beatty scored a second half hat trick to break open Thursday night’s Division 1 South sectional semifinal at Weymouth High. Beatty’s goals helped No. 1 seed (and No. 1 ranked) Silver Lake cruise to a 5-0 victory over No. 4 seed New Bedford.

Despite the final score, it was New Bedford that looked stronger at the start with star midfielder Klisman Sousa combining well with forward Edmilson Andrade and winger Felipe Ponte to put Silver Lake under pressure. The Whalers had the best chances of the first half and both came off of Sousa’s boot.

First, the Whalers senior played an in-swinging free kick that picked out defender Shawn Dias flying in at the far post, but he was unable to put the header on target. Just a minute later, New Bedford came forward again and Sousa worked the slightest sight of goal and let loose a left-foot rocket that Silver Lake keeper Stephen McSwain punched away.

Beatty had very little service in the first half with New Bedford putting a defender in front and behind him. The complexion of the game changed with just four minutes before the break. A long throw was barely touched past the post by Whalers keeper Austin Eugenio. On the resulting corner, New Bedford failed to clear and the ball bounced into the path of Tim Barrow, who ripped smashed it home to open the scoring.

Down by a goal, New Bedford started the second half by pushing numbers forward. That left room at the back for the speed of Beatty to have effect.

Lakers head coach Dan Correia explained, “They had all the momentum at that point, so for us to be able to be scrappy in the box and tuck one away...I mean those are the goals you need to get in these games. That opened things up a little bit in the second half because they had to change things defensively and freed Paul up.”

Beatty admitted that he was frustrated by the way the first half had gone, but he did not let it get to him. Instead, with his first real look at goal the striker was able to hit a shot that was deflected up over Eugenio to make it 2-0 just three minutes after halftime.

Beatty noted, “You just have to keep knowing that you’re doing the right thing and getting to places where you can get the ball and it will come eventually. I needed that to put me in the right state of mind.”

New Bedford tried to get back into the game through its star player, but Sousa was denied by McSwain again. The keeper was somehow able to get two hands to punch away a swerving shot and then also got down well to palm away the follow-up rebound by Andrade when it seemed destined for the net.

New Bedford head coach John Macaraco remarked that his team was unlucky not to have been on the board and that a goal at that moment would have changed the game.

He said, “The score doesn’t indicate how close this game was; every chance they got, they finished. Their keeper came up with some good saves. If we make it 2-1 then it’s a different game.”

From that point on, New Bedford struggled to get into the possession game that defines its style. Macaraco added, “We never settled down and got into our rhythm. I always say we need to play 'Calma' and I think we played 'calma' and go into our rhythm and if we did, I think the outcome would’ve been different.”

The Whalers were also facing a striker that suddenly felt momentum on his side. Beatty started to find a lot of space to turn and run at defenders. Fifteen minutes into the second half he went one-on-one with Ty Catunto and blew past him to finish from just inside the box to make it 3-0. A few minutes later he tapped in his hat trick when Sean Hurlburt’s long throw was allowed to bounce to him in the middle of the box.

Correia was aksed if this was a typical game for his center forward and he replied simply, “Yeah.”

He elaborated, “I think that’s 35 goals this season. He just has that extra gear that guys don’t have.”

Macaraco pointed to the goal as changing the way his team approached defending Beatty. He remarked, “Once we got down, you know, we had to push some numbers up top. We made a few mental mistakes and, with his blistering speed, he’s able to finish most of his chances.”

Silver Lake added a fifth in the final minutes when Brendan Nemes found space on the edge of the 18 and curled his shot into the top corner. It was an emphatic exclamation point on a dominating win for the Lakers.

It was also the final game in the New Bedford career of the talented Sousa, who drew praise from both coaches after the game. Macaraco reflected, “He’s a special player and he needs just an inch of space and with his ability he can get that inch and get that shot off. It’s been a pleasure being part of his four years at the high school.”

Silver Lake advances to the sectional final on Sunday at Taunton High at 5:30 p.m. to play the defending state champion Needham, which beat BC High 3-0 in the other semifinal.

TOURNAMENT NOTES:
  • While the Needham boys advanced to the sectional final with a solid win in a rematch with the Eagles, the Needham girls could not match the feat in the nightcap at Medway High. The Rockets were beaten 2-0 by defending champ Franklin, which returns to the sectional final. The Panthers got goals from Alexis Stowell and Taylor Cogliano in the first half to earn the victory. The D1 South final will feature the top two seeds, as Bishop Feehan scored in double overtime to end the amazing tournament run of Walpole. It was the first goal that the Rebels had given up in four playoff games.
  • In the D2 South boys’ semifinals, No. 2 seed Oliver Ames allowed a goal within the opening three minutes but then stormed back on a Dave Stapleton free kick and second half header by Gaston Cetrangolo to reach its first ever South final with a 2-1 win over Hingham. The Tigers will face No.13 seed Walpole, which beat Pembroke 2-0. Both of these teams competed in D1 last season. The girls’ final In D2, as it does in D1, will feature the top two seeds with No. 1 Scituate beating Sandwich 1-0 and No. 2 Notre Dame (Hingham) beating Dartmouth 3-2. Those finals will be played on Veterans Day at Braintree High.
  • There was another big upset on the girls’ side on Thursday. The top team in the state, Central Catholic, and the No. 4 team, Duxbury, were already eliminated and now the No. 3 team, Belchertown, is out as well. The Orioles were stunned in the D1 West sectional 1-0 by Pittsfield. The loss ends the remarkable careers of all-state twins Brittany and Breanne Moreau and puts Pittsfield back into the West sectional final for the second year in a row. Minnechaug will be the opponent after it beat East Longmeadow 2-1. There was also an upset on the boys’ side of D1 West with No. 2 seed Amherst beaten on penalties by West Springfield in the semifinal.
  • There will be a rematch in the D1 North boys’ final, as No. 1 seed Somerville beat Malden 3-0 and No. 3 seed St. John’s Prep knocked off Madison Park in double overtime. The Highlanders, led by forward Thayrone Miranda (you know, the guy who did this), will be looking to repeat as sectional champions. On the girls’ side, Newton North will face Acton-Boxborough. The North finals will be on Saturday at Manning Field in Lynn. Also on Saturday at Manning Field will be a top 10 showdown against unbeaten North Andover and perennial D2 power Concord-Carlisle, which will be one of the top games of the tournament. Not to be outdone, the D2 girls will feature a match-up of Beverly and ESPNBoston.com Miss Soccer candidate Caitlin Harty against Concord-Carlisle. Amazingly, those are not even the sectional finals; those are just the semis.
  • In the Central, the defending D1 champion Nashoba girls were eliminated by rival Algonuin. Last year, the Tomahawks lost only three games in the season, each of them against the Chieftains. Algonuin will face top seed Westborough in the final to be held at Wachusett. Westborough also has the top seed on the boys’ side and the Rangers advanced to the sectional final to face Wachusett, which knocked off two-time D2 state champion Groton-Dunstable (moved into D1 after the Central lost a Division 2). Wachusett will host the boys’ final. Like Westborough in D1, Sutton will have both the boys and girls in the finals in D4 after both were dropped down from D3.

Silver Lake to No. 3 in boys' soccer poll

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
5:58
PM ET
New Bedford retains the top spot in our MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll this week ahead of Tuesday's clash with Big Three rival Brockton, which tied the Whalers in the first meeting. A pair of scoreless draws last week drops Needham down a couple of spots to No. 4 and Somerville moves back up to the two spot.

Silver Lake's impressive 5-1 win over St. John's Prep jumps them above Needham, while Masconomet moves to No. 3, but even with the loss, the Eagles stay in the Top 10 just ahead of their Catholic Conference rivals BC High (who Prep has beaten twice this season).

The Division 1 West sectional should be a battle with three teams in the Top 20, which based on the number of qualifiers from last season, means almost 40 percent of the sectional is ranked. Ludlow has been inconsistent but remains in the Top 10 closely followed by Belchertown with Amherst at No. 19. Central also has three teams, two from D1 and Sutton from D3,

Oliver Ames drops into the Last 10 Out after another draw in the Hockomock League, but watch out for the Tigers in D2 South. OA is replaced by Westborough, which enters the rankings for the second time this season at No. 18. The Rangers were the first team to beat Ludlow this season (at the time the Lions were no. 1) and are the only team to beat Wachusett this year.

There are two undefeated teams in the Last 10 Out, newly dropped Oliver Ames and EAC champion Martha's Vineyard.

This demonstrates how much parity exists as soccer continues to become more popular and the level of play increases across the state.

Just one more week until we're looking at playoff brackets and the excitement (and mohawks) are already growing.

For this week's full poll, click HERE.

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