Much like we did Monday with the boys, we're back to break down our preseason Top 20 for girls' lacrosse.
The Globe's Amanda Bruno checks in today with a season overview focusing on Westwood's quest for a state championship. Below is our Top 20, along with thoughts on each team.
1. Westwood -- The Wolverines took Framingham to the wire in last year's Eastern Mass. title game, but Kristin Igoe scored with nine seconds to play to push the Flyers onto the state final. Westwood wasn't bitten quite as hard as the Flyers by graduation and bringing back the likes of Northwestern-bound Alex Frank makes the Wolverines our preseason favorite.
2. Wellesley -- If this poll came out yesterday, Framingham would have been entrenched in this spot (and you could make the case that the Flyers probably deserved top billing as defending state champs). But Wellesley's 6-5 triumph snapped Framingham's 52-game winning streak and, if you believe Stacey Freda, shifted the power of balance in the Bay State Conference. "That's a better team," Freda told the MetroWest Daily News. "We were just hoping we'd be able to stick with them a little bit. We knew coming in we were a server underdog and that's obviously the best team in our conference."
3. Framingham -- We're not exactly buying this "severe underdog" talk after the Wellesley loss, and we fully expect the Flyers to rebound sooner than later. There's simply too much talent here. The Flyers need to forge their own identity after graduation hit hard yet again. No one will want to see this team in June.
4. Lincoln-Sudbury -- The Warriors do everything well. Globe All-Scholastic Jess Griffin commands attention on offense, but there's a rash of midfielders who can put the ball in the twine. Defensively, L-S clogs the middle in front of the net... if you can get that far as the Warriors absolutely attack between the restraining lines. And the goalie tandem of junior Tess Shananka and senior captain Natalie Kerns are rock solid.
5. Andover -- Not good for opponents when Andover graduates a boatload of talent and coach John McVeigh says things like, "We've been the most balanced that we've ever been." The Warriors always seem a step quicker than their opponents and we see them right in the hunt in Division 1 North.
6. King Philip -- Coach Mike Vitelli admitted his team's strength -- its passing and receiving -- failed the team in Monday's 14-8 loss to Lincoln-Sudbury. These Warriors have some kinks to work out, but that's par for the course this time of year. All-Scholastic goaltender Katie Florence can single-handedly keep KP in a game when its offense is struggling, while there's a lot of talent surrounding All-Scholastic Mary Pasquantonio up front.
7. Needham -- The Rockets opened the season with a nice 10-goal win over Bay State Carey rival Weymouth. Remember that Needham quietly won 13 of its last 14 games last spring (only loss coming to Framingham) before falling to Westwood in the Division 1 South semifinals.
8. Duxbury -- Give the Green Dragons credit for challenging themselves out of the gates. The defending Division 2 champs fell to Westwood, 19-6, on March 31, but rebounded with a one-goal win over Norwell. Those type of games will aid Duxbury when it tries to defend its title in June. As will talent like captains Trisha Babson and Erine Levesque.
9. Winchester -- Is this the year the Sachems get over the hump? Coach Suzanne Ontso's squad has struggled in the Division 2 title game the past three seasons, falling twice to Norwell and last year to Duxbury. But there's enough talent here to get them back to that championship tilt, including senior Meg Sullivan (80 points last spring).
10. Reading -- The Rockets seem to be narrowing the gap between them and Winchester in the Middlesex League. After falling twice to the Sachems last season, Reading earned a 9-9 tie in the teams' first meeting this spring. The Rockets advanced to the Division 1 North semifinals last year before falling to Framingham.
11. Hopkinton -- Coach Jodi Dolan's squad had won seven of its last eight games before falling to Duxbury in the Division 2 South final last spring, and that lone loss was a one-goal defeat at the hands of Medfield. They seem to have carried that momentum into 2008 with a 2-0-1 start (tying Division 1 Acton-Boxboro, while also topping rivals Medfield and Ashland).
12. Acton-Boxboro -- The Colonials endured seven losses last spring nearly half of which came at the hands of Dual County League rival Lincoln-Sudbury. A-B closed the gap late in the season, however. After falling by 11 in each of the two regular-season matchups, the Warriors escaped with a 12-11 triumph in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.
13. Weston -- The positives: Early season, hard-fought wins over quality opponents in Concord-Carlisle and Arlington. The negative: Got walloped by Lincoln-Sudbury, 14-2, in between those wins. With eight starters back, including leading scorer Courtney Davenport, the Wildcats are well positioned for another postseason run in Division 2 (and those battles with Dual County League foes like L-S will only aid them in that quest).
14. North Andover -- The Scarlet Knights lost a lot of individual talent to graduation (Katy Fitzgerald is at North Carolina, while Aimee Dixon is at UMass). But there's a solid base of underclassmen to build upon (which means this is the team to beat in the Cape Ann League for the next two years). Look for Briana Connolly to shoulder the offense.
15. Norwell -- Yeah, we know. The Clippers are 0-2. But losses to Duxbury and Andover are nothing to sneeze at. Norwell endured 10 losses last season -- including three to Duxbury -- but the goal is to be playing the best lacrosse in June and Globe All-Scholastic Jill Cammett will have this squad prepped for the postseason. They just have to get there.
16. Medfield -- The Big Blue shook off a season-opening defeat at the hands of Tri-Valley League rival Hopkinton and rebounded with three straight victories. Medfield took some time to get churning last year, but finished with 13 wins before falling to Norwell, 9-7, in a Division 2 South quarterfinal.
17. Hingham -- Much like their male counterparts, the Harborwomen tend to fly comfortably under the radar in the Patriot League with Duxbury on top. But Hingham has some serious talent back this year, including netminder Kaelyn Sullivan and junior Mary Kate Gorman up front.
18. Sandwich -- Sandwich lost two of its first four games last year, then didn't lose again until falling to Needham in the Division 1 South quarterfinals. The Blue Knights are off to a 4-0 start this year and once again appear to be the team to beat in the Atlantic Coast League.
19. Notre Dame Academy -- The Cougars dropped a 10-8 decision to Hingham in their season-opener, but have rebounded with four straight triumphs. McKenna Teague can fill the stat sheet, but NDA will need balance in order to make waves in a rigid Division 1 South bracket come the postseason.
20. Norwood -- The Mustangs asserted themselves as contenders by taking down Newton North, 10-8, Monday. Pam Devaney, Liz Greeley, and Christine McKay can all put the ball in the twine.
Keep an eye on: Newton North has endured some early season struggles, but we think the Tigers will turn it around sooner than later... Falmouth is off to a 4-0 start and has a showdown with Sandwich this afternoon... Waltham and Arlington should battle it out in the Greater Boston League... Dover-Sherborn is always battle tested coming out of the Tri-Valley League.
Here's the top 5 by division:
5. North Andover
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.