Winning a state title doesn’t come easily. Just ask Masconomet, Concord-Carlisle, and Georgetown, who all came up one win shy of the ultimate crown last year.
Heading into the 2012 season, all three of those teams return substantial numbers to their respective rosters, making them poised to drive hard for another title shot.
Masco returns 11 seniors to the mix led by captains Tighe Van Lenten, Chip Sherman, and Demetri Decoulos, all integral players in last season’s success. Masco keeper Derek Grammer and a back line that returns all of its starters will make it nearly impossible for opposing offenses to generate anything substantial against the Chieftains.
“Coming back as the defending [Division 1] Eastern Mass. champions, everyone is going to take a look at when Masconomet is on their schedule and recognize that,” said Masconomet coach David Mitchell. “I think one of the strengths of our program is that everyone is capable of stepping up for someone else. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Concord-Carlisle benefits from the return of 17 players, all of whom know nothing less than making it to a Division 2 state final game. Many of the seniors are accustomed to winning it, having down so twice (2009 and 2010), so Stowe Simonton, Gregoire Fauchet, and Cray Novik are hungry to win one more after falling just short last year.
“Expectations are pretty high,” said C-C coach Ray Pavlik. “Getting there is incredibly difficult. Our goal is similar every year: seek growth, improve week-in and week-out, and stay healthy.”
Defensive specialist Matt Laut takes over Georgetown’s head coaching reins as Chris DiFranco moves into the athletic director’s role for the Royals.
A dozen players are back from last season’s Division 3 EMass championship team, allowing them to transition seamlessly, with senior leaders Andrew Nowak, Kevin Morrissey, and John Laut providing ample experience in the midfield.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a season if these teams were just handed the hardware, and there are many teams out there with similar high hopes.
In Division 1, the Needham Rockets boast one of the best forwards around in Mac Steeves, who is capable of taking over a game in an instant. Senior captain Brandon Miskin will provide relief for Steeves, who will surely be the focus of any defense.
Two other top contenders in Division 1 will be New Bedford, which is on a mission after missing the postseason last year following an EMass title in 2010, and Somerville, which will feature one of the most electric playmakers in the state in junior forward Thayrone Miranda.
“Our goal is always to win a state title,” said Somerville coach George Scarpelli. “If we don’t tell them that, then we’re not shooting for what I know we are capable of. I think we have one of the best shots since I got here five years ago.”
Danvers and All-State forward Eric Martin will lead a list of Division 2 contenders that includes North Andover, Nauset, Hingham, and Hopkinton.
Always quick to reload and regroup, expect Dover-Sherborn and Cardinal Spellman to throw their names into the Division 3 race once again, with St. Mary’s as another team to watch.
It will be a long road to get to the state title game in November, but all lanes are now open as the 2012 season kicks off, with high hopes and determination fueling the ride.