Early season rankings (or preseason rankings, still, for some teams) are always difficult to craft considering we havent seen a lot of these teams in action yet, and most of the coaches dont even know what theyre squad is going to give them.
But at least at the very top of the Boston Globe boys lacrosse Top 20, the choice was easy.
Theres little doubt around Massachusetts that Duxbury is the clear No. 1. Boasting a slew of Division 1 recruits (12, to be exact) and eight of the last 10 state championship trophies, the Dragons have gained national attention as one of the premier teams in the country. But that doesnt mean no one else has a chance.
Of the other Big Four teams Lincoln-Sudbury, St. Johns Prep and Billerica No. 2 L-S appears most primed to make a run. The Warriors had an up-and-down season last year filled with injuries, but a lot of young players earned some valuable experience and coach Brian Vona will have a ton of talent to work with.
No. 6 St. Johns Prep is very raw, but talented, and John Roy always seems to have his team in top form by tournament time, and thats when it counts.
No. 7 Billerica, meanwhile, could really sneak up on people. The Indians are being discounted after the graduation of Grant Whiteway, but Cam Slatton and Ben Melaugh have formed a dangerous 1-2 punch at the attack, on perfect display during a 6-5 win over Wellesley on Thursday when the two combined for four goals and three assists. And with goalie DJ Smith between the pipes, the typical hard-nosed Billerica defense could give any team trouble.
At No. 3, Needham is full of promise. Theyve gained national attention in some rankings and David Wainwright returns 10 seniors, mostly on the defensive side. But with the graduation of All-American Will Stenberg, sophomore UMass-Amherst commit Mike Panepinto was expected to play a huge role, and he suffered a broken collar bone in the preseason that could keep him out all year. His brother, Nico, is a scoring threat, though, and while Needham could be one of the first teams to fall from the top-five, dont count them out. The Rockets might just need some time to peak.
No. 5 Wellesley is loaded with talent, including All-American goalie Connor Darcey, but theres a lot of football players on that roster and their over-aggressive style could haunt them with too many man-down situations. If the offense can score, this team could be as good as it gets.
No. 4 seems like a good spot for Medfield, which lost its coach and starting goalie, among others, but remains very deep as usual. Its all about going back to basics for the Warriors, and if John Isaf and Mike Douglas can get their players to buy in, a three-peat is possible.
No. 14 Acton-Boxboro has a chance to really surprise people this year. The Colonials are athletic, and their schedule is tough, so if they can stay healthy and get better as the season goes on, they should be dangerous.
At the bottom of the list, Newton North is an intriguing team. Perhaps not a squad with the most talent, but theres some serious size on that defense, and long-time head coach Bussy Adam has 14 returning players. A lot rides on junior goalie John Hogan.
Remember, theres a lot of season to be played, and this list could look entirely different in a few weeks. See the full Globe boys lacrosse Top 20.
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Last five out (in alphabetical order): Andover, Cohasset, Foxborough, Lexington, Walpole