The East Region is a minefield for POWERADE FAB 50 National Champion hopefuls. Even teams that dominate their state will face tough challenges from their rivals in 2012.
New Jersey is a perfect example. Bridgewater-Raritan (Bridgewater Township, N.J.) won it all last year and returns most of its starting lineup, but will face tough challenges from Delbarton (N.J.), Summit (N.J.) and St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.). A team that runs the table in the Garden State could finish at least in the Top 5 of the FAB 50, but getting past that many quality opponents is always difficult.
Take into account the amount of inter-state play in the East with teams from New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania and it's easy to see why voters have plenty of teams from which to choose.
The Starting Lineup
G: Luke Aaron, Sr., Deerfield Academy (Deerfield, Mass.), Duke
LSM: David Best, Sr., Norfolk Academy (Norfolk, Va.), Pennsylvania
D: Matt O'Keefe, Sr., Duxbury (Mass.), Johns Hopkins
D: Tanner Scales, Sr., Salisbury School (Salisbury, Conn.), Virginia
F/O: Brent Armstrong, Sr., St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Alexandria, Va.), North Carolina
M: Steven Pontrello, Sr., St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.), North Carolina
M: Connor Reed, Sr., Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), Johns Hopkins
A: Seamus Connelly, Sr., Duxbury (Mass.), Duke
A: Case Matheis, Sr., Darien (Conn.), Duke
A: Mikey Morris, Sr., Salisbury School (Salisbury, Conn.), Johns Hopkins
Sizing Up The Region
Connecticut: Darien (Conn.) boasts two ESPNHS 100 players -- the No. 1 player, Case Matheis, and No. 68 Tony Britton. The Blue Wave offense should be strong with Matheis, attacker Tim Murphy and midfielder Henry West leading the charge. Darien is a strong contender to be a preseason POWERADE FAB 50 Top 5 team. Greenwich (Conn.) returns five starters this year, including Hofstra commit Alex Moeser. Cardinals' head coach Scott Bulkley enters his third season and expects defense to be the team's strength this year. Weston (Conn.) returns five starters from an 11-7 team, including Colorado College commit Jack Scheufele at midfield. Wilton (Conn.) is the defending Class M champion, but graduated its all-time leading scorer in Michael Francia.
Delaware: For the past three seasons, the state championship has been won by one of two teams: Salesianum or Tower Hill. Salesianum (Wilmington, Del.) is the defending state champ, returns 10 starters and enters the season riding a 16-game winning. The Sals did not lose a game to an in-state opponent last year -- the only defeat came against Worcester Prep (Berlin, Md.). Returning to the midfield is junior and Bryant commit Graham Seuffert. Tower Hill (Wilmington, Del.) returns defender Stone Lieberman (Vermont).
District of Columbia: Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) head coach Casey O'Neill has gone 63-23 in five years and has led the Purple Eagles to back-to-back WCAC championships. Five players who were defensive starters return this season, as does starting goalie Timmy Farrell. The Purple Eagles will play teams from the IAC and MIAA, and top teams in California and Texas. O'Neill returns several key players, most notably seniors Matt Bowman (Army), Luke Miller (Hobart), Connor Reed (Johns Hopkins), Alex Rock (High Point), and Sean Whitcomb (Mount St. Marys) along with junior Max Planning (Denver).
St. John's (Washington, D.C.) returns six starters from last year's team, including senior goalie Justin Rosenberg (Vermont). The midfield boasts Robert Morris commits Ryan Rornatora and long stick midfielder Warren Lea.
Maine: Portland (Maine) returns four starters, including two time First Team All-Conference goalie Ryan Jurgelevich. Scarborough (Maine) returns six starters from last year's 14-1 state championship team. Junior goalie David Pearson returns and should help a defense that only allowed 2.93 goals per game last season.
Massachusetts: Billerica (Mass.) returns five starters from last year's 20-3 team. Grant Whiteway (the program's all-time leading scorer) has graduated, but junior goalie and Massachusetts commit D.J. Smith returns. Smith has been a starter since his freshman year and has a career record of 40-6. Duxbury (Mass.) boasts 10 players who have already committed to play Division I lacrosse, including Warrior 40 alumni Matt O'Keefe. Expect the Dragons to start the year in the Top 10 of the POWERADE FAB 50 and be a team that could vie for the 2012 National Championship. Games against the defending New York Class B champion Jamesville-DeWitt and runner-up Garden City will go a long way in determining the Dragons' FAB 50 fate. Needham (Mass.) finished 18-3 and as state semifinalists last season. The Rockets return eight starters, including junior attacker Nico Panepinto (Fairfield). Wellesley (Mass.) returns seven starters from last year's 17-1 team, including Warrior 40 alumni Connor Darcey (Penn State) and Oliver Saffery (Gettysburg). Westford Academy (Westford, Mass.) returns eight starters from last year's 15-7 team. In addition to Gettysburg commit Cam Carlyle, the Grey Ghosts have added transfer Alex Eaton, who is verbally committed to Lehigh.
New Hampshire: Bishop Guertin (Nashua, N.H.) won the Division I state championship last season and returns every starter, including six Division I college commits. Four of the college-bound players are defenders, including Bob Fahey (UMass), Kyle Karaska (UMass) and Brody Smith (Lafayette).
New Jersey: Bridgewater-Raritan (Bridgewater Township, N.J.) won it all last season and enters 2012 looking to defend its Group IV and Tournament of Champions crowns. The Raritans could be a favorite again this season with eight starters returning, including five seniors who are heading to play Division I college. The attack returns the entire starting line from last year, including Scott Bieda (Manhattan) and Ryan Hollingsworth (Rutgers). Delbarton (N.J.) returns six starters from the NJSIAA Prep A champion, including five D-I commits: Kieran Kenny (Villanova), Evan McQuiston (Lafayette), Sean O'Keef (Bryant), Cole Riccardi (Notre Dame), John Shaffer (Duke). The attack will be inexperienced, however, after the graduation of three starters. Glen Ridge (N.J.) won the Group 1 state championship last season and returns its top scorers in Jamie Smith and Matt Lander. Junior goalie Shane Doss has given Notre Dame a verbal commitment. Morris Hills (Rockaway, N.J.) returns 10 starters from last year's 8-8 squad and should boast a strong defense with seniors Michael Beattie (goalie) and Anthony Vergara (defense). St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.) boasts nine players committed to Division I programs and should have a deep and experienced offense in 2012. ESPNHS 100 athletes Steven Pontrello (North Carolina) and Tommy O'Neill (Penn State) highlight the Hermits seven returning starters. Scheduled games against defending POWERADE FAB 50 National Champion Haverford School (Haverford, Pa.) in addition to LaSalle (Wyndmoor, Pa.) will be tests early in the season. St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) returns six starters from last year's 14-8 team. Notre Dame commit Ed Lubowicki enters the season as the programs all-time leader in points (312), assists (168) and goals (144). Senior goalie Harry Burke has 484 career saves and has committed to St. John's. Summit (N.J.) is the defending Group II champion and returns eight starters. The Hilltoppers' 68-game winning streak was snapped by Bridgewater-Raritan in the Tournament of Champions title game last year, but the 2012 offense should be strong with the return of Nick Kilkowski (Rutgers) and Austin Carbone. Senior goalie Alex Salazar (Tufts) will be a first-year starter.
Rhode Island: Bishop Hendricken (Warwick, R.I.) has won two state championhships since 2007, including last year's title. The Hawks won when it counted last year, avenging its two losses to LaSalle Academy by defeating the Rams in the state championship game. LaSalle Academy (Providence, R.I.) reached the state championship game last year and only lost two contests during the season. Moses Brown (Providence, R.I.) won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 and reached the state semifinals last season.
Vermont: Champlain Valley Union (Hinesburg, Vt.) has reached the state championship game in each of the past two years, winning it all in 2011. The Crusaders enter the season on a five-game winning streak. Essex Junction (Vt.) has reached the state championship game since 2007. The Hornets have won three titles in that span.
Virginia: Chirstchurch (Va.) returns the entire defense and five All-State selections from the 2011 VISAA Division II State Championship team. Key among the returnees is senior Connor Keehn, who was named the 2011 MVP of the state title game after recording 20 saves. Air Force-bound defender Shaq Townsend and All-American Pat Young (UMBC) also return. Christchurch moves up to play in Division I this season, which should give the team a tougher schedule. Collegiate (Richmond, Va.) returns seven starters from last year's 13-7 team. Four players are committed to Division I programs, including senior long stick midfielder Michael Howard, who is headed to Virginia. Episcopal School (Alexandria, Va.) finished 21-5 last season and returns five starters. The Maroon's defense should be strong this season with three of its top four defenders and starting goalie all returning. Senior Will Davy (Pennsylvania) anchors the attack with the midfield led by Bucknell commit Adam Lynne. Kettle Run (Nokesville, Va.) returns 16 players from last year's team and expectations are high as the program enters its fourth season. The starting attackers, Richie Klares (103 points) and Domenick Stumpo (105) have accounted for more than 100 points in each of the past two seasons. The seniors have played together since the program started three years ago. Salem (Va.) returns every player from the offense, including Roanoke commit and faceoff midfielder Joey Dishaw. Michael Hager will be the starting goalie for the second year, which should help anchor a defense that returns just one starter from last year. St. Anne's-Belfield (Charlottesville, Va.) returns five starters, including senior attacker Ian Robertson (Delaware) and defender Branford Rogers (Rutgers). The STAB defense is anchored by several four-year varsity players, while the offense will rely on strong play at the midfield and attack. St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Alexandria, Va.) returns six starters, including North Carolina commit Brent Armstrong. The Saints boast an impressive junior class with midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen (Maryland) and defender Jimmy Wyrick (Syracuse).
West Virginia: There have been four different state champions in West Virginia since 2008. Morgantown (W.Va.) has been in three of the state title games, including a championship victory in 2008. University (Morgantown, W.Va.) is the defending state champion and has reached the state finals in three of the last four seasons.
Underclassmen To Watch
Goalie: Shane Doss, Jr., Glen Ridge (N.J.), Notre Dame; Timmy Farrell, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.); Phil Huffard, Soph., Darien (Conn.); David Pearson, Jr., Scarborough (Maine); D.J. Smith, Billerica (Mass.).
Defense: Matt Borda, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.); Sam Meyjes, Soph., Darien (Conn.); Ethan Powley, Jr., Paul VI (Fairfax City, Va.), Duke; Jack Slater, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.); Jimmy Wyrick, Jr., St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.), Syracuse.
LSM: Matthew Ryan, Jr., Phillips Exeter (Exeter, N.H.).
Midfield: Kyle Cornell, Soph., Darien (Conn.); Isaiah Davis-Allen, Jr., St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.), Maryland; Jack Delaney, Jr., Needham (Mass.); Joe Fitzpatrick, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.); Sean Foley, Jr., Darien (Conn.), Lehigh; Adam Hardej, Jr., Groton School (Groton, Mass.), Princeton; Noboru Kobashigawa, Jr., Collegiate (Va.), Drexel; Jimmy Kuzma, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.); Alex Moeser, Jr., Greenwich (Conn.); Max Planning, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.), Denver; Shane Simpson, Jr., Salisbury School (Conn.), North Carolina.
Attack: John Caraviello, Soph., Wellesley (Mass.); Alex Corboy, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.), Tate Jozokos, Jr., Governor's Academy (Mass.), North Carolina; Hobart; Dylan Maltz, Jr., Stone Bridge (Va.), Syracuse; Daniel O'Berry, Jr., Gonzaga (D.C.); Nico Panepinto, Jr., Needham (Mass.); Austin Shanks, Jr., Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), Michigan.
Faceoff: Blake Boudreau, Jr., Bishop Guertin (N.H.); Jeffrey Kratky, Jr., Taft School (Watertown, Conn.).
Games To Watch
March 30: Gonzaga (D.C.) at Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.)
April 5: Gonzaga (D.C.) vs. Boys' Latin (Baltimore, Md.)
April 7: St. Augustine Prep (N.J.) at Haverford School (Pa.), Checking for Cancer Tournament
April 14: Duxbury (Mass.) at Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.)
April 19: Darien (Conn.) vs. Manhasset (Manhasset, N.Y.)
May 19: Delbarton (N.J.) vs. Chaminade (Mineola, N.Y.)
How This Region Affects The FAB 50
There are two teams in the East Region that are expected to be vying for the POWERADE FAB 50 National Championship and should be in the Top 10 to start the season: Darien (Conn.) and Duxbury (Mass.).
The talent level is high for both teams, and their out-of-state schedules will put them to the test. How those teams fare will reflect well upon their respective states and could help some other teams from the area in the eyes of voters.
In addition to Darien and Duxbury, Gonzaga and St. Augustine Prep both have chances to make serious strides early in the season and also put their names in the discussion for the National Championship.