July 29, 2011

Prep schools: Deerfield, Governor's Academy unbeaten

Nobles captain Chelsea Landon (Norwell, Mass.) is headed to Duke next season.

The prep world plays out a little differently than leagues in the six New England states. Unlike public school leagues and state interscholastic athletic associations, most prep schools don’t have playoffs; rather the champion is decided through the regular season.

For the top teams in the region, that means every game is like a playoff game.

Two New England prep school squads finished the season ranked in the nation’s Top 30, according to LaxPower. Deerfield Academy checked in at No. 9, while Governor’s Academy was ranked No. 26.
Here’s how the prep school season played out in 2011:

BOYS

Independent School League

Governor’s Academy has lurked around the top of the standings for the past couple of years. In 2009, it won a share of the ISL title and finished 2010 in second place, one game behind champion Middlesex.

This season, however, belonged solely to the Red Dogs.
Governor’s Academy finished the season undefeated, 15-0 in conference and 16-0 overall. The Dogs did not allow a single team to reach double digits; only two teams managed to score more than five goals.

The Red Dogs clinched the ISL title with a game to spare when they defeated Brooks School, 17-4, on Governor’s senior day. The Red Dogs graduate 10 seniors, including co-captain and LSM Reed Kennedy, who is headed to Penn State.

Noble and Greenough (13-4) finished second in the ISL. After a rough start to the season, beginning with three consecutive losses — including an 11-6 loss to New England North powerhouse Brewster Academy — the Nobles boys pulled it together and won 13 of 14 games to close the season, the only loss in that stretch coming at the hands of Governor’s Academy.

Last year’s champion, Middlesex (11-4), finished third after dropping two of its final three games of the season.

Western New England Division 1

There were no surprises here, as the league title chase came down to the usual suspects, Deerfield and Salisbury. For the sixth time in seven years, one of those teams at least shared in the conference crown.

After Salisbury won it outright last year, 2011 was all about Deerfield.

The Big Green finished the year with a 15-0 record. The two teams met in Deerfield’s second-to-last game of the season, with Deerfield winning, 11-7. Deerfield has big hopes to reload for next year with 18 seniors graduating.

Salisbury finished in a tie for second with Westminster. Both teams finished with two conference losses and three losses total, but when the two teams met in the regular season the Crimson Knights came out on top in a tough-fought 5-4 game.

Avon Old Farms, which finished 2010 in the top 20 of LaxPower’s rankings, ended the 2011 season at 12-8, disappointing in some eyes but still good enough to rank in the top 200 for the nation.

Western New England Division 2 & 3

Division 2 in 2011 was a repeat of 2010. Millbrook (12-4, 5-0 in conference) once again took the title over Canterbury (9-6, 3-2), on the strength of the Mustangs’ 14-4 whipping of the Saints in the teams’ lone matchup of the season.

Canterbury’s other divisional loss came to Suffield Academy (8-8, 3-2).

In Division 3, although Chase Collegiate stumbled to a 7-8 record under first-year head coach and former Quinnipiac captain Bailey Tuthill, the school still finished conference play undefeated for the fourth consecutive year to earn the Western New England Division 3 championship.

New England North

Brewster Academy is the dominating force in the New England North league. The Bobcats won their seventh league title, finishing undefeated (8-0) in conference play and 15-1 overall. Their lone loss came to Phillips Exeter, a powerhouse in its own right, in a thrilling 9-8 overtime game.

The Bobcats were led by 13 seniors. Nine have committed to play in college, six at the NCAA Division 1 level, including defender Mitch Chapman (Bryant).

With those kinds of personnel losses, the best news for the Bobcats may be that the team’s leader in goals (50) and points (67), attackman Austin Shanks, is only a sophomore.

Holderness (11-3 overall, 7-1 conference) finished second in New England North, only one game behind Brewster. The gap between the two teams wasn’t as close as the standings suggest though; when they met in the season, Brewster thumped Holderness, 17-8.

Eastern Independent League

Portsmouth Abbey succeeded in defending its 2010 title, winning the EIL championship for the second consecutive year and for the third time in the past four years.

The Ravens finished undefeated in conference play for the second consecutive season and 14-2 overall. In 16 games, only once did an opposing team score in double digits. Against EIL opponents, no team scored more than five goals and the Ravens shut out two opponents.
Pingree, the 2009 champion, finished in second place. It wasn’t its best season though, with an overall record of 10-9 and losing badly to Portsmouth Abbey, 12-3. Berwick Academy was 13-5 overall, 7-2 in the EIL and split its season series with Pingree.

GIRLS

Independent School League

After being unseated as champions in 2010, a talented Noble and Greenough squad rose back to the top of the heap in 2011. Going 15-1, the Bulldogs won their fourth ISL title in five years. Nobles averaged 15.5 goals per game, were held under 10 goals only once (their only loss of the year) and defeated 2010 champion Thayer by a score of 19-10.

Nobles won despite a slew of injuries, particularly a broken tibia to leading scorer and 2010 honorable mention All-American junior Hope Hanley. The Bulldogs will hope she returns strong next year because they graduate captains Chelsea Landon (Duke) and Reilly Foote (Yale).
Noble and Greenough (No. 1), Middlesex (14-2, No. 2) and Thayer Academy (13-2, No. 5) all were ranked in the top five in LaxPower’s New England prep school rankings.

Eastern Independent League

Per usual, Pingree dominated the EIL. Although it finished only 9-5, the team went 9-0 in conference play, earning its second consecutive title.

The big news out of Pingree was the play of sophomore goalie Maura Grady. In the team’s nine conference games, Pingree allowed only 5.3 goals per game. Grady received the Eastern Independent League Player of the Year award and was named an UnderArmour All-Star.

Founders League

Loomis Chaffee traditionally dominates this league, winning eight of the past 10 titles, but 2011 gave someone new a reason to celebrate.
The Hotchkiss School came out on top this year, finishing the season 11-1. It was the school’s best finish in more than five years. The Bearcats beat the Pelicans in a close 8-7 game, earning their first victory over the school in four years.

Hotchkiss had a knack for close games with five games decided by one goal, going 4-1 in those games.

In addition to topping Loomis, the Bearcats also beat an always-strong Williston Northampton team.

Loomis Chaffee finished the year 12-3, losing more times this year than it had in the previous three years combined. The Pelicans started off slow, losing the first two games of the season (one in a non-conference game to Western Mass. powerhouse Longmeadow). After losing to Hotchkiss, Loomis won its next nine games, but it wasn’t enough to pass Hotchkiss in the standings and win another title.

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.

Phillip Shore can be reached at feedback@laxjournal.com