After New England Region #1 seeds Ironside and The Ghosts suffered heartbreaking defeats at USAU Nationals this year, we could all use a great New England showing at College Nationals in 2012. This may be the year that happens. While Harvard and Tufts both finished in the top 10 of last year’s Nationals, and this year we could easily see a New England team break the top 5 at the least.
This was a relatively slow fall season for NE teams, with most teams only competing at BC’s “Boston Classic” and a free for all at Brown’s “Huck A Hunk O’ Burning Pumpkins”. Both of these tournaments found NE teams pitted against each other in what seemed like a out-of-season Regional match-up.
Tufts: Number 1?
Tufts crushed at Nationals last year, coming in as the 13th seed and finishing 10th. After losing some tough games and gaining some wins over Illinois and Washington, Tufts looks to go even deeper into the tournament. With a well seasoned squad of veterans (mostly juniors and seniors), Tufts came out strong in the fall. They overcame a less than stellar showing at the Boston Classic with a huge win over Boston College at Brown’s tournament. With Ironside notables Jack Hatchett and Adrian Banerji, this team has players who are already battle tested.
Tufts took a hard loss to Harvard last season in the finals at NE Regionals, forcing them to win the backdoor finals over Dartmouth. However, this year, Harvard seems to be struggling to keep pace with their 2011 Nationals run. Bad for Harvard, good for Tufts. If Tufts was not a favorite to win the NE Region after their showing at HHBP, they definitely are after their team workout with Tim Morrill of Morrill Performance, who helped Florida make their way to a National title. Can Morrill propel Tufts to a Championship? Tufts say that they’d “wager on … seeing quite a bit more of him this upcoming season, as we try to increase the athleticism of the team”.
With Harvard in a slump, and Tufts dominance in the Fall season, they are definitely my pick to take the 1 spot in the Region, and to be a top contender at Nationals this year.
Top of the Pack:
Dartmouth is coming off a 3rd place finish (their highest since 2008, when they won the Region) and is looking to have a big season. They didn’t graduate too many people, ,and they had an excellent fall, despite losing to Tufts in the semis at Huck a Hunk. In addition, they have two of the better players in the Region, Ian Engler and Spencer Diamond. Both have the potential to take over a game.
Harvard, though they’ve lost a few all-stars, still boasts an impressive line in the competitive Northeast. All-region cutter Misha Herschu, deep threat/former FOTY Jeremy Mudd, and 2 year captain/main handler Whitt Virgin-Downey form a potent combo. That, combined with the fact that they have a great program and are defending champions, means they know how to win. Expect them to be in the running this year.
Vermont has always had a lot of talent, but it was just this year that they started taking it more seriously. They’re traveling to west coast tournaments for the first time ever (Presidents Day in California), they took Tufts to Universe in pool play, and lost Sunday only after partying at Brown Saturday night. Probable All-Region cutter Sam Hart, former Jr. Worlds Alternate Ryan Rzepka, and a great supporting cast gives them potential to make some serious noise this year.
Boston College: Surprise?
Personally, when I think of New England teams making a run at Nationals (in recent years), the teams that usually come to mind are Harvard, Tufts, or Middlebury with a few others a distinct possibility; BC usually is not in that list.
I am ready to eat those words. Coming off a 5th place finish at Regionals last year, and while losing 8 seniors, BC came out hard against other New England teams at HHBP. Though eventually losing to Tufts in the finals, BC took wins from Brandeis, Brown and Massachusetts-Amherst. Lead by all-star Chuck McBride, who is coming off an injury laden season, BC’s O line comes in with veterans, while their D line is relatively young. A possible FOTY contender, Dylan Wolff, takes over the D line with “silky handles and crazy athleticism”, according to captain Jackson Shuttlesworth.
Boston College hopes to make a Nationals run this season, and I think they have what it takes. While I believe Tufts has an easy grasp on one of the two possible spots, BC will have to fight for the second, but they’re definitely a top contender in New England.
Players to Watch:
- Jack Hatchett – Tufts
- Adrian Banerji – Tufts
- Spencer Diamond – Dartmouth
- Ian Engler – Dartmouth
- Sam Hart – UVM
- Chuck McBride – BC
- Misha Herscu – Harvard
Since the only tournaments to base play off of are Boston Classic and HHBP, the 2012 spring season will be a vicious free-for-all. Teams like Rhode Island and Massachusetts-Dartmouth are coming back this season after having graduated no one from their respective squads. Brandeis will surely be trying to claim that DIII bid to DI Regionals, and we just can’t count out any teams with their seasons’ on the line. The New England Open in late March should be another pre-regionals tournament that will pit top NE teams against each other.