NON-PUBLIC B PREVIEW
2011 CHAMPION: Immaculata defeated Montclair Kimberley, 12-5, for its third consecutive title and fourth in the last five seasons.
2012 FAVORITE: Immaculata. The Spartans graduated a core of fabulous veterans last spring, including current Syracuse defenseman Ralph D'Agostino, and those losses are sure to mean some major adjustments this season. You can't lose a D'Agostino, Taylor Vanderbeek, Kevin Albert or Ryan Coakley and not feel it somehow.
Immaculata, though, does return a proven scoring standout in senior attackman George Markey (57 goals, 26 assists), two experienced defenders in Logan Whitaker and Kyle Adam and a large assortment of young middies and attackmen who gained some valuable experience along the way last year, both in games and (particularly) in practice against those rugged 2011 seniors. When April turns to May, this should be a much improved group, and when May turns to June, the Spartans should be preparing itself for another Non-Public B final.
But it's not going to be easy. Montclair Kimberley returns numerous starters from a team that finished 17-2 last year and fell to Immaculata, 12-5, in the state final. Among the Cougars' many assets is an attack line--Matt Lane, Mark Phillips and Kyle Morris--that racked up 92 goals last season. Immaculata also will have to contend once again with Pingry, a squad that always seems to give the Spartans trouble. As good as it was last year, Immaculata posted two one-goal victories against Pingry, 6-5, in overtime in the regular season and 9-8 in the Non-Public B semifinal.
Senior Luke Bercaw (19 goals) was a regular on the attack last season with the always dangerous Markey, who scored 51 goals as a sophomore and has produced 146 points in the past two seasons. No team on its schedule is going to let Markey out of their sights for a moment this season. Bercaw will have to respond whenever Markey gets doubled in the crease.
The third attack spot is likely to be filled by junior Connor McKeon and sometimes shared by Mark Swintek, Wyatt Agiase and Seth Mansfield, who all received some playing time in '11.
The name Vanderbeek was synonymous with faceoff excellence the past several years and is likely to remain that way for years to come in Somerville. Taylor's sophomore twin brothers Connor and Chandler already have distinguished themselves as solid performers in the box. Their play will help ignite numerous transition opportunities that fellow middie Jake Eisenstodt will be happy to partake of.
Montclair Kimberley Academy: The Cougars have proven talent everywhere on the field. They will just have to prove now that they can slay the Non-Public B beast that is Immaculata. Dylan Parker, Cameron Brazil and Maurice Walsh lead a very deep midfield group that will offer scoring help for that outstanding attack line of Lane, Phillips and Morris and also sound defensive support. Not that the MKA defense will be begging for help. Patrick Karole is one of the best overall defenders in the state and yet versatile enough to grab the shortie at times and score with consistency. Alex More and Jon Kingsley join Karole on a well-seasoned close unit. Senior goalie Craig Schweitzer is starting for a third straight year.
DePaul: The Spartans have a strong group of scorers in place with attackmen Mike Mazzanna (38 goals) and Vince Halloran (25 goals, 48 assists) and middies Mike Caposella (36 goals) and Brandon Salazar (22). Their balance at both positions forces opponents to make difficult coverage decisions. Connor Brophy is a veteran goalie and pole Steven Lennon has been a steady defender the last few years. DePaul does have some inexperience elsewhere on defense, and that could put added strain on both Brophy and his offense.
Pingry: Big Blue lost several solid defenders and two of its top four scorers, but has enough talent in place in vital areas to make a determined run for the title. Attckmen Chris Albanese (32 goals) and Evan Key (16) will pace the offense along with Evan's brother Dylan, who was Pingry's top faceoff man last year, and Taylor Wright out of the midfield. Senior Alex Castle is back in the goal, though will be directing a lot of new faces this spring. Pole John Dugan is a veteran defender.
Newark Academy: Explosive attackman Brandon Rothman (71 goals) returns for his senior campaign, but no longer has his top setup man, 2011 grad Jake Gillman, around to enhance his opportunities. But senior middie T.J. Redmond scored 18 goals and had 24 assists last season for the 11-9 Minutemen. Watch for the Remond-to-Rothmam combination to take hold. Nick Rinaldi and Zach Drobner anchor what should be a very solid defense.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS