After the complete 2020 season was cancelled and restrictions smothered the following marketing campaign, the MIAA known as an audible for the ultimate 12 months of the state match’s sectional format by permitting any staff to decide into the 2021 playoffs – no matter report. Weymouth (0-13), Methuen (0-10), Arlington (0-11) and Acton-Boxboro (0-10) every selected to take part after laboring by winless common seasons, and all 4 persevered to win their first sport of the 12 months within the match’s preliminary spherical.
It’s a cool, never-give-up accomplishment these faculties share. But as three of these groups faltered towards top-five seeds within the subsequent spherical, battle-tested Acton-Boxboro wasn’t accomplished. It gained once more.
“We were down, but the (Dual County League) teams we were playing were just incredibly hard,” mentioned eighth-year Revolution head coach Darren Gwin. “That team really stayed committed to the process, and we really quantified our success differently because in a lot of those matches, going into it, we knew it would be incredibly difficult or impossible to actually win the game.”
Those main powers they confronted that season – highlighted by eventual state finalist Lincoln-Sudbury and state semifinalist Westford Academy – have a unique look two years later.
So does Acton-Boxboro.
Within an 8-0 begin that options two wins over Wayland and sweeps of Lincoln-Sudbury, Newton South, Westford Academy and Boston Latin, the Revolution clock in at No. 5 within the first set of MIAA Div. 1 energy rankings. They’ve solely misplaced two units.
Senior standouts Nick Heitman and Lucas Tan have improved on stable seasons from final 12 months to resemble premier hitting choices. First-year senior Hamilton Fong and junior Sai Nallajennugari used a full week of no video games over April trip to develop and impress Gwin, complementing the duo. Sophomore setter Parth Pawar is a major X-factor within the midst of a breakout 12 months, as is junior libero Sameer Vasudeo.
Stacking up towards Div. 1 elites Needham, Natick, Newton North and Lowell is but to be decided, however Acton-Boxboro is off to an incredible begin. “We’ve had some pretty strong teams in the past, but in terms of our record, this is the strongest start we’ve had,” Gwin mentioned. “We’re not really used to winning (the past two years) so this is just, ‘Oh yeah, this is a really cool feeling.’”
While Heitman, Tan, Pawar & Co. have improved their expertise, assistant coach Jeff Emenaker has performed a big function in serving to the staff construct its give attention to the worth of each level. They even make a concerted effort to evaluate how they’re treating that worth.
Collectively, they’re simply having enjoyable.
“This year, we kind of have a really positive attitude and we’re obviously powerful,” Gwin mentioned. “Our seniors in particular, they just have so much fun playing this game and I feel like they’re just playing with a different energy than before. … Something was kind of holding us back. Where now, the seniors – (Tan) and (Heitman) in particular – they’re just having fun out there. You can see them smiling, really enjoying themselves. I feel that happens in practice and in the games, and that type of attitude is infectious for the rest of the players.”
This surge is nice for the competitiveness of the league, which was already thought to be a well-rounded group.
Since becoming a member of the teaching workers in 2011, Gwin has only one league title at Acton-Boxboro. While the Bay State Conference options three or 4 of the strongest groups in Div. 1, the hole between lots of the squads within the DCL is considerably tighter.
Newton South and Westford Academy discover themselves extra in a rebuild after contending for a state title over the previous a number of seasons. An all the time scrappy Boston Latin and a more moderen program in Waltham/Weston, the remainder of the DCL options Cambridge, Lincoln-Sudbury and Wayland teams anticipating to compete come state match time.
Fighting by this gauntlet is rarely straightforward, and it begins with the tradition in-built each program.
“I think the coaching standard in the DCL is outstanding,” mentioned Wayland head coach Phil George. “That really helps the level of competitiveness and allows those teams to cycle through (league contention) and be competitive.”
Power rankings reactions
After the MIAA dropped its first set of spring energy rankings Friday morning, three issues stood out:
1. The Merrimack Valley Conference’s true energy is clouded by scheduling only a few nonleague video games. But historical past is on its facet and the ability rankings are excessive on it. Unbeaten Lowell stands at No. 3 and 5 different groups ranked top-20 in Div. 1.
2. Western Mass. clocks in official threats in Div. 2 early on, taking eight of the highest 13 spots. Defending champion Westfield, Agawam and West Springfield are No. 1, 3 and 4, respectively, notably rating forward of forces O’Bryant (No. 5) and Milford (No. 6).
3. For as nice as it’s to see new threats like Acton-Boxboro (No. 5), St. John’s (No. 6) and Cambridge (No. 8) rewarded early in Div. 1, prepare for some familiarity deep in each tournaments. Last 12 months’s Final Four groups in Needham, Lowell, Westfield, North Quincy, Milford and Greater New Bedford all rank inside the high 10 and sure aren’t going away straightforward.