Ahh, it’s that time of year again!
Make a few predictions and hope everyone forgets them in April!
But that’s why I get the big bucks . . . hmmm, someone else must be hiding them from me . . .
Here’s last year’s final poll to refresh your memory:
1) Lake Highland Prep – championship trophy
2) American Heritage-Delray – surprised in the finals
3) Pine Crest – maybe the best #3 in state history when you look at the schedule and the results. Lost to runner up AH-Delray 2x, title winner in 1A LHP and 2A title winner Bartram Trail, while beating Benjamin 2x, SA, St. Thomas, Vero Beach, King’s Academy and AH-Plantation 3x (check our last Top 10 and you’ll see how good this season was for them).
4) Naples – rolls right past a tough Region 3
5) Benjamin – beat Episcopal School, SA, South Fork 2x and Palm Beach Central while losing only to St. Thomas, Vero and Pine Crest 2x
6) Episcopal of Jacksonville – losses to Vero, Benjamin and Lake Highland 2x, while pretty much clocking everyone else
7) St. Stephen’s Episcopal – Regional finalist, avenging the 2 one-goal losses to ODA, winning when it counted the most
8) Out-of-Door Academy – ran the table in state until the SSE loss
9) Bishop Moore – can’t really reward them more than this given the quality of the wins
10) South Fork – gets the final slot over Jensen Beach because of the 2 head-to-head wins
When looking at this year, it became apparent that I need to do a better job of recording senior classes to see who drops off the rosters and see which schools most affected. That’s a job for a little later.
Last year’s senior class losses include Sofia Chepenik, Carli Fleisher, Lane Caulkins, Casey Roberts and so many other star players. We’re getting to the point across the state where some programs re-load and others rebuild, but the latter is starting to increase, and that’s a great sign.
One thing is sure . . . I will not hit on all 10. But I am confident that the top 2 will still be American Heritage-Delray and Lake Highland Prep. Pine Crest had a marvelous season last year but the gap between 1 and 2, and the rest, is still significant. We’ll see who can come out of the pack and approach those two powerhouses.
One possibility down the line is Ponte Vedra, which is now a D1 program this year, just falling below the cutoff. They pretty much return all their offense and won’t have to go through Bartram Trail in 1A. They also lost by one goal at Steinbrenner, so look out 1A.
Bishop Moore is also an intriguing story. So many close losses to top teams. Unfortunately, there are no stats from last year on MaxPreps so I can’t judge what is coming back and I’ve heard they were very senior oriented. Episcopal School lost more from its senior class than anyone from the last season’s Final Four team.
ODA lost two 50-goal scorers while St. Stephen’s brings everyone back. Naples has most of the team back, but the vastly underrated Caulkins has moved on and so has their starting goalie.
An intriguing story is on the Treasure Coast, as Satellite and Edgewood return their top players. Satellite’s Maeve Chamberlin needs to be known more, as do the Koshlap twins on Edgewood.
The Southeast was a monster according to the power rankings but none of them challenged AH-Delray. Will they take turns beating themselves up again or will some clarity take root early?
Okay, here we go!
1) Lake Highland Prep – the defending champs keep the ranking until they are knocked off the perch
2) American Heritage-Delray – will they make it 2-2 versus LHP in the last 4 finals?
3) Ponte Vedra – all their scoring is back and the move to 1A means an easier path to the Final Four in their region.
4) St. Stephen’s Episcopal – young, talented, everyone back. The only question is the schedule; can it get them prepared for the brackets?
5) Pine Crest – this is where it starts to get a little harder. Graduation losses hurt and a new head coach. Still talent comes back, and others also have their gaps.
6) Naples – Last year’s Final Four team returns everyone but Calkins and has to replace their starting goaltender, but the cupboard is pretty filled up.
7) Benjamin – Another team that lost some top players but returns a lot of depth from a solid team last year.
8) Jensen Beach – A little bit of a projection this year. Finished just out of the Top 10 last year with two losses to South Fork by a goal. Loses two scorers but returns the rest.
9) Episcopal School of Jacksonville – last year’s Final Four team loses a LOT but is also developing depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fall out for a while as the new players get their experience and come on as the season progresses to justify this as a final ranking.
10) Last Four to Vie for #10: Out-of-Door, Satellite, Edgewood and South Fork
There will be a few more teams to look at as the season gets through the first few weeks, so let the games begin!