Boys’ players to watch
Harry Leavitt, Wayland: A two-time Dual County All League selection, the senior — who started for the varsity basketball team this winter — is regarded as the Warriors’ go-to hitter. He’s described by his coach as being equally intense and relaxed on the court, a mind-set that allows him to shine at the biggest moments.
Henry Brandt, Natick: The Redhawks will rely on their senior captain and top hitter to lead a team with only three players returning from a year ago. With an imposing vertical and a quiet leadership style, the outside hitter is on track to earn a second consecutive first-team Bay State Conference selection.
Jon Van Lingen, Marlborough: The libero for his club team, the Milford Rippers, Van Lingen will be expected to play numerous positions this year for the Panthers. A three-year varsity player and last season a Midland Wachusett League all-star, Van Lingen was named captain in his senior campaign.
Tim MacMannis and Kane Wittorff, Milford: The senior cocaptains form a dynamic one-two punch that will spearhead a potent attack for the Scarlet Hawks. A setter, MacMinnis collected 655 assists a season ago, while outside hitter Wittorff amassed 161 kills. Both were chosen as Midland Wachusett all-league players last spring, Milford’s last season in the league.
Ben Cohen, Wellesley: Described by his coach as determined to do well, the junior outside hitter plays with an infectious fire and passion. Look for Cohen to make the jump to Bay State Conference all-league stature, a recognition which would represent an important step in the evolution of a program in just its fourth year.
Five boys’ teams to watch
Milford (22-1 last season): After losing last year’s Division 1 state championship to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in the final game by three points, the Scarlet Hawks stand poised for a return trip with seven seniors back. Led by cocaptains Tim MacMannis and Kane Wittorff, and senior Michael Soares, Milford will play perhaps the state’s most difficult schedule as an independent school, something which should have them battle-tested when the tournament rolls around.
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional (19-2): The Warriors graduated their entire roster from last season. Though they have dominated Dual County League play by winning seven of the last 10 titles, a return to the sectional finals — where they lost to Milford — will take hard work and patience. Look for sophomore Andrei Rakitin, senior Josh Reinstein, and junior Clay Williams to step up.
Natick (14-4): Only three players, including senior Jeff Singer and junior Colin Leddy, return from last season’s team, which lost to Lincoln-Sudbury in the sectional semifinals. This season, the Redhawks will rely on an injection of JV talent for another postseason run. Optimism abounds for this intense group after strong early-season practice and scrimmage performances.
Marlborough (12-7): The Panthers return six seniors, including setter Chris Syers and Midland Wachusett all-league selection Jon Van Lingen, to a squad that fell to Algonquin Regional in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Two years removed from a 17-win season, the Panthers will look to bounce back and use past experiences to exceed last year’s accomplishments.
Wayland (9-11): Despite missing the playoffs by one win a season ago, the Warriors stand poised for a leap into postseason play with 10 seniors returning. Under third-year coach Rod Fletcher, Wayland’s program has grown tremendously, and potentially positions the Warriors as a future standout program within the region.