Winter Sports Playoff Preview

February 26, 2024
• Everything you need to know heading into the Rockets winter 2024 post season.

All four Needham teams clinched a spot in the Division 1 Statewide Tournament and the first round matchups kick off this week. Girls hockey earned the #17 seed and will travel to a well known opponent, #16 Braintree on Wednesday, February 28th, 6:00pm at Zapustas Rink in Randolph. Slightly earlier that night, #23 Boys Hockey will travel The Bog in Kingston to take on #10 Marshfield at 5:20 pm. Boys and Girls Basketball each earned home games, and will play a double header in the A Gym on Thursday, February 29th. First up is the 15 seeded Boys who host #18, Taunton at 5:00pm. And rounding out the first round is the highest seed out of the four, #10 Girls Basketball who host #23 Shrewsbury at 7:00 pm.

#10 Girls Basketball finished the regular season at 14-6, their best put together campaign since the 2019-2020 season where they lost in the Division 1 South Sectional. They have not moved past the first round in the post season since that year, but will look to change that against #23 Shrewsbury. The makeup of this team includes mostly sophomores and juniors such as Hannah Levine, Annie Camozzi, Eva Andrews(sophomores) and Noa Brown, Callie McCarthy(juniors). Katherine Leslie is the only senior to consistently get minutes, with Sophia Kukoleca earning some run later in the season. The girls will have a tough task in the opening round vs the Colonials, who’s program has turned a corner, going from 3-17 last year to 11-9 this year, led by their freshman leading scorer, Addison O’Connor. The winner of this matchup will play the winner of #7 Weymouth vs #26 Lincoln Sudbury/#39 Medford in the MIAA D1 Sweet 16.

#15 Boys Basketball will have a tougher time trying to emulate what they did last year, making it to their first ever State Championship, ultimately falling to this year’s top seed, Worcester North. Despite losing some key players, the Rockets are still led by two time Bay State Herget MVP, Brian Cloonan and all star, Campbell Keys, finishing with a record of 13-7. Reigning D1 Coach of the Year, Paul Liner has instilled a “we over me” mentality which this team has embraced to the fullest, making it easier to go deep into his bench throughout the season. The Rockets will be put to the test in the first round vs #18 Taunton, who are led by 1,000 point scorer and University of Hartford commit, Troy Santon. The winner of this game will take on the winner of #2 Catholic Memorial vs #31 Newton South/#34 Lexington in the MIAA D1 Sweet 16.

#23 Boys Hockey advanced to the tournament for the second straight year after posting a 11-8-1 record. Ironically, they will be put in the same position at last season, traveling to The Bog to take on #10 Marshfield in the first round. Last year, the Rockets fell short 1-0, so here’s hoping history does not repeat itself. The boys only graduated 2 seniors last year, so most of this year’s squad are returners who will be seeking revenge on the Rams. Some key returners to note are Senior defensemen Jimmy Kenney with 14 points, Junior center Joe Kajunski with 14 points, Senior right wing Sean Reilly with 13 points, and Junior left wing Matt Rutter with 13 points, and a team leading 10 goals. In his first year in net, Junior goalie Conor Espinola has an 88 percent save rate in his 17 starts. The Rockets will look to win their first playoff game since 2018, but will have to take down a high powered offense by the rams, led by their star right wing Teddy Devoe, who has 37 total points this year. The winner of this matchup will play the winner of #7 Reading vs #26 Bishop Feehan in the MIAA D1 Sweet 16.

#17 Girls Hockey was less than .5 points away from being at home in the first round, but instead will travel to #16 Braintree and face the Wamps for the 3rd time this season. After missing out of the tournament last year, the Rockets have had quite the bounce back finishing at 12-7 and 1. The girls are led by a great mix of upper and underclassmen inlcuding Senior right wing Lily Schamlz with a team leading 29 points, Senior center Erin McDonnel with 16 points, Junior left wing Jill Peabody and Junior defensemen Adrienne Giancola both with 14 points, and two freshman, left wing Bella D’Amelio and center Sarah Porras each with 13 points. Senior goalie Allie Curtis has an impressive 90 percent save rate on the season in her 19 starts. The rockets will look to win their first playoff game since 2020 on Wednesday night. They spilt the regular season series with the Wamps, winning 2-1 back on January 6th on the road, then losing 4-3 on February 10th at home. The winner of this game will face the winner of #1 Notre Dame Academy vs #32 Franklin in the MIAA D1 Sweet 16.

You can find full brackets for each sport on the MIAA website.


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