Quick reminder to enter the prediction contest/poll! Entries will be open all the way until the day of competition!
Link to B Poll
Link to C Poll
Also, keep in mind that if you put in a troll entry (don't worry, I can tell), I'm just going to delete it. It takes me all of two clicks, so it doesn't take up that much of my time, so why waste your time doing it?
Now on to my personal predictions (since some of you have been wondering)!
1. Shady Side - I think it's going to be really close (margin of 10 points or less), but given the choice, I'm going to go with the more proven team. Nothing against Springhouse, but the defending champ keeps the crown until proven otherwise.
2. Springhouse - But the new challenger is going to put up a heckuva fight. These two are by far the class of PA B, and near locks to finish 1-2. Another team could possibly break in, but it would take a tremendous amount of effort, and the margin is just too wide. At the end of the day, the main question is not who will be top 2, but who will win the top spot.
3. Bala Cynwyd - Now we get to the interesting part! The best of the rest is going to be a team that limits mistakes, and BC has been around for quite a while, so they know the drill. The experience is going to come in really handy, as I expect them to come out on top of the remaining teams. Probably not enough firepower to get close to SSA/SMS, but definitely good enough for a solid third.
4. Devon Prep - This team, if it keeps improving, could end up being a nationals contender in the future, but they're still a year or two away. Fourth, however, is very doable. They could also very realistically get third if they have a very good showing, as I believe their ceiling is higher than BC's. They're still relatively new to the scene, though, so their final place has more variance than BC or the next team.
5. Welsh Valley - It's no surprise that Welsh Valley is in here. As one of the most consistent teams in the state, they've gotten between 5th and 9th every year since 2008. There is a chance a team will surprise and drop WV a place or two, but expect them to be around here.
6. Strath Haven - Just two years ago, Strath finished with 50 points at regionals. Graduation has taken a major toll on this former national contender. However, they're not a bad team by any means, and should place in the top 10, like they usually did in the mid-2000s.
7. Park Forest - Perennially underrated team that always finishes somewhere in the top 10. Maybe they don't get as much recognition since they compete in a lesser-known region, and they usually perform better at states than regionals, but they've place in the top 10 for four straight years, and there's no reason to think that streak will end this year (especially since they performed slightly better at regionals this year)
8. Kutztown - They jumped all the way up to 5th last year from 14th in 2013, but their true strength this year is probably somewhere in the middle. CE is a strong region; I expect both Kutztown and Whitehall-Coplay to do well. The only thing keeping WC from this list is that I am cautious about their absence from the state finals last year. They're on the doorstep.
9. Quaker Valley - Solid team which doesn't seem to have lost steam from last year. It's always tough being in Shady Side's region, so taking 2nd is no small feat. Rising team Bedford is also a contender, but given QV's top 10 place last year, I prefer their pedigree.
10. Eagle View - Of the rising teams in the state, Eagle View might be improving the most consistently. Last year, in their first appearance at states since 2006, they managed a solid 14th, and followed that up with a regional win. I'm not sure if they attended any invites, but I'm not betting against them. There's not much further to improve from 14th without cracking the top 10.
Honorable mention: Bedford, Whitehall-Coplay, Springton Lake, Wyoming Area
1. Harriton – They may have lost their 16-year winning streak, but they’ve still qualified for nationals 22 years in a row. I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against them retaking the top spot.
2. Conestoga – Stoga’s been very good for a while now, making it slightly surprising that they’ve never qualified for nationals. They’ve had several close calls, including missing 2nd place by one point in 2013, and it just feels like they’re due to break through that barrier.
3. Bayard Rustin – The team that broke the Harriton/Penncrest stronghold in 2012 is looking like it has its strongest team since then. The task of overtaking a motivated Stoga team, and holding off the teams below them, will be difficult though. It’s not out of the question, so don’t count them out.
4. Penncrest - They last finished below 3rd a long, long time ago, but the state is stronger now, and this team very nearly placed 6th at regionals. However, expecting them to drop below 4th is a little much. An improvement between regionals and states is expected.
5. Strath Haven – This is a really good team that would likely win any other region, but they happen to be in the toughest in the state, and one of the toughest in the country. Unfortunately for them, the lead contenders always seem to be one step ahead of them. Not that 5th is bad in a tough state like PA.
6. Shady Side – Since the fall of Athens, the gap between the top 5 teams in the SE region and the rest of the state has only grown. This is the team with the best chance of breaking in. They have tons of experience from the Division B version, giving them the upside to take on the heavyweights. However, the strength of those teams can’t be discounted; it is incredible
. It doesn’t feel like they’re ready to get top 5 yet. Next year, though: watch out.
7. Northwestern Lehigh – They burst onto the scene last year with a string of impressive invitational places, and should be in the mix again this year. It’s probably a bit much to expect them to challenge Strath or Penncrest, but top 10 is absolutely possible (and probable).
8. North Pocono – A slight bit of homerism here, as Perkiomen Valley has had a stranglehold on 8th place for three years running now and would be the safe pick. But North Pocono’s a rising team, and after breaking into the top 10 last year, is looking to rise higher, and that might be enough to overtake PV.
9. Perkiomen Valley – But if they do fall, it won’t be very far. This is a very safe pick for the top 10, since they’ve been top 10 every year since moving to the Central East region, and always come out strong and consistent.
10. Garnet Valley – Last year was the first in a while that the Southeast region only put 5 teams in the top 10 for C Division (2009 to be precise). Garnet Valley has improved pretty steadily since qualifying in 2013, though, and after nearly beating Penncrest, seems poised to contend for the 10th spot.
Honorable mention: Stroudsburg, Lower Merion, Hershey, Fleetwood