It was the opportunity of a lifetime for Fenwick boys lacrosse head coach Tim Duffy, as well as Fenwick assistant coach Seth Molek and former Friars' lacrosse star Peter Moreno, and it's certainly one they will never forget.
Duffy, who also graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School, coached the HEADStrong lacrosse team (comprised of premier college players from the United States) to the Amsterdam Lowlands Games championship on June 30. Duffy's team defeated several elite European squads before finally securing the coveted title via a 15-2 win over the USA Starz.
Duffy selected the 20 members of HEADStrong from a prospective pool of over 200 college players. Under his guidance, HEADStrong's surprisingly cohesive collection of college stars working together on the fly went 8-0 at the event, highlighted by victories over the British, Irish and Italian National teams.
"The biggest challenge is getting the right kids together," Duffy said. "We hand-picked players that had never played together. If you were at one of those [Amsterdam Lowlands] games though, and saw how they played as a team, you would think they'd been playing together for years."
When selecting the squad, Duffy enlisted familiar Friars Molek and Moreno as lacrosse representatives of the Oak Park community overseas.
"It feels amazing to be able to represent Oak Park (in such a big tournament)," Molek said. "I know Tim and I bring a lot of attention lacrosse-wise to our town as coaches and players. It feels great being able to help spread our knowledge of the game to youth and high school programs."
The team represented the HEADStrong foundation, which supports the fight against blood cancer and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The HEADStrong squad sported lime-green uniforms to represent the awareness color for the disease. Duffy worked closely with the organization, which was formed by former Division I lacrosse player Nick Colleluori, who was diagnosed with the disease as a freshman in college and sadly passed away.
"I worked hand-in-hand with HEADStrong," Duffy said. "It was a collaborative process. We were constantly talking to other coaches and putting in the time and effort to get the team together."
When he was 8 years old, Duffy became interested in lacrosse as his oldest brother, Nate, played the sport at OPRF. In high school, Duffy followed in his big brother's footsteps by becoming one of the star players for Huskies' lacrosse. Despite missing most of his senior year with a concussion, Duffy bounced back beautifully and went on to play college lacrosse at Ohio State.
"The overall experience was something I'll never forget," Duffy said of his playing days at OPRF. "My fondest memory was playing our senior game at Hinsdale Central, where my dad was a teacher. I scored six goals and two assists in my best game of the season."
Duffy played for the Huskies under head coach Dan Ganschow, who stepped down as the OPRF boys lacrosse coach this past spring. Duffy and Ganschow, who was a high school teammate of Nate Duffy, remain very close friends.
As the Friars' lacrosse skipper, Duffy relishes the chance to take on his alma mater. He may bleed Huskies' orange and blue, but his allegiance is now pretty black and white with the Friars.
"It's a huge rivalry," Duffy said. "Being an OPRF alum, I obviously want nothing but the best for that program, but when I'm coaching against [OPRF] I want to beat them."
The Friars finished 14-6 en route to a second place in the Chicago Catholic League last season. Duffy, who earned the CCL Coach of the Year award in 2013, knows that his players will continue to develop and mature, which means Friar Nation will have plenty to be excited about regarding lacrosse in upcoming seasons.
"I'm confident that we can continue to build on our success," he said. "We have a great  class of incoming freshman. The athletic department at Fenwick has been great about believing in my philosophy and how I want to grow this program."