Seamus Blaha appreciates a good rivalry.
He will experience the magnitude of the Army-Navy football game when he’s attending the U.S. Naval Academy as a plebe in the fall. This spring, however, the Oak Park and River Forest High School lacrosse player is busy relishing the Huskies’ turnaround season, highlighted by a 10-7 win over visiting Fenwick last Friday.
For good measure, the OPRF girls team defeated the Friars 14-8 to complete a lacrosse sweep last week, nailing down neighborhood bragging rights until next spring.
“Fenwick was a great win for us because they are a huge rival,” Blaha said. “The game meant a lot more because we lost to them last year, but we’re more confident this season.
“We have really bounced back from last season when we struggled and only won four games. We are 6-2 [this season], beat Lyons Township for the first time in 13 years and our coaching staff is very strong, with a lot of experience. Honestly, I think we can play at an even higher level and develop the program into one of the best in the state.”
Along with Blaha (a senior captain midfielder), the Huskies are well-stocked with talented upperclassmen including senior midfielder Ian Mahanes, senior defenseman Phil Berton (who will play football at Dartmouth), senior attackman Patrick Howell, junior midfielder Joseph Werner and junior long stick midfielder Connor Lamb.
“We are a very good shooting team,” OPRF coach John Terreta said. “We have attackmen who have very good field vision and our defense is very athletic. I can’t really classify our style since we are good on transition but can be exceptional in a settled situation.”
Despite their loss to the Huskies, Fenwick is in the midst of a solid campaign as well with an 9-5 record. The Friars are led offensively by attackmen Pat Donahue, Danny Condron, Eamon McGuire and midfielders Jack Lambert and Jackson Mitchell. Defensively, freshman Tim Shearer and senior Jack Grogan anchor the backfield in support of senior goalie Elliot Edmunds. Sophomore Pat Moore is the Friars’ top faceoff player.
“We play an aggressive, fast-paced style,” Fenwick coach Jerry Considine said. “We’re hanging our hat on our transition game and stick skills. Our goal is to win our first game in the playoffs along with several games after that one.”
Last season, Fenwick finished 11-10 with a first-round exit in the playoffs.
Huskies, Friars both headed in right direction in girls lacrosse
The OPRF girls squad entered the spring with the most impressive resume, based on last season. The Huskies finished fifth in the state with a record of 17-5 in 2014. While they are off to a 3-7 start this spring, the record is misleading considering the strength of schedule, which has included games against state powers like New Trier, Glenbrook South and Hinsdale Central, plus a tournament trip to Ohio.
“While we’re facing a losing record right now, we have played some incredibly talented teams,” OPRF coach Alana Breen said. “The benefit is that we’re constantly learning, which is making us a better team. I think we will see some good things in the second half of the season.”
Much of Breen’s optimism stems from the Huskies’ multiple threats on offense. Senior Mary Grace Detmer, who has the most career goals (44), assists (23) and ground balls (61) on the team, is a returning all-conference player. Senior midfielders Sophie Smith (28 goals, 17 assists for OPRF career), MC Smith and Anne Clare Cronin along with senior attackers Catie Houle and Moira Malley and senior defenders Rose Taylor and Nora Spillane provide plenty of talent and experience.
Senior goalie Presley Cone, who earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, has saved 91 of 159 shots on goal (57% save percentage) and has saved 245 goals during her three-year varsity career.
Sophomore India Soodan has made a major impact as a first-year varsity player, leading the Huskies in scoring (14 goals) and draws (18). Sophomore Christen Conley is another promising underclassman.
Soodan, Detmer and Houle scored three goals apiece against Fenwick, while Smith finished with two goals and two draws.
“I have total confidence in our team moving forward into the second half of the season,” Breen said. “It’s really up to the players in terms of how much they want to progress and succeed. If they believe they can do it, they can get it done. Lacrosse is a mental sport so if the girls are mentally there, I have no doubt they can make it into the top 10.”
While the Fenwick girls team hasn’t had the recent success of OPRF, the Friars are trending in the right direction under head coach Mark Yeakey. Last season, Fenwick finished 8-8 overall and 4-1 as a runner-up to Marian Catholic in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. The Friars, coming off their best season in six years, defeated Resurrection 16-1 in the postseason. OPRF edged Fenwick 11-9 in the next round of the 2014 playoffs.
Fenwick (5-5, 4-2 ESCC), which lost three all-conference players to graduation and 45 percent of its scoring, returns a team featuring young talent. Sophomore twins Bridget and Annie Ritten are returning all-conference players who drive the offense. Sophomore Isabella Marquez has shown great promise in goal replacing Sarah Ritten, who graduated last year as an all-conference player and academic All-American. Freshmen Margaux Giacotto and Kate Ryan also factor prominently into the Friars’ future.
Co-captain defensemen Madeline Yeakey and Maggie O’Brien provide leadership and experience.
“We are a young team so we’re hoping to develop more fundamentally as the season progresses,” Yeakey said. “We have skills at all levels, but we’re shallow, which puts a lot of stress on the goalie and defense. We’re hoping to be patient and, depending on the opponent, situational in our approach.”
Sophomore Mikayla Moreno scored four goals, Bridget Ritten tallied three assists and Marquez had 12 saves against OPRF.
“When Oak Park possessed in a settled offense, we played better than defending the fast break,” Yeakey said. “Our whole defensive unit of Madeline Yeakey, Maria Ritten and Nadiyah Tait played very well.
“Fenwick is making strides. We’ve never beaten OPRF and we’re making that a program objective. Most of the kids know each other so it makes for a competitive game at a great venue.”