Records can be deceiving. That’s the outlook Oak Park and River Forest High School boys lacrosse coach Rocco Chierici has adopted this spring.
OPRF finished a dismal 3-14 and in fifth place in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division in 2017. And yet, the team was very competitive in multiple games. In fact, the Huskies even won a play-in game to qualify for the state playoffs. Their postseason stay was short lived, however, losing to Grayslake in the first round.
“Last year’s results looked worse than the team really played.” Chierici said. “Seven of our losses were by one goal.”
Although the Huskies graduated multiple players after last season, the 2018 Huskies have talent and optimism. They believe the small margin between victory and defeat can turn in their favor this season.
“I am excited for this year’s team as there is a lot of physical talent,” Chierici said. “The program stresses and will push student-athletes to be two-way players and master the essential skills we have laid out to be complete players. I think our biggest challenge will be our ability to limit unforced errors, whether in action or thought.”
Team captain/goalkeeper Evan Friedman has been very effective early this season. A mix of upperclassmen will be called on to provide leadership and production. Seniors Rob Dombrowski, John Menzies and Conor Hartweg, along with juniors Jacob Siclau, Peter Galo, Ben Kotte and Liam Smart compose the nucleus of the team.
Promising sophomore Toby Kunkel, who also plays quarterback on the football team, is a good athlete with an ability to score.
Defensively, Milos Ewert, Paul Huber, Trey Mobley, Harry Wysocky, Matt Poulin and Sam Ciosek will see playing time as well.
“They are fast, mobile and can flat out get after people defensively,” Chierici said. “On top of that, they also have a great ability to move the ball, either via a pass or with their feet.”
The Huskies will face tough opponents throughout the season due to a mix of West Suburban Silver games, plus multiple nonconference tests.
“Our schedule is very competitive,” Chierici said. “You can’t play a soft schedule and expect to go very far in the playoffs. Any conference game is big, especially now that we have a traveling trophy in the conference. If you get a conference opponent that has the trophy, it is on the line. We will also be playing Evanston for a traveling trophy.
As far as winning it all, you have to look at Loyola and New Trier as the favorites.”
Glenbard West won last year’s conference, but Chierici believes every team is beatable in the West Suburban Silver.
“As a program we play to win,” Chierici said. “Along the way we will learn a lot about ourselves and realize that the only things you can ever really control are your effort and attitude. If you want to play lacrosse at OPRF, you better bring a good attitude and best effort every day.”
Chierici, who has been playing and coaching lacrosse since the early 1980s, credits his assistants Jason Raad, James Borja, Joe Curtis, Brad Raad and Rich Fantozzi for much of the team’s development.
“I have been lucky to have a solid coaching staff that has been together for three seasons now,” Chierici said. “Because of this dedicated staff, I witness small victories every day as we continue to push these young men to be better lacrosse players, students and sons.”
OPRF has a couple of home games in early April. The Huskies host Whitney Young (4/3) and Glenbard East (4/5). Both games start at 4:30 p.m. at the football stadium.