By Marty Farmer
Respect everyone, fear no one, and focus on the Friars. That's been the rallying cry for the Fenwick High Schools boys lacrosse team this season. The approach has worked well for Fenwick, which boasts a 6-2 record.
"We're definitely pleased with how the season has gone so far," Fenwick head coach Jerry Considine said. "We had only five seniors last year, so a lot of our best players were juniors and sophomores. They feel like this is their year to win a lot of games and let people know who they are as a group.
"We have 10 seniors and 17 freshmen in the program this season. It's nice to have good numbers in both classes as bookends of the program."
Other than two losses to perennial state power Loyola Academy, the Friars have beaten all comers. In the moral victory category, the Friars went head to head against the Ramblers with a competitive 12-9 loss in their first meeting. The second meeting in Wilmette was not close.
"By keeping serve with Loyola Academy until midway through the fourth quarter (in the first game), we proved that we can beat anyone when we accomplish our game plan," assistant coach Joe Opron said. "Loyola is the king of the conference and the front-runner in the state. They've locked up the regular season title, but as we say every day, 'We play for May.' We look forward to getting another crack at them in supersectionals."
Despite facing several good teams this spring, the team's strong start has been a refreshing change from last year.
"Our schedule is again the most difficult in program history, but it is appropriate for this senior-rich squad," Opron said. "They've earned the right to play the best the area has to offer."
In 2017, Fenwick finished 9-10 with the toughest schedule in program history. The Friars lost to Highland Park 15-14 in the opening round of the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association state playoffs.
"The program has taken major strides in recent years," senior captain George Lagios said. "Every year we grow as a program. Past Friars have set this program and our team up for success. As a team, we're trying to leave our mark on the program and continue that success."
Although Fenwick lost key contributors like attackmen Jack Lambert and Kevin Finn to graduation, several players are back this spring to lead the squad. Offensively, the Friars are clicking with nearly a 39 percent scoring rate on their offensive possessions.
Michael Scudder has filled the void admirably at the attackman position. He averages two goals per game and converts 46 percent of his shots on goal.
"Michael Scudder returned this season after not playing last year," senior midfielder Danny Welsh said. "He is the attackman leader we needed and he plays great off the ball."
Welsh does a little bit of everything as the team's top scorer and a standout defender. He's averaging a team-best five points per game.
"My role is to be a feared dodger on the team. By doing that, it enables me to draw slides and find the open guys," he said. "[Midfielder] Will Hanfland, George Lagios and I work together up top. We always know where the others are on the field which makes playing so much easier. I'm glad to be on the same line as these guys. I wouldn't rather play with anyone else in the state."
Tim Shearer is a returning all-state player. At 6-foot-4, Shearer has tremendous size and he's an accomplished defenseman who plays man-up offense. He forces 2.5 turnovers and three clears per game. Shearer has committed to Towson University.
Lagios, who played backup quarterback on the football team, is a starting attackman and very athletic. His role is to be a dodging threat from all spots on the field. He recently committed to playing lacrosse at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Will Dunleavy, Miles Guillen, Joe Rafferty, Michael Whalen, Colin Marks, Padraig McEnery, Rory McGuire, Emmet Bonaccorsi, Jack Hayford, Will Hoeller, Mike Manchen, Grant Benson, Declan Donnelly, Aidan Murphy and Peter Tabet round out the roster, which is actually small compared to most high school teams. Public school teams often have 30-35 players, while the Friars compete with about 18.
"We have a very experienced, senior-heavy team that can grind teams down on either end of the field," Opron said. "Our greatest weakness is our lack of depth, which makes it tough to get into up-and-down shootouts. We like to control the pace of the game."
The Friars hope to maintain their winning ways with a huge game this coming weekend. On Saturday, May 5 at 4 p.m., Fenwick will host Oak Park and River Forest High School at the Priory.
"The team is eager for our two big rivals with games against St. Ignatius and OPRF this week," Welsh said. "The seniors are pumped to play OPRF for the first time since our freshman year loss to them."
Looking ahead to the state playoffs, Fenwick is a probable No. 1 seed in its sectional.
"Our main goal is to win state," Lagios said. "We take things a game at a time. 'Focus on the Friars' is our motto. As long as we keep the momentum going, we will be just fine."
Much of the Friars' success can be attributed to East Ave Lacrosse (eastavelacrosse.com). The organization was created to teach youth about the game. Currently, there are well over 200 boys and girls players in the program. Many of them are current or future lacrosse players at Fenwick and OPRF.
Considine, Opron and Dan Applebaum are the directors of East Ave Lacrosse.
"Joe (Opron) and I started East Ave Lacrosse while he was coaching at OPRF and I have been at Fenwick," Considine said. "We got our players together to compete in a tournament. From that start, younger siblings and a bunch of kids in the area became interested in lacrosse. I attribute a lot of the program's success to the fact we visited the Oak Park schools and volunteered to teach lacrosse in gym classes."
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