John Jennings is again among Colby College’s leading scorers.
John Jennings is again among Colby College’s leading scorers.
James Satloff

A natural scorer near the net

The free-wheeling John Jennings , the one who lets temporary bouts of failure slide off his shoulder pads, is back, and the men’s lacrosse team at Colby College might finally be ready to make a run at the NESCAC title because of it.

Jennings, who spent four years at St. John’s Prep, setting the Danvers school’s single-season scoring record with 88 goals his senior year in 2009, had 13 goals through Colby’s first four games this spring.

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Now, as a college senior, he scored five in the Mules’ season-opening 11-10 overtime win over perennial power Amherst.

“You hear everyone say it goes by so fast, but you don’t realize it until you’re a senior,” Jennings said. “It’s the last real competitive season you’re going to have. It makes you appreciate the past successes, if you were lucky enough to have them. It gives you an extra something.”

Jennings has put together one of those college careers that would form more of a scatter plot than a straight line. At its highest point, the plot would exhibit production as an elite attackman that is unmatched. There would be points scattered all over the spectrum, because Jennings has not been without his struggles, but even at his lowest, Jennings is still a valuable asset.

“I don’t think I’ve coached a better offensive mind,” said Colby coach Justin Domingos, talking the same way about Jennings as St. John’s Prep coach John Roy once did.

It takes an incredible one to enter the world of college lacrosse and dominate immediately. Coaches always talk about the transition process — the game moves faster, the players are stronger, the defenses more disciplined — but there was no transition process for Jennings.

He appeared in eight games his freshman year, starting in three of them, before an injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. But one number was staggering: He scored on 60 percent of his shots (12 for 20).

Domingos said he knew right away he had something special.

“It’s really something,” the coach said. “Shooting percentage is one of the big things we look at.”

When he maneuvers inside around the cage, Jennings hardly misses. He also rarely takes a bad shot, something that speaks of his lacrosse IQ as much as his general intelligence that has pushed him in the field of economics at Colby.

His moves are calculated, Domingos said, so that Jennings rarely makes a negative one. Instead of taking ill-advised shots, he tries to break down the defensive unit, dipping and dodging until he can find a statistical advantage somewhere on the field, even if it means passing the ball away. Not all attackmen, a group known to be hungry for goals, would do the same.

“Some people just get the game, understand how offense is played, and get the simplicity of looking for a two-on-one somewhere,” Domingos said. “John is one of those guys who can always find the right play.”

Jennings scored an astounding 43 goals in 16 games his sophomore year, a mark that no other player has reached since Colby College started keeping records in 1974.

After two seasons, Jennings was as good as he could be.

“In terms of playing more freely, I was at my best early on,” he said.

Jennings and his coaches have learned that sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself. After his record-setting sophomore campaign, he struggled his junior year because his expectations were too high.

“Last year that was that exactly,” he said of his junior season. “I put a lot of pressure on myself.”

It was the same thing Jennings went through at St. John’s Prep. He remembered some of the things Roy had taught him about managing expectations.

“It was frustrating for him, for all of us,” Domingos said. “But this is a game like a lot of other sports that when you start pressing, you can make it worse. We just concentrated on relaxing. We weren’t going to stop giving him the ball. We were going to keep giving him touches until he shot his way out.

“He caught fire again. For my money, he’s one of the best inside guys in college lacrosse.”

Jennings finished his junior season with 33 goals in 14 games, leading the team in scoring.

Lack of size not an impediment to Prowse

At 5-foot-6, 155 pounds, Wakefield’s Drew Prowse is the smallest player on the Massachusetts Maritime mens’ lacrosse team. He’s also one of the best.

The speedy attacker is off to a fast start for the school this season after a remarkable freshman year, when he finished with a team-leading 30 points (20 goals, 10 assists) in 16 games.

Through the first five games this spring, Prowse had already totaled 19 points (11 goals, eight assists).

“That’s what’s great about the game of lacrosse,” said Mass. Maritime coach Rory Deegan . “You don’t have to be 6-4, 220 [pounds] to play this game. He made himself into a great player with great stick skills, and he’s a very quick player. So he’s able to overcome his lack of size with his heart and just going full speed on each possession.”

Triton grad Jones wins Little East honors

Amesbury’s Adam Jones (Triton Regional) was named the Little East Conference Men’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Year after tying the conference meet record and setting a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth record when he jumped 6-8¼. Jones later jumped 6-9¾ at the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships, earning All-American honors.