DANVERS — A blackened pile of snow marked the far corner of the lacrosse turf at Cronin Memorial Stadium – an unpleasant reminder of winter.
Clouds rolled in above the stadium and the temperature dropped to a chilly 39 degrees, not a bit like spring. But senior Derek Osbahr did not let the dreadful weather dampen his mood.
When he took the field for Monday’s practice, he had a special message for coach John Roy.
“It’s great to be back out here,” Osbahr yelled as the team took the field.
For Osbahr and the rest of the St. John’s Prep Eagles, the sights are locked on moving past last season’s 10-10 finish and a 12-6 first-round loss to Lincoln-Sudbury in the Division 1 East state tournament.
“It’s great to be outside after being stuck in the gym,” Osbahr said. “We have a great group of kids right now, and we’ve just got to have our head on right and stay focused throughout these next couple of weeks.”
After winning the D1 East state championship in 2010 against Duxbury, then losing to the Dragons in the championship in 2011, expectations are set high for the Eagles as they work to regain the elite status of seasons past.
“Last year was definitely down, because the expectations have increased for us,” said Roy, who is coaching his 19th season. “Over the past few years, we’ve sort of climbed to the top of the mountain or near the top, so people expect St. John’s Prep to be in the conversation every year.”
Senior captain and attacker Jack Sharrio, who quarterbacked the Eagles to the Division 1 Super Bowl in the fall, welcomes the pressure.
“Just working hard is going to be a huge part, and I think we could have something special if we put all the work together,” said Sharrio, who was a freshman when the Eagles won a state championship in 2010.
With just four seniors graduated from last season, Roy is welcoming 24 returning players to a 27-man roster. The Eagles are incredibly deep this season, with 15 seniors and 11 juniors.
“We like it,” Roy said. “We love the team we have every year, but it’s nice to see some guys coming back and build on some of the things we learned in past years.”
Senior goalie Tom Casale will start in net this season, and juniors Dom Hooven and Lucas DeAngelo, who made the team this spring, will see some playing time in the cage.
Roy said he also expects sophomore midfielder Owen Rockett, junior midfielder Drew O’Connell , and junior attackers Andrew Gallahue and Joey Cavallaro to help contribute on the turf this season.
With so many upperclassmen, Roy said that leadership will be key, and he is excited to hand the reins to tri-captains Sharrio, Osbahr, and senior defenseman Tucker Mathers.
Sharrio “is a great athlete, and his leadership is invaluable,” Roy said. “He is a leader, and if you go around campus, he stands out as a leader among his classmates. The way he leads best is by example, and he is working hard in drills to make sure people are focused.’’
The Eagles scrimmaged against Governor’s Academy Wednesday, and host Marblehead Thursday at Cronin Memorial Stadium. The Eagles open the regular season Tuesday in Westwood against Catholic Conference foe Xaverian.
“Xaverian is always one of our biggest rivalries, and they beat us pretty good last year,” Sharrio said. “I think that’s something that stung and stuck in my heart, so I’m going to try and take that anger and put it into that game coming up.”
Of course, the Eagles are focused on winning the Catholic Conference. But like most other top-notch programs in the state, the goal is to also knock off powerhouse Duxbury, which finished 23-2 last season as the Dragons captured a second consecutive D1 East state championship.
“There’s always something to improve on, and I’d love to see our team win the Catholic Conference,” Osbahr said. “We want to be the team with the target on our back. We don’t want Duxbury to have that target anymore.”
New faces, same plan
for North Reading
Last season, North Reading navigated uncharted territory with a trip to the Division 3 East state championship. The Hornets ultimately fell short with a 16-6 loss to Dover-Sherborn, but finished the season with a 22-2 record.
This year, they will be defending their Cape Ann League (Div. 2) title without star Cody Carbone, who graduated last year, finishing his career with 312 points.
Nevertheless, North Reading coach Chuck Campobasso expects his team to be a top contender again.
“My expectations don’t change,” Campobasso said. “It doesn’t matter what team I have. Tomorrow they’re going to be better than today. If they can improve a little each day, then good things will happen.”
Eight graduated from last season, and Cam Knight transferred to Lawrence Academy, but seven seniors are returning.
Along with Carbone, goalie Brian Conway also graduated last year.
Campobasso is unsure who will fill Conway’s shoes this season, but said he will rely heavily on the veteran play of his senior defenders, Conor Murnane and Tom Potter , to minimize damage from opponents’ offensive attacks.
Campobasso said he will also expect some offensive production from senior midfielders Nate Seed, Anthony Lytle, Billy Sexton, and Mike O’Brien, and attacker Jeremy Buckley.
“It’s hard to replace that production,” Campobasso said of Carbone, who scored 56 goals last season.
“But they’re a good bunch of good guys. In my mind, we’re going to do our thing, work harder, and take it one game at a time.”