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Globe West Sports

Gaining ground

Local lacrosse teams reflect wider rise in competition

St. John’s High attack Colin O’Rourke puts a move on a Walpole player during the state lacrosse final. St. John’s High attack Colin O’Rourke puts a move on a Walpole player during the state lacrosse final. (Mark C. Ide/Worcester Telegram & Gazette)
By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / June 21, 2009
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Sitting on the sidelines with a broken leg last summer, unable to showcase his skills for potential college recruiters, Colin O’Rourke was justifiably frustrated.

Rather than wait for coaches to approach him, O’Rourke went on the offensive.

The St. John’s High School athlete sent out highlight tapes to colleges across the region: 50 for football (the defensive back was a team captain for the Shrewsbury school last fall) and another 30 for lacrosse, after he earned All-America honors in the sport this spring.

Wagner College, a Division 1 lacrosse program on Staten Island, N.Y., that plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, offered a scholarship, which O’Rourke accepted. But with the outstanding senior season the 5-foot-11 attack put together, you might say that he flew under the radar.

O’Rourke piled up 100 points for St. John’s during the regular season. He then dazzled in the postseason, scoring 17 goals in over a three-game stretch of the Division 2 Central tournament, and powering the Pioneers to their first state final in program history.

St. John’s fell to Walpole High, 17-8, in the championship game, but not before O’Rourke pulled off one of the more amazing shots in the tournament - a behind-the-back, one-handed goal in the Central sectional final.

“Making the state finals, I feel like I can play with anyone in the state,’’ said O’Rourke. “Any team, any division. This relieved all the stress I had. I feel comfortable going in to playing college level.’’

“When all is said and done, people around here know what kind of kid Colin is. He had some tough luck,’’ St. John’s coach Rob Vigeant said. “In my heart, I feel bad for him. Had he been playing all summer, some more notoriety would have come his way.’’

But players like O’Rourke and teams like St. John’s are starting to make gains.

High school lacrosse programs east of Interstate 495 generally play at a faster pace than anywhere else in the state. But the overall level of play across the region has gotten more competitive - this was the first state final appearance for Walpole, too.

And as youth programs become more stable, and the sport continues to rise, look for the list of contenders to expand, coaches say.

“What’s been really exciting about the sport, instead of lacrosse being a third sport to stay in shape, or be with friends, it’s becoming a first sport,’’ said Concord-Carlisle High girls’ coach Allison Furey. “You stay in shape with the other sports.’’

Framingham High coach Stacy Freda, who guided the Flyers to back-to-back Division 1 state titles in 2006 and 2007, has seen a huge rise in off-season commitment to the game. Having outlets like the Massachusetts Bay Youth Lacrosse League means girls are no longer limited to playing the sport three months out of the year.

“You look at the grass-roots four or five years ago, teams strictly had freshmen picking up sticks for the first time,’’ Freda said. “The amount of kids now coming to us in high school with four or five years at the youth level, knowing the basics as a freshman, is huge.’’

Several area teams made impressive leaps this spring, perhaps none bigger than Furey’s Patriots. After going 20-16-2 in her first two seasons coaching Concord-Carlisle, the girls’ team finished this season with a 17-2 record, after falling, 10-9, to Framingham in the Division 1 North semifinals.

Such a jump can be attributed to a few factors. The Patriots returned most of their lineup from a year ago, played aggressive on the attack behind seniors Wyatt Davis and Marissa Potter, and had a strong defense.

“I just think that in general, teams will improve,’’ Freda said. “When more varsity programs pop up, and are around for seven or eight years, the sheer experience of the teams will give them the opportunity to go into the postseason.’’

Looking back at this spring brings to mind a number of top performers, boys and girls:

Caroline Bunting, Wellesley High: The University of Pennsylvania-bound senior formed one of the Bay State Conference’s deadliest 1-2 punches with sophomore Blake Dietrick (103 points). She finished the season with 85 points.

Kam Bumpus, Needham: The senior attack turned in another All-America season in leading the Rockets to a 16-6 campaign. He will be doing a post-graduate year at Bridgton Academy in Maine.

Zach Driscoll, Concord-Carlisle: The All-American defender is headed to Middlebury College this fall.

Moira Barry, Framingham: A junior this spring, she turned in her second straight All-America season with a team-high 92 points (69 goals, 23 assists). She has verbally committed to Boston College.

Jess Griffin, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional: The two-time All-American closed out her career with 117 points as a senior. Next stop for the Globe’s Player of the Year is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jake Smith, Medfield: Along with fellow senior All-American Phil Thompson, Smith anchored one of the area’s most physical defenses, setting the tone for an explosive attack led by two other All-Americans, Danny Gold and Brian Foster. While Smith is heading to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Thompson (Gettysburg), Gold (Amherst), and Foster (Middlebury) will also play collegiate lacrosse.

Alexa Rozelle, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional: After an 85-goal, 23-assist senior season, she is taking her talents to the University of California at Berkeley.

Sam Scoba, Franklin - The junior midfielder earned the program’s first All-America honor.

Brendan Hall can be reached at bhall59@hotmail.com.