SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 20, 2013

Lax Lowdown: Faceoff specialist earns high praise

Faceoff specialist Osbahr draws high praise from Roy

Lax Lowdown
Matt Jenkins

---- — John Roy has coached his fair share of standout faceoff specialists during his tenure with the St. John’s Prep lacrosse team.

Now that Derek Osbahr has officially graduated and concluded his time with the Eagles, Roy can say it: Osbahr is at the top of his faceoff list.

“For that particular task, he’s the best I’ve coached and one of the best I’ve seen in high school,” Roy said.

Roy made the statement that Osbahr is the best faceoff specialist that he’s coached, but by no means does he believe it’s a landslide victory.

The veteran St. John’s coach doesn’t have to go back too far to find two other greats. Mark Macdonald dominated at the faceoff X for a couple of years, including the Prep’s state title season of 2010, and Ryan Harding was a workhorse at the position for the Eagles the two years before Macdonald took over.

Each player had a different style.

Harding, who is headed into his senior year as a wrestler at Division 1 Duke University, used his background in wrestling to out-tough his opponent at the faceoff X, grinding out wins there as much as possible.

Macdonald seemed to be the most technically sound, out-maneuvering and out-thinking his opponent on most occasions. He’s still taking faceoffs in college, heading into his junior year at Division 1 Sacred Heart University.

Osbahr, meanwhile, was like a combination of both star specialists.

“What amazed me about Derek was that there were faceoffs I didn’t think he was going to be coming up with. There’d be a scrum and you’re saying to yourself, ‘There’s no way he’s getting it.’ Then, all of a sudden, he’s flipping the ball and running to offense,” Roy said. “The techniques he developed were amazing. He didn’t rely on one move. He’d rake it back, sometimes pop it in the air, and times where he would, instead of clamping it and pushing it forward, just push it forward and go and get it.”

Osbahr’s stats speak for themselves. He won 310 of 373 faceoffs this season and earned his place as a second team All-American.

Earlier this season, Osbahr decided he would attend Bentley University, but at first he wasn’t sure if he would continue playing lacrosse in college.

It was almost as if Osbahr didn’t quite comprehend how well he was playing and how much he was impacting the Eagles’ success.

Osbahr has decided he will play for the Falcons next year. Of course, his graduation means Roy has to find a worthy replacement.

“You watch someone like Derek and it surprises you when he loses. If he did lose one, the great thing about Derek and Mark and Ryan was that they immediately starting thinking, ‘What do I have to do next time?,’” Roy said. “They started thinking about what adjustments they had to make and what they had to do beat this guy.”

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The boys teams in the coverage area produced four All-Americans this season — Osbahr and Andrew Gallahue from St, John’s, and Brendan Flaherty and Dom Abate from Beverly. But there was one glaring omission.

Peabody attackman Keifer Heckman, who graduated as the Tanners’ all-time leading scorer with 286 points, was left out.

Heckman clearly deserved consideration after leading the state in scoring with 78 goals and 48 assists, and his absence from the team stung his teammates and coaches.

“Obviously I was disappointed when I learned he didn’t get acknowledged by the EMLCA (Eastern Massachusetts Lacrosse Coaches’ Association),” Peabody coach Anthony O’Donnell said. “But no matter what, whether they recognize him or not, he’s an All-American in my book.”

Heckman could have become Peabody’s third lacrosse All-American, joining Eddie Leonard (2007) and Greg Welch (2003). Welch is currently an assistant coach with the Tanners.

“It was probably harder for me than Keifer. I talked to him about it and he said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll show them I’m an All-American in college,’” O’Donnell said. “That’s a testament to his will to succeed.”

Heckman and his step brother Nick Ouellette will each be continuing their college careers at Southern New Hampshire University. Heckman led the state with 126 points, and Ouellette wasn’t far behind with 95 points.

This season, Heckman broke the school scoring record set by Welch. Welch previously held the record with 225 points, but Heckman’s 166 goals and 120 assists easily topped that.

Heckman was also a great leader on and off the field, which is what made his omission hard for his teammates to understand.

“Some of the kids were shocked that he didn’t get it. They see him every day and see how hard he worked,” O’Donnell said. “All the kids that got it deserved it, but Keifer was right there with them and the kids on the team see him every day. They see how hard he works to better himself. His teammates were more hurt than Keifer was, too.”

Heckman was just one part of a great senior class that O’Donnell had to say goodbye to. Ouellette also made a huge impact this spring, as did fellow captains Andrew Najjar and Evan Connolly.

Connolly was a quiet leader while Najjar was more vocal, the captain that truly had his finger on the pulse of the team.

Together, they helped the Tanners climb back into the state tournament this season, which is something that O’Donnell will never forget.

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Congratulations are due for Waring’s Emily Friend and Eleanor Lustig, as well as Beverly’s Camden Vitale. That North Shore trio earned its place on the United States Lacrosse Academic All-American team this spring.

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Bishop Fenwick boys coach Leo Shidler is stepping down after leading the Crusaders to their first tournament berth in program history.

Shidler is headed back to school and doesn’t feel he would have enough time to remain committed to the continued improvement of the Fenwick program.

“My company offered to pay for me to go back to school,” Shidler said. “It was a tough decision. I found out the beginning of the year that they would offer this and it took me just about all year (to decide). It was just before our tournament game that I told the team I wouldn’t be able to coach next season.”

Shidler was happy to bring Fenwick to a new level, and he was pleased to go out with the same class that he came in with.

“When I first came in there were guys who didn’t know the game,” Shidler said. “They were all athletes, they just didn’t know the rules or have lacrosse knowledge. Now, we have guys graduating and looking to continue playing lacrosse in college.”

The Crusaders went 11-9 this year and qualified for the East Division 3 tournament. Fenwick, the 23rd seed, dropped its opener 18-1 to Hanover.

The 26-year-old Shidler praised this senior class for helping the Crusaders reach the tournament, especially senior captains Jake Brennan and Troy Reinold.

Shidler is unsure who will emerge as a candidate for the vacant head coaching position, but he said his assistants Vinny Cinseruli and his younger brother Gregory Shidler would like to continue working with the program.

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Marblehead boys coach John Wilkens found nothing wrong with the way the Magicians went out this season. Wilkens’ club posted 16 straight wins before falling to East Division 2 champion Medfield, 16-6, in a quarterfinal matchup.

“Medfield was a freight train,” Wilkens said. “Those guys are really good in every position. They have solid athletes everywhere. I’d love to see Longmeadow, the team that beat them in the (state) final. But we had a good year and we have a lot to build on.”

Marblehead is losing some talented seniors, but junior faceoff specialist Trevor Gelineau and sophomores Brooks Tyrrell (midfielder) and Nathan Maselek (goalie) give Wilkens some solid building blocks. Maselek was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Northeastern Conference along with Beverly goalie Kevin Lally.

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Hamilton-Wenham boys coach Jim LaSelva offered an interesting note about the Generals season. Hamilton-Wenham finished 13-8 with five of its losses coming against teams that advanced at least to its respective sectional quarterfinals. All eight losses came against tournament teams.

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In a North Shore lacrosse season full of milestone goal and point totals, add Peabody girls senior captain Nicole Napolitano to the list. Napolitano finished with 73 goals and 30 assists, cracking the 100-point barrier with her four-goal, two-assist performance in the team’s Division 1 North quarterfinal loss to North Andover.

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Lax Lowdown, a column on North Shore high school lacrosse, runs each Tuesday during the spring sports season in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Matt Jenkins at 978-338-2648, by e-mail at mjenkins@salemnews.com, or follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.