Boston High School: Steve O'Donnell

Recap: No. 4 Xaverian 15, La Salle (R.I.) 12

April, 26, 2014
Apr 26
6:20
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PROVIDENCE, R.I . – Granted, defending MIAA Division 1 boys’ lacrosse champion Xaverian Brothers and two-time defending Rhode Island Division 1 champion La Salle Academy play in different leagues as well as in different states.

But what if the Hawks and the Rams either played in the same conference or played each other more than once per season?

“Obviously, ‘O.D.’ (La Salle coach Steve O’Donnell) has them fired up, they run good patterns and they know what they want to do,” Xaverian coach Tim Gardner said on a frigid, rainy Saturday after the Hawks beat the Rams, 15-12.

“They have a heck of an athlete in No. 22,” he said of the Rams’ Joe Manown, who scored three goals and assisted on two. “I think they’d fit right in the Catholic Conference with us. If we played them a couple of times a year, it would be a tough game every time. I think that’s what every Catholic Conference game is like.”

Xaverian’s 1-2 punch of Jake Cox (five goals, one assist) and Jack Wheeler (three goals, one assist) paced the Hawks while Manown’s younger brother, Matt, also scored three goals and recorded two assists.

Lukas Buckley contributed one goal and two assists for the Hawks (6-2) while Evan McGreen scored twice for the Rams (3-2).

As far as O’Donnell is concerned, the tougher the non-league opponent the better.

“My philosophy here is we have a league and then we go out of league,” O’Donnell said. “We’re going to challenge ourselves in our league and out of our league. As for Xaverian Brothers, you’ve got to beat the best to be the best.

“The same is true with Medfield and Bishop Guertin. They’re three of the best teams I think in New England. But I think we’re a very good team. We’re young. But I think the difference today was discipline.”

For the first seven minutes, the Hawks gave every indication that they would blow the Rams off the field since they grabbed a 4-0 lead on goals by Cox, Peter Thorbahn, Cox again and Nick Shaw.

La Salle battled back and recorded unanswered goals by Matt Manown, Joe Manown and Drew Edwards (his goal came after a half-field pass from Matt Manown). But Xaverian scored a killer of a goal with exactly two-tenths-of-a-second left in the first quarter when Zach Bloom whipped home a shot from a good 40 yards out.

“We got up and we’re seeing it a little bit,” Gardner said. “The weather plays into a lot of the things we do. I think we got the better of that first quarter. But they chipped back. They have a lot of good athletes all over the field and were able to make some good plays on groundballs … unsettled situations … and climbed back into it and made it closer.”

La Salle pulled within 5-4 on a Matt Manown goal 52 seconds into the second period. And the Rams tied it when McGreen scored a man-up goal at 6:33.

Then, after Wheeler and Joe Manown traded goals to make the score 6-6, Xaverian’s Shayne Kaminski scored a key goal – 10 seconds after Manown’s goal to put Xaverian ahead for good at 7-6.

“We certainly have a lot of guys that are capable of scoring,” Gardner said. “I think defense is a little tough because of the weather and the ball’s skipping around. There were a couple of wild situations with the penalties and being multiple-men down a couple of times.

“It was a weird game in that sense. But Cox is a great shooter. Wheeler can take over a game by carrying the ball from midfield. He’s just a tremendous athlete. They’re seniors and we depend a lot on those guys.”

Wild finish: To say the final two minutes of regulation were bizarre would be an understatement.

Seemingly in an eye blink, Xaverian was whistled for three consecutive penalties. And during a span of 47 seconds, La Salle was playing with a two-man advantage. But either Mike Toomey (11 saves) made a save or La Salle missed the cage.

“I think at the end, when push came to shove, it was a close game (McGreen’s goal pulled La Salle within 15-12 with 3:17 remaining) and we had some man-up opportunities and we imploded,” O’Donnell said. “We made some bad decisions. But I have some seniors and juniors who can play.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t come our way today. Our goal with these games is to get better. I think it was a very winnable game. I’m sure they thought at one point it was a 50-50 game. We made some mistakes early and a let them jump on us quickly which probably was the difference in the game.”

La Salle (R.I.) lacrosse building a dynasty

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:27
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La Salle Academy’s boys’ lacrosse team began the 2014 season with back-to-back Division I state championship trophies in the school’s trophy case.

Rhode IslandBut don’t waste your breath asking coach Steve O’Donnell if he expects to add a third consecutive state championship trophy.

“I try not to have expectations,” said O’Donnell, whose team has defeated Hendricken, 16-7, and North Kingstown, 17-5, in the young season. “Obviously, you want to win as much as you can. We have expectations to have a good program and be as competitive as everybody else.

“Be the best you can be and the rest just falls into place.”

O’Donnell, who’s in his ninth season as the La Salle’s head coach, invariably has the Rams among the top teams in the state. As far as he’s concerned, there isn’t a magic formula for the program’s success.

“Continuity, good players and a good system,” O’Donnell said, “they’re successful because a lot of them want to learn and get better.

He continued, “I’m a practice guy. I try to do new things and get them out of the box. They all come from different places but it’s a double-edged sword. Where I am, people say we get to pick the cream of the crop and we get to pick who we want. They pick us. Then, you coach them up. They have different habits. And what’s also important is the school supports the program which has been successful.”

How true.

La Salle ended a drought by beating Moses Brown, 9-7, for its first state championship in 2012 and then vanquished the Quakers again last season by a score of 14-3.

But prior to annexing that initial state title, the Rams were the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s version of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. La Salle lost 10-2 to Hendricken in the 2004 finals, 13-10, to North Kingstown in 2008, 9-8, in overtime to Moses Brown in 2010, and, 6-4, to Hendricken in 2011.

Was there ever a sense that, no matter how hard they tried, the Rams would be unable to capture that elusive state title?

“To me, this is high school sports,” said O’Donnell. “I don’t judge kids by winning championships. It’s an unintended consequence. I measure them by their improvement, especially in terms of the type of kids they become and if they’re coachable.

“When you lose at that level, you question yourself as a coach. I prepare as much as I can. Then, you hope for a lack of injuries which happen in every sport.”

Injuries notwithstanding, the Rams have gone 10-0 in league play in each of the last two seasons. But winning streaks are the least of O’Donnell’s concerns.

“None of that matters to me because we lost a game (13-7 to Medfield in an out-of-state contest),” he said. “I’m not concerned about wins and losses. I am concerned about getting better. Our goal from the beginning of the season to the end is to get better.”

Not only did the Rams get better en route to the 2012 state title but they also endured hardships that might have derailed a lesser team.

“I think winning the first (state title) was difficult in terms of letting the kids know they were good enough to win it,” said O’Donnell. “Two of our top three players were injured at mid-season and that team came together. They learned to win as a team.

“The hardest part, regardless of high school or the pros, is to keep the kids humble. It’s the hardest thing in coaching. I always tell them that, one year, the Jets lost to the Patriots by 40 points and then they beat them the next time they played.”

Winning this season will be difficult from the standpoint that La Salle graduated four First Team All-State selections: attack Brady O’Donnell, who earned All-American honors for a third straight year and set a state record last season by scoring 64 goals to go with his 35 assists; faceoff specialist Pat Foster, who won 70 percent of his faceoffs; midfielder Mike Catarina; and defender Dan Wise, who also was a high school All-American.

But, fortunately for O’Donnell, La Salle wasn’t decimated by graduation.

“We have returnees in three brothers, (defender) John, (attack) Joe and (midfielder) Matt Manown (who scored four goals and assisted on five in the victory over Hendricken),” said O’Donnell. “Joe (who scored 52 goals and assisted on 43) was an All-American last season.

“In addition, we also have senior midfielder Alex Handanyan and (2012 First Team All-State) goalie Matt Andrews. We have some talented younger kids. We plan on having them step in and fill that void. But we’re still figuring out who’s going to fit in the best.”

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
2:37
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Over the years, La Salle Academy has won enough state championship trophies to fill a vault at Fort Knox.

Rhode IslandNow the school must make room for one that’s eluded it for years: a state championship trophy for boys’ lacrosse.

The Rams applied an exclamation point to an undefeated (14-0) season by beating Moses Brown School, 9-7, in the finals -- after losing in the finals each of the previous two seasons.

The championship also ended four years of frustration because coach Steve O’Donnell’s team had compiled the best regular-season record (54-3) during that span but had zero to show for its efforts.

What made this championship game even more noteworthy was the fact that underclassmen led the way over the Quakers (9-6).

Sophomore Peter DeSimone, who was voted the game’s MVP, scored three goals and assisted on three; junior Brady O’Donnell fired in three goals including his team’s last two which proved to be huge in the final outcome; and sophomore goalie Matt Andrews made eight saves in the crucial fourth quarter.

In other boys’ finals:

*At the risk of using a hockey metaphor, East Greenwich’s Ethan Zink scored a “pure” hat trick as the Avengers beat South Kingstown, 10-4, for the Division II championship. The Avengers (19-1) were leading by a slim 3-2 margin in the last minute of the second quarter when Zink scored for a 4-2 halftime lead. Then, Zink tallied the first two goals of the third quarter and the Avengers went on to clinch their second consecutive state title. EG goalie John Trutza came up big in net by making 19 saves.

*Smithfield senior Ryan Benoit made sure he would end his career in style by scoring three goals and assisting on another as the Sentinels whipped Narragansett, 12-6, for the Division III championship. Benoit’s younger brother, Ryan contributed three goals and two assists to the triumph.

QUAKER GIRLS “STICK” BARRINGTON
What the Moses Brown boys were unable to accomplish, the Quaker girls did, capturing a Division I lacrosse championship.

Coach Jeanne Carhart’s team completed an 18-1 season by defeating Barrington, 14-10, with senior Hannah Saris scoring two goals and assisting on five.

But what Saris meant to the Quakers’ offense so did goalie Jamie Marshall to the defense. The sophomore stopped 15 Eagles shots and earned the game’s MVP award.

Saris finished the season with 93 goals and 56 assists.

In the Division II championship game, junior middie Chloe Andrew scored four goals and assisted on three as Cumberland edged defending state champion Tiverton, 12-10.

The championship was the second in school history for the 17-1 Clippers.

OFF TO McCOY STADIUM
Hendricken and South Kingstown will make the much-anticipated bus ride to McCoy Stadium – home of the Pawtucket Red Sox – for the best-of-three Division I state baseball championship.

The Hawks punched their ticket to the finals by sweeping Coventry by identical scores of 3-2 (although the second game lasted 10 innings).

Tom Pannone, a senior pitcher/outfielder who last week was selected in the 33rd round by the Chicago Cubs, went the distance on a five-hitter and belted a solo homer in Game 1.

Then, in the clincher, Rob Hendry lined a one-out single in the top of the 10th which snapped a 2-2 tie.

Jake Newberry earned the victory by virtue of pitching three innings of scoreless relief.

Cumberland and South Kingstown split the first two games of their best-of-three semifinal series.

The Rebels won the opener, 4-3, but Cumberland evened the series with a 1-0 victory in Game 2 as Justin Patrick went the distance on a three-hitter.

The third and deciding game was over almost before it started because South Kingstown romped, 16-1. The game was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the Interscholastic League’s mercy rule.

Jeremy Swan earned the victory as he allowed only two hits and struck out six.

T.J. Lynch paced an 11-hit attack with a two-run single plus a solo home run.

Hendricken will be chasing its seventh state title in the last 10 years while the Rebels will be seeking their first since 2002.

Johnston and Prout will battle it out for the Division II title. Prout will be making is fifth consecutive trip to the best-of-three finals after beating Woonsocket in three games.

In the decisive third game, Kory Lawrence belted a two-run double and Marshall Vigneault allowed four hits as the Crusaders prevailed, 3-2.

Johnston also went to three games before eliminating Westerly with a 10-1 triumph in the final game.

Joe Bongiovanni went the distance for the Panthers as he allowed six hits. And at the plate he collected two hits which were good for three RBI.

LIONS NEAR DREAM SEASON
What were the odds before the first pitch was thrown in anger that Lincoln’s softball team would go undefeated in 2012?

Right. Don’t ask.

But that’s what’s on the verge of happening.

Lincoln upped its record to 21-0 by blanking Toll Gate, 5-0, in the Division I winners’ bracket final.

Lindsay Mayer, who’s been a standout all season for the Lions, allowed six hits and fanned 15 en route to winning her 18th game of the season.

Coventry, came out of the losers’ bracket to reach the championship round as the Oakers beat Toll Gate, 4-2, in the bracket final.

Kerrie Deliberis went the route on a six-hitter replete with 10 strikeouts to pace the Oakers’ triumph.

Elsewhere:
*East Greenwich and West Warwick will clash for the Division II title. The top-seeded Avengers prevailed 11-0 over Woonsocket in a game that was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the league’s mercy rule. The Wizards came out of the losers’ bracket thanks to an 8-5 victory over the Villa Novans in the losers’ bracket final.

*Davies Tech captured the first softball title in school history by outlasting Central, 18-10, in the Division III finals. The Patriots were led by Maddie Goodhart, Kassandra Therrien and Caterina Martinez.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
10:07
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At face value, the La Salle Academy boys’ lacrosse team should have been devastated last spring by graduation when six All-State players – including All-Americans Ryan Poirier (midfield) and Cody O’Donnell (defender) - departed via the cap-and-gown route.

Not quite.

Rhode IslandThrough games of May 15, the Rams were sitting atop Division I with an 8-0 record and were leading in both goals scored (107) plus goals allowed (48).

Most importantly, the Rams have established themselves as the team to beat in their pursuit of the first state championship since the school added the sport.

Over the previous four seasons, coach Steve O’Donnell’s team posted a combined record of 44-3. But the Rams have lost three times in the finals – in 2008 to North Kingstown, in 2010 to Moses Brown and in 2011 to Hendricken.

But the returning veterans have keyed La Salle’s run to a possible undefeated season.

For example, All-American attack Brady O’Donnell scored five goals in this week’s 12-9 victory over North Kingstown. And in a 7-5 non-league victory over Bishop Guertin, a Division I school from Nashua, N.H., O’Donnell collected a hat trick.

Second Team All-State midfielder Jack Collins fired home seven goals and assisted on another in a 12-8 win over Hendricken.

Senior midfielder Dan Lucchetti scored three goals and assisted on one when La Salle beat the Hawks, 11-7, in the teams’ rematch.

Senior midfielder Sam Ricci added one goal plus four assists in the second win over the Hawks.

Sophomore Peter DeSimone has played well at attack and recorded four goals plus an assist in that 11-7 win over Hendricken.

TOLMAN CLINCHES PENNANT
With three games left in the regular season, Tolman clinched the Division II-Central title on May 15 by blanking Mount Pleasant, 3-0, as Andrew Larson and Carlos Sanabria combined on a six-hitter.

That was the latest in a string of impressive victories for the Tigers (13-3 in league play and 14-3 overall).

Against arch-rival Shea, Sanabria tossed a two-hitter replete with one walk and 12 strikeouts as the Tigers prevailed, 10-0. Sanabria also went 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI.

Earlier, Tolman received another solid mound performance from Larson who went the distance on a five-hitter as the Tigers edged Classical, 2-1.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 4, 2011
5/04/11
6:33
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The quality of golfers produced in Rhode Island is completely out of proportion to the Ocean State’s population.

Rhode IslandWitness the state’s two latest “phenoms” – Cumberland High senior Jamison Randall and La Salle Academy senior Juliet Vongphoumy.

Randall last summer won three tournaments: the World Series of Junior Golf, the Rhode Island Golfers Junior Championships and the New England Junior Championships which he captured in a sudden-death playoff.

Randall, who gained early acceptance to Old Dominion University (he’s receiving a partial athletic and academic scholarship), has one goal on his mind this season: Win the Rhode Island Interscholastic League State Tournament, after finishing second last year to Barrington’s Jared Adams.

At the recent 29th annual Challenge Cup Championship held at Cranston’s Alpine Country club, Randall finished second to Portsmouth junior Alex Grimes – whom he beat, 2-and-1, in the finals of the 2010 RIGA Juniors.

But in the opinion of Cumberland coach Jim Dickinson, Randall’s best days are ahead of him this season.

Dickinson stated that the fact Randall has been accepted at Old Dominion has allowed him to focus on “simply” playing golf instead of playing to gain admission to a college.

The last clipper to win the state championship was Chris Simmons in 1989.

Vongphoumy is a story all by herself since she’s the daughter of Laotian immigrants and because she stunned the state’s golfing community when, as a freshman in 2008, she captured the state’s 36-hole tournament by two strokes.

Just over a year ago, she became only the second player in who knows how many years to capture three consecutive American Junior Golf Association girls’ tournaments.

No wonder Vongphoumy was offered a full ride by Maryland. She also was recruited by other ACC schools like Duke and Boston College.

Vongphoumy honed her skills last year at Hilton Head Prep School in South Carolina before returning to La Salle for her senior year.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Randall and Vongphoumy could play against each other in the 2011 state tournament.

KNIGHTS CHARGING FORWARD
Unlike the Central High boys’ basketball team, which has won 11 state championships at the Division I level, the baseball team only has won a single state title – in 2006 when the Knights prevailed in the now-defunct Division III.

That drought may be about to change considering the Knights’ success as the Interscholastic League season nears the mid-way point. Coach Dave Hansen’s team leads Division II-Central with a 9-1 record due in large part to a senior-laden team. Central’s talent was on full display in a recent 10-0 romp over division rival Juanita Sanchez when Wailder Luna tossed a one-hit shutout and Manny Melo belted a three-run homer.

Luna entered this week with a 3-0 record in four starts plus a sub-2.00 ERA.

Melo, a senior, doubles as Central’s center fielder as well as the team’s closer.

Ironically, a junior, catcher Johnathan Salcedo is leading the team in batting with a .572 average.

According to Hansen, he wasn’t sure what his team was capable of doing entering this season. But the Knights have been out-hitting teams and have been even more difficult to beat when they play defense.

That was the case in a key 4-1 crossover victory against II-North Woonsocket when Central out-hit the Villa Novans 8-5 (behind Luna), and only committed a respectable two errors.

CLASH OF THE TITANS
Division I-Central leader Hendricken and I-North leader Lincoln hooked up on Monday and the Hawks, who’ve won 16 state championships, beat the Lions, 5-1, as Tom Pannone tossed a three-hitter and also stroked an RBI single.

Cranston West, who also is in contention for the I-Central title, posted a big crossover victory last week against Lincoln – 8-7 as catcher Jeff Diehl (who’s been the object of numerous college and pro scouts’ attention) scored the winning run in the seventh on Alex Moretti’s double.

LIONS, CHARGERS TOUGH IN SOFTBALL
Lincoln and Chariho could be on a collision course for the state Division I softball championship – especially in recent results are any indication.

The Lions, led by All-State pitcher Alyssa McCoart, and Chariho, led by senior co-captains Makalya Clarke and Becky Williams, remained undefeated entering this week in their respective divisions.

Lincoln moved to 9-0 in I-North due to a combination of solid pitching and explosive hitting.

McCoart, who will play here college softball at Central Connecticut State, is 6-0 on the mound and is hitting .654 at the plate.

As a result, Lincoln has outscored its opposition 71-13.

Chariho is 8-0 in I-South after outlasting North Kingstown, 12-10.

Freshman Brianna Cole belted a home run to help pace the Chargers.

LA SALLE STICKMEN PERFECT
La Salle Academy’s boys have staked their claim as the team to beat in Division I.

Coach Steve O’Donnell’s Rams are 4-0 after routing defending state champion Moses Brown, 19-11, and arch-rival Hendricken, 11-1.

The Quakers beat the Rams in overtime in the 2010 finals while the Hawks beat the Rams in the 2009 semifinals.

So, how do you spell La Salle has a score or two to settle?

Long-stick defensemen Vito Capuano, Will Sturgis, Cody O’Connell, Ryan Gallogly and Matt Powers have been keys to La Salle’s success.

LEYS BIDS ADIEU
Middletown, and the Interscholastic League as a whole, lost a superb football coach when Andy Leys announced his retirement effective immediately in order to devote more time to his family.

Under Leys’ guidance, the Islanders posted a combined 33-15 record in Divisions III and IV over the last six years and won the 2010 Division III Super Bowl.
Leys also coached Middletown to the 2006 Division IV Super Bowl crown.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

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