High School Lacrosse

Norwell High senior nets another state lacrosse title with sister

Norwell High girls’ lacrosse coach Kara Connerty gives instruction to team captain Mary O’Connell during the Division 2 state lacrosse finals against Winchester, which Norwell won, 20-8, to claim its fifth lacrosse crown since 2005.
Photos by Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe
Norwell High girls’ lacrosse coach Kara Connerty gives instruction to team captain Mary O’Connell during the Division 2 state lacrosse finals against Winchester, which Norwell won, 20-8, to claim its fifth lacrosse crown since 2005.

WELLESLEY — It was the fairy tale ending that Mary O’Connell had dreamed of for three years.

As a freshman, she embraced her sister Kara, an All-American defender, when the Norwell High girls captured the Division 2 state title in 2010. And ever since, the younger O’Connell has worked relentlessly to put the Clippers back on top.

Now, after a pair of prematurely shortened tourney runs the last two years, the Middlebury-bound star midfielder will depart as a state champion.


Norwell beat Winchester, 20-8, on Monday to claim its fifth crown since 2005.

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“All seven seniors wanted to go out with a bang,” said O’Connell, who totaled four goals and two assists. ”And what better way to do that than with a state championship?”

This time, though, the script is flipped. Mary is a senior captain, just as Kara — now at Boston College — was three years ago. Yet another O’Connell, Jane , is the up-and-coming freshman basking with her sister in the glory of a state championship.

That Mary was fortunate enough to have the experience on both ends — to observe and learn from Kara, then lead and teach Jane — is not lost on her.

“Winning a state [title] with my sister two times has been unbelievable,” Mary said. “I’ve gotten to learn from my older sister and I’m hopefully teaching Jane how to be excited and want it more.


“There’s no better feeling than having a sister on the team to share this great victory with.”

Added Jane, who collected a pair of tallies off the bench: “I loved having her on the team with me. . . . She taught me how to be confident and take it to the net, and she’s really helped me with all my skills.”

The O’Connell family affair goes back even further than the 2010 game, which also happened to be a win over Winchester (15-10). During Kara’s sophomore season in 2008, the eldest sibling, Rose , was a senior, and the Clippers were again a state finalist.

That game was against — you guessed it — Winchester, but the Clippers fell, 9-8.

Norwell coach Kara Connerty said the winning tradition, be it that of the O’Connell clan or the Norwell lacrosse family, can only benefit future Clippers teams.


Success breeds success, she said.

“That that [success] is passed on is important to me, that leadership and that drive,” Connerty said. “These younger kids are learning all of those life lessons from all of our kids that have been through it, which is terrific. This excitement, this is what they want for the future, too, for our program.”

Every win is a fun one, but Monday’s came with particularly significant meaning for Connerty. It was goodbye not only to a group of players that won it all twice, but also the group that came in as freshmen during Connerty’s first season as coach.

For that reason, Connerty said, she has developed a special relationship with the class of 2013.

“Over the last four years we’ve really developed these girls,” Connerty said. “Mary and [senior captain Maddie Ward ] were on that [2010] team, so they knew what it was like to win . . . but it was extra special this year because it’s been four years of a work in progress.”

O’Connell and Ward, a midfielder who had a team-high 10 points (six goals, four assists), were the only members to play varsity for both state championship teams, but each of the seven seniors contributed in a big-time way the second time around.

Devon Croke , the team’s third-leading scorer behind O’Connell and Ward, and Maeve Dennigan (one goal in the final) did their part in the offensive zone.

On Monday, captain Rachel Talanian and Tori Dinger demonstrated poise and composure at the other end as the Clippers dug out of a 3-0 hole by scoring 15 consecutive goals in a span of 30:03.

Grace Gunning may have been the most unheralded hero, making 14 saves, several of them in key, momentum-shifting moments on Winchester free-position shots.

“This is a special group. From the beginning, they’ve been really driven by that [desire to win again],” Connerty said.

“Their dedication and commitment to the program has allowed this to happen.”

Cohasset’s Kucinski impresses at BC High

Boston College High lost to Xaverian, 8-7, in a Division 1 East semifinal Saturday, but attackman AJ Kucinski provided coach Tim Kelly with good reason to be excited about the next three years.

The freshman from Cohasset led the Eagles with a hat trick, including a tally that at the time pulled BC High into a 7-7 tie with 1:35 to play in regulation.

“I expect him to be a big part of the offense [in the future],” Kelly said, grouping Kucinski with Pembroke junior Pat Cronin and Abington sophomore Sam Friedman as players who will be offensive leaders in 2014. “There’s a lot in the pipeline, which is good for us.”

Kucinski and defenseman Oskar Djusburg were the only freshmen on the varsity roster. Kucinski had a flare for the dramatic during the tourney, in which the 14th-seeded Eagles beat two top-six seeds, No. 3 Duxbury and No. 6 St. John’s Prep.

In BC High’s 10-9 overtime upset of the Dragons, it was Kucinski who tied the game at 9, with 16 seconds to play in the fourth. Then he scored two goals in a span of 60 seconds in an 8-6 win over Prep.

“He’s just got good hands, good sense, and he can possess the ball. He also has a nice shot,” Kelly said after the season-ending loss to Xaverian. “He finished better in this game. He’s been around the goal a lot this season and sometimes hasn’t finished for us, but [Saturday] he did a great job of finishing the ball.”

Canton views season with a lot of pride

Bill Bendell’s Canton boys’ lacrosse team saw its landmark 18-2 season end with a 14-8 loss to Cohasset in the Division 3 semifinals Thursday, but you could not tell based on the coach’s mood the next few days.

“I’ve been smiling all weekend,” Bendell said. “Even though we lost and everybody was disappointed, [the season] was a lot of fun. It was everything you look for in a good team.”

Bendell credited the eight-member class of 2013 — particularly captains JC Marcone , Matt Lennon, and Conor O’Brien — with providing the leadership, not to mention the production, to power the Bulldogs to their best season in program history.

Marcone was among the team’s leading scorers, while Lennon proved crucial on ground balls and O’Brien helped anchor a stout defense.

Senior attackman Pat Ward garnered Hockomock League MVP honors for his breakout season.

“They went out there with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Bendell said. “It’s really elevated the program. . . . This senior group made this happen. The expectations for Canton have been raised across the board.”

Tim Healey can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.