James O’Shea stared at Henri Regnault’s 1868 masterpiece — “Automedon with the Horses of Achilles” — the entire 124-by-129.5-inch frame depicting a scene from Homer’s “Iliad” on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. And like many passersby before him, he was mesmerized.
It struck O’Shea, then a sophomore at Quincy High School, enough that he applied to be a docent, and educate other visitors to the museum about the piece. He was one of 16 guides to be accepted.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” said O’Shea, who volunteered at the museum for two years. “In it were two horses [Xanthos and Balios] and a man [Automedon] trying to constrain the horses. Something about it, just the mood of it — it was massive, it showed a bunch of chaos. I was into it and it looked good.”
A four-year starter on the varsity soccer team at Quincy High, the forward-turned-midfielder said he viewed himself as one of two figurative horses on the pitch this year, alongside fellow senior Bjorn Armiri.
O’Shea (12 goals, six assists) was the leading scorer for the Presidents, who fell one point shy of qualifying for the state tournament. He is also one of three players in the state to be selected for the Olympic Development Program’s Region 1 team, which pools athletes from Maine to Virginia.
A tie in the regular-season finale against Randolph would have clinched a spot, but Quincy was eliminated with a 1-0 defeat.
“Like anything, one player can’t do it on his own,” said Quincy coach Mark Spendlove. “It takes you 11 guys or more, really. James did his part and overall, no regrets.”
Spendlove added that foes such as Duxbury and Hingham were challenging, but problems were compounded with a short bench that was not built for offensive substitutions.
The Presidents qualified for back-to-back sectional appearances in the last two years. O’Shea said the latter run was inspired by former teammate Bai Salam Kanu, who after a promising start to his senior season, suffered severe head injuries last October after he fell off his bike and was struck by a car.
O’Shea is now looking forward to playing at the collegiate level, hopefully at a Division 1 program.
The 5-foot-11, 150-pound O’Shea, who also plays forward for Quincy’s America F.C. United U18 club team, joined an indoor league at Hingham’s South Shore Sports Complex on Saturday. It is a way to keep his form for Region 1’s interregional tournament in Florida from Dec. 12-15.
He’s been supplementing the league games with private lessons from Conrad Whyte, creator of Quincy’s Cari-Samba program for youth players. Whyte places an emphasis on polishing O’Shea’s technical skills and fundamentals.
The teen said his dominance on his natural left side has twice allowed him to meet his goal of scoring in double digits.
“I’m kind of known for being fast,” O’Shea said. “I’m pretty good on the ball, so put those two together, it’s not the worst pair to have. I have a good left foot for a forward. I can shoot from a different angle, which most righties can’t do.”
His younger brother, Kevin, another southpaw, also takes lessons from Whyte. The incoming freshman is hoping to earn a spot on the varsity after serving as the ball boy the past three seasons. He has traveled to every road game.
And after seeing Quincy fail to make the postseason, he is already thinking about next year, and making a run at a playoff.
“That would be pretty big for me,” said the younger O’Shea. “That would make my day if I make varsity next year and we make the playoffs. I saw my big brother do it; now I want to do it.”
Kevin O’Shea plays on AFC’s U16 team, which is coached by Whyte. He has lessons with his coach two days a week and has most recently been working on strengthening his “weak foot,” his nondominant right one.
Whyte said he believes the younger O’Shea, at 5-8, 120 pounds, has a good chance of making the varsity team because of his speed, technique, and “aggressive scoring ability.”
“Kevin is a physical specimen,” Whyte said, “a very unselfish player. He passes the ball a lot in good situations. One of the things he’s matured in over the last few months is his ability to know when to pass, when to shoot, when to dribble. It’s something you can’t teach as a coach.”
James O’Shea shares Whyte’s opinion and said that with his departure from Quincy, his brother is left to make a name for himself. It all starts with summer tryouts.
“I’m thinking he can pick up where I left off.”
Walpole girls secure berth
The Walpole girls’ soccer team needed to secure two points against Norwood in its final game of the season to earn a playoff berth. A year prior, the team had clinched in its second-to-last regular-season game.
This time around, senior forward Lauren Regan, a captain, scored the lone goal in the season finale on Oct. 28. Walpole advanced through the first two rounds on penalty kicks, edging Plymouth North (1-0) and Oliver Ames (1-0) before recording a 2-0 quarterfinal win over North Attleborough on Tuesday. The Rebels were eliminated with a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Bishop Feehan in the semifinals.
Regan said her team was an underdog going into the playoffs. “But it’s just motivation,” she said. “We’ve had so many close games this season, our defense really knows when to step it up and they’re smart about it. We like to compete when it comes down to it.”
Coach Erin Kearney, in her third season as varsity coach, said the success does not feel unlikely. She said her team became battle-tested by a strong regular-season slate, highlighted by close games against talented Bay State opponents Dedham and Newton North.
Kearney said a defensive corps that returned all its starters as well as sophomore goalkeeper Kaitlin Brown have been integral through three playoff shutouts.
“Our style of play lends itself well,” Kearney said. “We focus on defense, we build from the back. Scoring goals in soccer is always a struggle, so we make it our priority to keep teams off the board.”Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.