Let’s be ridiculously blunt about the status of the Catholic League these days.
It’s Archbishop Carroll and everybody else. It’s been 12 straight titles for the Patriots and the odds are in favor of that number changing into lucky No. 13 by the end of the year. Carroll can play with the top District One teams year-in and year-out and that’s not going to change any time soon.
However, what might change will be the teams who could eventually work their way into position to knocking off the Patriots from atop their firmly-cemented perch. Maybe, though, just maybe, one of their nearest and dearest rivals can start to eventually work their way up to that level.
Cardinal O’Hara stumbled badly in its opener, dropping a lopsided decision to Springside Chestnut Hill, but the Lions bounced back convincingly with an 18-1 thrashing of Academy Park. They had to go through another transition as coach Lesley Ferriola took a job elsewhere and couldn’t commit the time to coaching O’Hara, so alum Natasha Ciminera is at the helm. Luckily for Ciminera, she inherits a talented junior class that could form the building blocks for an O’Hara emergence.
That doesn’t mean that Ciminera is trying to single out anyone she’s expecting the most from.
“I’m really trying to incorporate the team, not any individual person,” Ciminera said. “I really want everybody work together. They’re young, so I really want them to work on actually trusting each other with the fundamentals, but especially with the team-building part.”
Ciminera does have the luxury of bringing back a starting goalie with experience in junior Kerry McCanns. McCanns went through the Catholic League battles a year ago and looked sharp when called upon against the Knights, stopping three of the four shots aimed her way. She brings a good dose of athleticism to the table and Ciminera enjoys the feeling of having some experience in net.
“She actually wants to be in goal,” Ciminera said. “She really wants to do well, she looks forward to every game, getting ready. She gives 110 percent and just having her as a starter already knowing the drill and how I work things is good. I’m really excited for her.”
Expect the Lions’ strength to be found in the midfield. Against Academy Park, Lauren Daly looked the part of a varsity starter. She’s a tall junior who can run really well and showed a nose for the net. Senior Kasey Jones also had a big game and will undoubtedly keep goalies busy, too. Junior Gabby Rowe, criminally underrated on both the field hockey and lacrosse circuits, dished out three assists and will be asked to be a playmaker. If that isn’t enough, Sacred Heart transfer Kerri Shallow will add even more depth to the midfield. The fact that Ciminera’s midfielders play another sport is a big plus for her, too.
“My midfielders, they all play another sport,” the coach said. “So they come to lacrosse really ready to go. I have yet to sub them because they’re tired. They’re in shape, they’re ready so we’re really excited.”
You can also bet that senior attack Sam Amicone will have a big impact for the Lions. Amicone has the savvy and skill around the net to become a dominant scorer and despite not being the biggest player around, she’s not afraid of getting dirty at the net and her vision makes her an asset.
“Sam is my little go-to girl on low attack,” Ciminera said. “She knows how to read the field from behind the net. She can see everything that goes on. She plays basketball (and) I think that she used a lot of basketball in transforming into lacrosse and I can just always really count on her.”
Defenders Carlie Spaeder and Colleen Daly figure prominently into the Lions’ plans, too. They sent shockwaves through the Catholic League last year when they knocked off Archbishop Wood in the semifinals. While they ultimately lost to Carroll in the final, the message was sent: there’s something brewing at O’Hara. Whether they can use that win and use it to build something special will be up to the Lions.
“I think it just goes to show you in a game like Wood last year that any team is beatable,” Ciminera said. “I think that confidence is the No. 1 key and trusting your teammates, which is what I want to incorporate more in practice, is key. Fundamentals are a lot of it, but that kind of stuff can also win games. Carroll and Wood, be ready because we want to win this year.”
– MATT CHANDIK