O’Rourke’s Sacrifice Pays Dividends for Franklin Boys Lacrosse Team

Franklin’s lacrosse squad knows it has a top-notch goalie who’s all about sacrifice and commitment in Connor O’Rourke.
Issue Date: 
June, 2018
Article Body: 

Connor O’Rourke personifies sacrifice and commitment.
When the Franklin High senior was playing attack on the jayvee lacrosse team as a freshman, varsity coach Lou Verrochi asked him if he’d switch positions and become a goaltender. Verrochi needed to groom a goalie for the 2016 season. The request, at first, confused O’Rourke. After all, he’d been an attackman since he started playing lacrosse at the age of seven in Franklin’s youth program.
“I wanted to be a varsity player, and I wanted to play attack,’’ O’Rourke said. “I was confused, but I agreed to the change. To get prepared, I went to camps and clinics and took private lessons. I’m glad I did.’’
Now, in his third varsity campaign, O’Rourke has been dynamic in goal. He led the Panthers to a 15-6 record as a sophomore and a 16-4 record as a junior. At Local Town Pages deadline, O’Rourke’s efforts have again been dynamic, leading the Panthers to a 12-2 record and another tourney berth. O’Rourke has been a Hockomock League all-star twice, and he’s been a key cog in helping Franklin qualify for tourney play. And, he has yet to lose to a Hockomock League foe.
There’s another reason why becoming a goaltender was beneficial. College scouts saw O’Rourke play at the club level and they liked his style. His quickness, mental toughness, resiliency, field awareness and leadership capabilities were vividly on display. So far this season, his save percentage is 65.2 and his goals-against average is 4.3.
“I want to play lacrosse in college,’’ O’Rourke said. “And, I not only was recruited by Colorado College but accepted there. It’s got a solid academic rating, and its lacrosse program is strong.’’
O’Rourke’s willingness to change position, then seek out instruction no doubt were factors that led to captain status this year. “I try to lead by example and by being vocal and supportive,’’ he said.
Verrochi has counted on O’Rourke for three seasons and the Franklin native has delivered. “Connor is quick, reads plays well, and has great instincts,’’ Verrochi said. “And, he’s effective out of the goal. He clears nicely and he knows how to play the angles.’’
O’Rourke’s devotion to lacrosse was evident early on this season when he fractured his thumb but missed only three games. He played with a special cast. Still able to experience some fine outings this season for the Panthers, who are tourney-bound again, O’Rourke rates a game against Newton North as a sophomore as his best.
“It was a matchup of two similarly ranked teams,’’ he recalled. “We rose to the challenge and won, 14-5. I had 22 saves, the most I’ve ever had.’’
O’Rourke gives high marks to the Panthers’ three other captains and Verrochi. “Eric Civetti (attack) and midfielders Kyle McEniry and Chase Tanner are terrific leaders, have great technique and skills and are solid role models,’’ he emphasized. “And, coach Verrochi is very motivating. His strategic moves are keys for us, and I like how he stresses the basics. I’m also glad he convinced me to be a goalie.’’
O’Rourke also is bullish on Patrick Morrison, a defender who’ll be playing Division 1 lacrosse at Rutgers. “He’s a very good player that we rely on to cover our opponents’ best attackman,’’ O’Rourke said. “He doesn’t get much recognition, because he’s obviously not a goal scorer, but he’s a huge part of our team’s success.’’
At the start of the season, O’Rourke’s objectives were to keep improving in goal and to keep Franklin in the mix for a tourney berth. “We’ve got a talented team and we can go deep into the playoffs,’’ O’Rourke noted. “Winning a sectional or state title would be a great way to finish.’’
Relying on an athletic philosophy of competing hard to win, reaching one’s potential and having fun, O’Rourke, who was a midfielder and defensive back in soccer, is acutely aware that sports teach valuable life lessons. “Setting goals, communicating, being a solid leader and overcoming adversity are just a few of the lessons one can learn through athletics,’’ he noted. “Accountability and teamwork are also in the mix.’’
O’Rourke was attracted to lacrosse when he played in Franklin’s youth program. He liked it for a variety of reasons. “It’s high speed and aggressive,’’ he said. “And, it’s challenging, because every player is involved. It also blends in aspects of other sports.’’
Calling his parents (Tom and Kristie) and grandparents role models for their assistance, support and encouragement, O’Rourke knows he’ll have to elevate his game at the college level. The transition to a Division 3 school will be arduous. “The players will be bigger and stronger,’’ he said. “And, they’ll be highly skilled. The pace in college will also be faster.’’
For the present, however, O’Rourke will continue to focus on what he considers his top thrills — beating quality teams and making crucial saves. That combination can be a big plus for the Panthers as they start another journey in post-season play.