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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
All over the country, lacrosse is taking off like wildfire. The sport has grown from one that kids who got cut from the baseball team played in order to stay active during the spring, to one that is knocking on the door of being more popular than its seasonal competitors.
In Westwood, lacrosse has become more than just a sport, as it is now a gateway to receiving a tremendous college education, and an ability to be part of a brother/sisterhood that will last a lifetime. While it may not be putting kids into the Division I level at the same rate as programs like Medfield or DS, the town of Westwood has developed a tremendous youth program in recent years, and one that is growing greater and greater in popularity, year by year.
Following a tremendous spring season in 2017 by Westwood High and local ISL power St. Sebastian’s, as well as a series of college commitments from both public and private school students native to the town, Westwood is beginning to flex its muscle as one of the biggest lacrosse hotbeds in the state.In the past, Westwood’s youth lacrosse program has seen several of its products go off to play at the Division I level, including Harvard’s Johnny O’Leary. Before his time at St. Sebastian’s (2010-2014), O’Leary played three seasons for Westwood youth lacrosse beginning in the third grade, and it began a process that would eventually lead him to putting on that crimson helmet.
“I started playing lacrosse in the Westwood youth program when I was in third grade with my dad as coach,” said O’Leary. “Lacrosse wasn't my focus at the time, but the youth program sparked my competitive spirit and within three years of playing, it was my favorite sport. I have WYL to thank for providing me the opportunity to start playing the sport I love.”
During the 2016-2017 school year, five Westwood youth lacrosse alums made commitments to play at the Division I level, including rising senior and lacrosse/football star at Westwood High, Jake Antonucci, who committed to Providence College. Antonucci helped lead his team to an 11-7 regular season, resulting in the No. 6 seed in Division II Central/East. Alongside his brother, Robbie, Antonucci helped orchestrate a victory over Dedham (19-3) in round one before a six-goal effort by the future Friar guided Westwood to a 10-7 win at TVL rival Hopkinton in the quarterfinals. The Wolverines would conclude their season in the semifinals against a strong Medfield team, falling 13-7.
On the private school side, Westwood natives and WYL alums Mike Swirbalus, Alex Gainey, Cam Martin, and Will Frisoli also made major Division I commitments in 2016-2017. Swirbalus, a rising junior at St. Sebastian’s, will head to Duke following his graduation in 2019, while Gainey, a rising senior and starting goaltender for the Arrows, will attend Holy Cross. Rising senior and teammate of Swirbalus and Gainey, Cam Martin, committed to join up with Antonucci down at Providence. Meanwhile, Will Frisoli, a rising junior at Seb’s, began the Ivy League process. He is likely headed to Harvard.
Will Frisoli’s brother, Jack, who graduated from St. Sebastian’s this past spring and is also a Westwood youth alum, will take his talents to Cambridge this fall to play at Harvard alongside Arrow lax alum and Westwood native, Johnny O’Leary. The brothers Frisoli, Swirbalus, Martin, and Gainey helped lead St. Sebastian’s to a dominant 17-2 regular season, which included the ISL crown and a spot in the Geico High School Lacrosse Nationals in Washington, DC. The Arrows took down St. Anne’s Belfield (Virginia) 21-8 in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual tournament champ Hill Academy (Ontario) 12-10 in the national semifinals.
On the girls’ side, Westwood High’s Shea Farrell committed to Bryant back in the fall to play lacrosse, and after leading the lady-Wolverines to a successful 16-4 season and South Sectional semifinal appearance during her senior season this past spring, the multi-sport star in volleyball and lacrosse will head down to Rhode Island this fall to continue her excellent athletic career.