Oct. 1, 2013
WASHINGTON - When Reilly O'Connor (Brooklin, Ontario/The Hill Academy) arrived on campus in September, the junior attackman was already in midseason form for the start of fallball. The reason; O'Connor never stopped playing after the Georgetown men's lacrosse team's season-ending loss to Villanova in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals on May 2.
After finishing his final exams, O'Connor took a pass on internship opportunities to return home to Ontario, and began his fourth season with the Whitby Warriors, a box lacrosse team in the Ontario Lacrosse Association's Junior A League (OLA Junior A). As a focal point of the team's offense, O'Connor totaled 101 points, while leading the league with 78 assists to help guide the Warriors to the Minto Cup, given to the junior men's lacrosse champion in Canada.
"Our first game was May 15 and I got home from Georgetown on May 10, so it started right away and I didn't get back to Georgetown until the first day of classes," said O'Connor on how he spent his summer. "It's basically like a Division I program, but its box lacrosse. We don't do weightlifting together, but we practice two times a week and play three times a week, so we are going five times a week."
Box lacrosse can be a grueling game, with six players aside - including a goalie - played at a very rough, fast pace on the unforgiving concrete of a de-iced hockey rink.
"It's a similar game (to field lacrosse) in some ways, but a lot different in others," O'Connor said of box lacrosse. "I've been playing my whole life so it's not hard to get adjusted to, especially having the stick in my hands all year, but it's definitely a lot harder on the body on the concrete and you take a lot more hits, but it's a lot of fun. There is a 30-second shot clock, so it's up and down."
O'Connor had just finished his senior season at The Hill Academy when Whitby won its last Minto Cup. So after his breakout season at Georgetown in 2013, that saw him record a team-leading 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) and earn Second Team All-BIG EAST honors, he was ready to lead a team loaded with Division I caliber talent.
"This is my fourth year on the Warriors and I have one-year remaining, but this was a really good team and kind of our last chance to win it all," O'Connor said of the U21 team. "The core group has been together for about three years now and there are probably about 12 guys that play DI, who are really top end players."
Whitby cruised through the OLA Jr. A playoffs, defeating the Barrie Lakeshores and the Brampton Excelsiors, before finally facing adversity in the Ontario finals. The Six Nations Arrows held a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven game series and trailed by two goals going into the final period, before a big third period forced a game seven. Whitby would sneak past Six Nations in the deciding game seven to go on to represent Ontario for the Minto Cup.
They would face British Columbia Champion New Westminster Salmonbellies, as O'Connor and the Warriors would defeat the Salmonbellies, 3-1 in the best-of-five game series.
"Winning the Minto Cup is very special," O'Connor said. "It was one of the greatest moments of my life. We won two years ago, but I was a lot younger and wasn't a focal point like I was this year. It is definitely one of my greatest lacrosse memories and something I will cherish."
Now back on campus, O'Connor will be expected to take a leadership role within a young offense that loses five of its top 10 scorers from a season ago. Though he fills his summers have prepared him well to again be a focal point of the Hoyas offense.
"I think playing box lacrosse helps a lot," O'Connor said. "I think if possible American players should get in to it. It really improves your stick skills, your game IQ and everything like that. It's very beneficial."
His coach at Georgetown agrees with the sentiment, after watching O'Connor develop in his first real game action during the 2013 season.
"Reilly plays with no fear," Georgetown Head Coach Kevin Warne said. "I think that's a product of his box lacrosse background. He never shies away from contact, is a great passer, who can fit the ball into tight spaces and is a very good decision maker."
O'Connor and the Hoyas will conclude its fall ball season on Saturday, when they meet Richmond at 2 p.m. in the Play 4 Parkinson's event at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.