With a new coach, Fenwick looks to build something special

Madison Woods runs through a drill during practice. (Item Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

PEABODY — With a new coach at the helm of the program, the Bishop Fenwick girls lacrosse team’s making its goals for the 2019 season clear. Like all other teams, the Crusaders are aiming for a state tournament bid and a competitive season. But first and foremost, Fenwick’s looking to regain ownership of its program.

“They’re excited,” new Crusaders coach Joel McKenna said. “The best part has been the attitude. They’re excited to work, they’re excited to build something. They’ve gone through a few different coaches over the past few years. What’s important is that we build something and take some ownership. We’re taking ownership of the program. Each girl’s taking on the challenge of rising to the occasion.”

McKenna, who coached girls lacrosse at Tewksbury High from 2006-2015, was hired in January. He’s the program’s third coach in as many seasons.

McKenna likes what he has seen through his first week at Fenwick. Numbers at tryouts were solid last week and the understanding of new concepts is a positive sign.

“The first week of practice was great,” McKenna said. “There was great energy and enthusiasm. We got a read on where each player is skill wise. There’s a lot of dedication. It’s been a lot to process over the last week but myself and the other coaches are doing the best we can. The ladies are working hard. They’re doing everything right. The first week brings a lot to handle. We’re throwing a lot at them but it’s been great getting to know the players and the institution itself a little better.”

This season’s co-captains are seniors Caleigh Dirks (defender) and Madison Woods (attacker/midfielder), and junior Cailyn Wesley (attacker/midfielder).

McKenna spoke highly of their leadership abilities.

“They’ve been fantastic,” McKenna said. “They’re very helpful. We’re figuring out all the moving pieces that we have to figure out. They’ve been extremely helpful in making sure I’m aware of different things in how things work at Fenwick. They’ve been positive leaders. They have great leadership qualities. You see it day in and day out in practice in the way they talk to their teammates and the newcomers.”

Also returning to the mix are sophomores Mia Tsaraplis (midfielder) and Jenna Durkin (attacker/midfielder/defender), and junior attacker/midfielder Annie Talbot.

“Annie’s really trying to lead the way along with the three captains to set a positive tone each day we’re together,” McKenna said.

Freshman attacker Karina Gayllenel’s a newcomer who has looked solid in practice. McKenna believes she’ll be a key contributor.

“She has a lot of skill,” McKenna said. “I think she’s going to have a good season for herself as a freshman. That’s never an easy thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do as a freshman.”

Fenwick has three players competing for the role of starting goalie. They are junior Hailey Lewis, sophomore Caitlyn McKenzie and freshman Abby Booth. Thus far, the competition has been tight. McKenna doesn’t dismiss the possibility of starting the season with a rotation until one emerges at the clear-cut favorite.

“We’re taking it a practice at a time,” McKenna said. “Each one of them has given 110 percent. That’s exciting to see. We’re taking turns in getting reps with both groups, the JV and varsity players. We’re getting a good idea with what they can do ability wise and skill wise. We’re looking for how they can communicate with their teammates.

“It’s one of those things where if we have use a game by game approach with a rotation, so be it,” McKenna said. “We’re really comfortable with it. It’s a blessing to have three hard working young ladies who want to play in net.”

McKenna’s new to the Catholic Central League but knows to expect top-notch opposition throughout the season.

“A lot of these schools have fantastic reputations,” McKenna said. “I’ve come across some of these teams. I know some of the coaches. Talking about team wise and strategy wise, I’m just going into it with open eyes, open ears and seeing what we can do. It’s a quality league for girls lacrosse.”

Fenwick opens the season April 5 (4 p.m.) at St. Joseph’s. The Crusaders play their home opener April 8 (4 p.m.) against Austin Prep.

“We definitely have a young team,” McKenna said. “To be able to carry some experience into a season like this with the great numbers we have is a positive experience. They’ve shown a lot of raw talent ability through the first week. We have two weeks until we play our first game so it’s time to put the X’s and O’s in effect. We’re looking forward to it.”

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