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Malvern Prep goalie O’Connell finishes up-and-down year strong, happy with commitment to UNC

Wednesday, 5th August 2009

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School, Recruiting  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 8/5/09

Malvern Prep rising senior Andrew O’Connell has finished an up-and-down year with a most positive ending.

O’Connell, considered one of the nation’s top scholastic goalies, missed half of the 2009 scholastic season with a recurring back injury. And recently he learned that the college he has committed to – North Carolina – is prepared to add a highly-touted transfer at his position.

But O’Connell reconfirmed that he is happy with his choice of UNC and is even happier with the way the summer club season ended.

Two weekends ago O’Connell played masterfully in helping the Duke’s Lacrosse Club claim its fourth straight crown at Baltimore’s Champ Camp, considered the nation’s top boys’ club recruiting tournament.

Photo by Scott Growney

O’Connell entered the title game with his team down by three goals and looked very much like an All-American by making 12 saves and helping the Duke’s rally for a 6-5 win.

O’Connell said his back – which actually has bothered him since 8th grade –  is feeling stronger than he can remember. He also welcomes the fact that Steve Rastivo, an All-American goalie from Ward Melville High (N.Y.), will transfer into UNC for 2010 after redshirting as a freshman at Penn State.

“I am feeling real good,” O’Connell said. “I got a lot of therapy this summer and even though it was a little awkward because I had not been playing, I felt really good at Champ Camp.”

O’Connell said he has suffered from stress fractures in his lower back. He goes for rehab three or four times a week, does a lot of stretching and now is lifting weights. He is confident the condition will not deter him.

“This is the best it’s felt in a while,” he said. “I tried (during the high school season), but the more I went out there, soon it was so bad that when I went for a low shot I could not get down.”

O’Connell also addressed his situation at North Carolina in a positive light. Rastivo, through his father, recently informed that he has committed to North Carolina. O’Connell has been informed, too, of the transfer, by UNC coach Joe Breschi.

But O’Connell said he will be happy to compete when he arrives. Also, he said it helps to have several capable players at such an important position.

“If I have to sit for a couple years and wait my turn, that’s fine with me,” he said. “But I want to compete and I want to win.

“And It wouldn’t hurt to have two guys if one gets injured,” he said.

Would O’Connell consider redshirting as a freshman to give him a two-year gap behind Rastivo? “We could discuss that when I get down there,” he said.

O’Connell is also happy about the big Malvern Prep connection at North Carolina. This season MP grads Chris Layne and Matt Conte (both midfielders) saw playing time and in 2010 Conor Steidle (attackman) will be a freshman. Also, O’Connell’s good friend, MP rising senior Ryan Creighton (midfielder) has committed to North Carolina.

“That helps having the Malvern connection,” said O’Connell, who plans to major in education or business. “They started talking to me real early. I went for a visit in October with Ryan Creighton and we got to see a football game.

“We had lunch with all the coaches and I pretty much fell in love with the school. They want to win a national championship.”

O’Connell and Malvern had high hopes for 2009, but others had injuries, too. The Friars finished strong, tying with Haverford School for the Inter-Ac title, but the Fords took the league’s first championship tournament and O’Connell was unable to play in the game.

“The season was real hard,” O’Connell said. “We had a lot of important players go down. But I think it helped out the young kids because they got to see more time, and hopefully they’ll benefit next year.

“For me, I had to become a verbal leader off the field. And I got to learn the game in a different way. I got to see the coaches and what they had to say after defensive plays, so I learned a lot.”



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