St. Anthony's boys lacrosse coach Keith Wieczorek is looking to win back-to-back CHSAA state titles this season, NewsdayTV Dean Zulkofske reports. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Owen Duffy knows one player doesn’t define the depth of this year’s St. Anthony’s boys lacrosse team.

Not when the defending CHSAA 'AAA' state champions feature 25 seniors who are committed to playing college lacrosse. Nineteen of those will play at Division I schools.

Duffy, a senior attack, also knows how special this group is. 

“There are no practices like this anywhere in the country,” Duffy said. “Our second-strings, our third-strings are all guys going places."

Still, he said: “That’s great and all, but I think we have to prove it on the field.”

In recent years, the Friars’ top-scorer has gone on to All-American success in college.

Former St. Anthony’s weapons Brennan O’Neill and Andrew McAdorey earned All-American honors at Duke. Last season’s top-scorer, Michael Leo, is up to double-digit points in his first season at Syracuse.

Now, Duffy is that player at St. Anthony’s. The North Carolina-bound attacker scored 40 goals and added 29 assists as one of the Friars’ top-offensive threats in 2022.

“When it’s a big moment, he steps up and wants the ball. He’s going to share it too, and he won’t make any bad decisions,” St. Anthony's coach Keith Wieczorek said. “He’s one of those [players] where you don’t replace him. You just move on and appreciate that you had him.”

Duffy scored three or more goals in seven games last season as a junior. He scored 49 points on 25 goals and 24 assists as a sophomore, including a career-best seven-goal outing against Chaminade.

St. Anthony’s defender Cole Aasheim will also play at North Carolina. On game days, Aasheim and Duffy are on opposite ends of the field. At practice, they match up against each other and compete.

“Going against probably the best attackman in the country, it gets me a lot better,” Aasheim said. “We have a really good competition, and then off the field we can still be best friends.”

The Friars’ schedule this season features teams from Washington D.C., New Jersey and Connecticut. But they don't overlook their biggest rival, a matchup that Wieczorek said is never decided by rankings or ratings.

St. Anthony’s beat Chaminade, 12-10, on Thursday and the longtime rivals will meet again on May 10. 

The Friars have won the last five games against the Flyers, and three of those games were decided by one goal. That includes last season's CHSAA 'AAA' state final, an overtime win for St. Anthony's. 

“They’re a mirror program of ours, they’re tremendous competitors and always bring out the best of us,” Wieczorek said. “I think it just comes down to which team makes the fewer mistakes and makes the little plays to win the game. And I think if you go over the history of the matchup, it’s always come down to that.

“I think it’s the best rivalry in the country.”

Chaminade senior Gavin Creo agreed. Creo, who scored three of his 36 goals against St. Anthony's last year, said he and his teammates prepare for close, one-goal games before taking the field against their rival.

“Regardless of the rankings or all that stuff, it is always close, it will always be close,” Creo said. “St. Anthony’s is another one of those programs where the name is bigger than yourself. You’re not just playing to beat this team so your record looks better. You want to beat them because that rivalry really means something.”

St. Anthony’s beat the Flyers 19-10 in their first game in April last spring but won the next two games by one goal.

While Chaminade has only beaten St. Anthony’s once in the last two seasons, the Flyers are 20-2 against other opponents during that span.

“When one team punches, you gotta punch back,” said Chaminade senior goalie PJ Verdi, who stopped nine shots against St. Anthony’s last year. “If you’re not doing that, the game’s going to get out of hand. You just need to keep going no matter what the score is. Big comebacks happen.”

And as the target on the St. Anthony’s lacrosse program has grown, Duffy is ready to prove the hype against their national schedule, and in what his coach considers the best rivalry in high school lacrosse.

"That’s always going to be a tough game," Duffy said. "They’re always going to bring their best."

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