Lacrosse Is on the Fast Track in the Chicago Area – and at Fenwick

Two new LAX coaches have lofty visions for the Friars’ boys and girls programs in 2020 and beyond.

By Mark Vruno

It should come as no surprise that lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. The sport’s participation numbers have been on the rise for the better part a decade. Nationally, more than 210,000 high school student-athletes now played organized lacrosse (as of 2018), according to statistics tracked by the National Federation of High School Associations. Some 113,000 of those participants were boys, while nearly 97,000 were girls. At the youth level, more than 825,000 children age 13 and under now play “LAX,” reports US Lacrosse.

Molly Welsh, from Elmhurst, will be one of the Friar’ senior leaders in the spring.

People from the East Coast know lacrosse; most of us from the Midwest, not so much. More than 30 years ago, some college boys were playing catch — with nets on sticks — an hour north of Chicago. “What is that?” asked a local, curious observer while his friends from Boston, New Jersey and New York looked on and laughed.

“Lacrosse is a great game,” attests new Fenwick Boys’ Head Coach Dan Applebaum, who grew up in Oak Park, IL, playing baseball as a kid since the age of six. Applebaum worked at New Wave Lacrosse in Naperville and assisted the staffs at Oak Park-River Forest (his alma mater) as well as Lyons Township high schools in La Grange. He was a Friars’ varsity assistant coach for several seasons before accepting the boys’ head coaching job at Northside College Prep in Chicago (2018-19). Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 tapped Applebaum as the Fenwick boys’ head coach earlier this year.

Dan Applebaum is the new head coach for Fenwick boys’ LAX.

Applebaum first picked up a lacrosse stick as a freshman at OPRF in 2005-06. “I wasn’t good enough to play baseball in high school,” he admits, adding that perhaps he had outgrown America’s so-called pastime, which was beginning to bore him as a young teenager. What he liked most about lacrosse is that it is “such a skill-based sport,” the coach explains. “You don’t have to be the biggest, fastest or strongest [athlete].” The blend of athleticism and physicality appeals to many boys. It may sound overly simplistic, but “if you can pass and catch, you can be on the field,” he insists.

Molly Welsh ’20, a senior leader on this coming season’s team who hails from Elmhurst, has been a member of East Ave. for the past two years. “I started lacrosse when I was in fourth grade but quit because I had other sports,” Welsh explains. She picked up a stick again as a freshman and has “loved it ever since. Lacrosse is very different from other sports,” she says. “It is one of the fastest and most competitive sports I have ever played.”

Junior teammate Maggie Chudik (Western Springs) had a similar experience. “I had tried lacrosse in elementary school, but it wasn’t until my freshman year at Fenwick that it became my main sport,” she says. “The Fenwick lacrosse team is such an amazing, supportive group of girls that I feel so lucky to be a part of. “

Fellow junior Declan Donnelly ’21 adds: “Lacrosse has been a large part of my life at Fenwick. My lacrosse experience started at a young age playing for the local lacrosse team,” says Donnelly, a two-sport student-athlete (he started at linebacker this season for the Friars’ varsity, playoff football team) who lives in Berwyn and attended St. Mary’s School in Riverside. “Not only has lacrosse helped me to make the transition into high school, but it has allowed for me to develop skills that would be helpful to me in other sports,” the defenseman points out. “Being a lacrosse player has allowed me to develop skills that have helped me greatly while being on the football field.

Coach Applebaum with some of his East Ave. kids.

“The summer of seventh grade I decided to attend the Fenwick Lacrosse Camp because I was hoping to play for the Friars,” Donnelly recalls. At the end of the camp, Jerry Considine (then coaching at Fenwick) asked whether Declan might be interested in playing for the combined youth and high school lacrosse [U14] team that he was putting together. This was the start, in 2015, of the East Ave. program, which added a girls’ division two years later headed up by Tracy Bonaccorsi, who now is the new girls’ HC at Fenwick (see below). Donnelly plays for Fenwick and East Ave., the latter of which he describes as “a thriving program with teams of all ages, for both boys and girls hoping to play lacrosse for sport or fun. The best part about having an elite, club program in the local area, notes Coach Bonaccorsi, is that it gives kids “the opportunity to improve their game and play more than just the three-month high school season.”

Donnelly, now a junior, formed a close-knit bond with his IHSA Super-Sectional Champion teammates from two seasons ago.

Donnelly credits the East Ave. program and coaches for most of his high-school lacrosse success. “When I came to Fenwick I was nervous to play lacrosse,” he admits, “but once I met the team, I never looked back. I was on varsity my freshman year when we made it to the Super Sectional Round. To this day, I am friends and stay in contact with many of the guys on that Super Sectional team. Fenwick lacrosse is a family and always will be.”

What is lacrosse?

“Lacrosse is fast-paced … engaging and exhausting,” says Coach Applebaum.

“Lacrosse is fast-paced,” adds Coach Applebaum, who helps to direct the East Ave. club program (he is one of three founders), now in its fifth year. “There is a lot of running up and down the field. Guys [and gals] get gassed, even in practice! The game is engaging and exhausting, which is partly why parents love it,” he laughs.

All kidding aside, Applebaum notes that the sport’s creativity was a lure for him. Lacrosse is “a very individual team sport.” What does he mean by that paradox? “What I mean is that every person on the field has his or her own style of play – but there still is a team around you.” He acknowledges that much of the game’s strategy is similar to basketball. However, the skill set is very different. “I didn’t need anyone else to go out with me to practice,” he continues. “I figured out ways to make wall-ball fun.”

Tracy Bonaccorsi is the new girls’ LAX head coach at Fenwick.

He expects to see as many as 45 Fenwick boys out for the two teams (varsity and junior varsity) this coming spring. The girls’ squad has even bigger numbers: “There are 70 [female] names on my list for JV and varsity,” reveals new Head Coach Tracy Bonnacorsi, who comes to the Friars by way of East Ave. and Trinity High School in River Forest, where she built up the Blazers’ program over the past three seasons. Five of her players have gone on to play collegiately.

The girls’ version of the game features more finesse and less body checking. (The boys wear helmets.) “We have 20 to 30 girls consistently showing up for [weight] lifting and open gyms,” Coach Bonaccorsi says. One of those players is junior Caroline Finn (Western Springs), who was an All-Conference selection last season as a sophomore.

“I have played with Coach ‘Bono’ [at East Ave.] since I was a sophomore,” Welsh notes. “She is a very encouraging and determined coach. I believe she will push us more than we have been in the past in order to go far in playoffs.” Teammate Chudik adds: “Coach Bono brings a positive energy to the field that I think drives my love and my teammates’ love for lacrosse.”

Playing, coaching experience

Between its two teams (varsity and JV), Coach Bonaccorsi expects approximately 70 girls to play for the Friars’ program this coming spring.

Bonaccorsi was a multi-sport athlete who graduated from Montini Catholic in Lombard. She became interested in lacrosse when her older sister, Annie, instituted the first-ever lacrosse team at the high school in 2005-06. After playing for the Broncos, the younger Bonaccorsi played and studied at Concordia University in Irvine, CA. Before returning to the Chicago area to take the job at Trinity, she coached at Beckman High in Irvine for two years (while still attending college) and with the Buku club team in Southern California. Her degree is in business administration with an emphasis in sports management. At Fenwick, Tracy’s full-time role is as an assistant to the athletic director.

As for Applebaum’s LAX “pedigree,” after his All-Conference senior season at OPRF, he played junior-college lacrosse in Pennsylvania — and then at Mars Hill University (NCAA Div. II) in North Carolina. As a midfielder there, he garnered second team All-Conference recognition. Applebaum also has played internationally at the Indoor World Championships, coming in fifth place as a member of Team Israel.

Future Friars? Applebaum and Bonaccorsi coach youth clinics together.

Increased media visibility is aiding lacrosse’s popularity among American youth, Applebaum believes. Fifteen years ago, “there were like four games on TV all year,” he remembers. “Now, they broadcast college games four to six times per week! You just have to know where to look for them.”

Like ice hockey, lacrosse has a reputation of being an expensive sport to play: Buying a new helmet, stick, gloves, elbow and shoulder pads can cost upwards of $500 per player. However, organizations such as US Lacrosse are making it more affordable, especially for rural as well as inner-city kids. (US Lacrosse is the national governing body of men and women’s lacrosse in the United States.) Its “First Stick Program” grants sticks and protective gear for up to 20 field players and one goalie. Heading into its ninth year, First Stick has leveraged the support of generous individual, foundation and corporate donors into $10 million worth of equipment to give more than 22,000 kids on 760+ teams (448 boys, 320 girls), in every region of the country, the opportunity to play lacrosse — many for the first time.

In early November, coaches Applebaum and Bonaccorsi ran a clinic with the OWLS kids – and Fenwick & East Ave. players volunteered to help.

Locally, Coach Applebaum cites the OWLS sports-based, non-profit youth development organization, which creates opportunities for underserved youth in Chicago. With lacrosse as its foundation, OWLS provides impactful mentorship and access to scholarships, improving the academic and social outcomes of the youth it serves. Bonaccorsi serves on its executive board.

LAX Facts

Source: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Did you know that lacrosse has its origins in a tribal game played by eastern Woodlands Native Americans and by some Plains Indians tribes in what is now the United States of America and Canada? European colonizers to North America extensively modified the game to create its current collegiate and professional form.

The Friars in 2020

“I am excited for this upcoming lacrosse season and highly recommend anyone who is considering playing, even in the slightest, to come out and try it,” Donnelly encourages. “There is always room for new players, and all are welcome. You won’t regret it, and I know this because I didn’t.”

Donnelly says he is eager to see how Applebaum plans to take the Fenwick program to an even higher level. “I have now known Coach Dan for many years,” Donnelly concludes. “He is a great coach who I know has the skills and ability to lead us on the right path. I have great faith in him and the coaching staff that he is bringing in to help him. Coach Dan … is a large reason why I have become the player I am today.

Student-athlete Declan Donnelly, a junior from Berwyn (St. Mary’s Riverside), plays football and lacrosse for the Fenwick Friars.

“If you would like to play, don’t be shy, contact me or any of my fellow teammates.”

Follow Fenwick Lacrosse on social media:

Boys Twitter: @FenwickLacrosse
Boys Instagram: @fenwickboyslax

Girls Twitter: @FenwickGirlsLAX
Girls Instagram: @fenwickgirlslax

Read also:

Fenwick Produced More Than 120 AP Scholars in 2018-19!

When it comes to the Friars’ highest-achieving students, demand drives supply for course offerings.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick AP students study together diligently.

Robust Advanced Placement (AP) instruction at Fenwick High School in 2018-19 produced an astounding 121 AP Scholars last school year. The private (Catholic) school in Oak Park, IL, administered 843 AP tests in 26 subject areas. Presently, there are 131 students enrolled in AP Psychology, a new course offering, this school year.

“The AP program at Fenwick gives our students a clear advantage when they reach college,” asserts Principal Peter Groom. “In some cases, students benefit from the same type of rigor they will see in their college classes. In other cases, students earn college credit, which enables them to focus on upper-level classes at the collegiate level,” Mr. Groom notes. “The wide range of options our students can explore while at Fenwick clearly benefits them.”

A mixture of sophomores and seniors participate in mock trial activities during Fenwick’s AP Government & Politics class, which is taught by Mrs. Mary Beth Logas.

Last school year, nearly one in 10 of Fenwick’s students was recognized as an AP Scholar at one of these levels:

  • 49 Friars were named AP Scholars, a distinction granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.
  • 17 students were named AP Scholars with Honors, which means they received an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.
  • 44 students were named AP Scholars with Distinction. They received an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these tests.
  • 11 students were named National AP Scholars for receiving an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more exams.
Students take a quiz in Ms. Marianne (Palmer ’96) Carrozza’s AP Spanish class.

“Our AP classes don’t just prepare students for the exam,” explains Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton, who directs Fenwick’s Advanced Placement Program. “They are true, college-level courses taught by some of our most talented, dedicated and passionate teachers. Students in these classes consistently attend top universities and then come back and tell us how well they were prepared to work at that level.”

As a testament to Ms. Pendleton’s statement about collegiate preparation, young alumnus Spencer Gallagher ’19 proclaims: “The AP classes I took at Fenwick have been absolutely essential to my success so far at the University of Illinois. The courses prepared me a great amount for the AP tests, helping me to test out of many classes, and helped me to develop study habits that have proven invaluable so far,” notes the Illini freshman, who grew up in Elmhurst and attended Visitation Catholic School. “Many of the classes I am taking right now are easy compared to the challenges presented by classes like AP Physics C and AP Chemistry.”

As a junior two years ago, Gallagher was one of seven Fenwick students to score the maximum of 36 on the American College Test (ACT); he is the Class of 2019’s salutatorian. “Fenwick really does have incredible teachers,” Gallagher adds, “who help their students through very difficult STEM classes and [help] prepare them for college. Even my classes not taught by AP teachers, especially my senior English class …, have helped me a ton with my writing and prepared me for the rigor of college.”

Freshmen in AP

Even students as young as 14 years old can get into the AP act at Fenwick. Right now, 31 freshmen are enrolled in AP Biology. That number represents more than 10% of the Class of 2023. Throughout the school year, these students are performing labs on plants that they have grown. “They are growing two types of plants: mung beans and black-eyed peas,” explains Science Teacher Amy Christophell ’06, who also also coaches Fenwick’s WYSE Biology Team. “They are responsible for caring for their plants throughout the year,” she explains.

Eager freshman students absorb advanced knowledge in Mrs. Amy Christophell’s AP biology class.

The first lab that they performed was on the seeds before they were planted. “They massed out 100 beans to practice with calculating a mean, a standard deviation and standard error,” Ms. Christophell adds. “They also use the masses to determine whether their data formed a normal distribution. The second lab has students using artificial selection, planting the smallest beans and largest beans by mass. They then came up with their own procedures to determine how the growth was different between the two sized seeds, Christophell says.

Continue reading “Fenwick Produced More Than 120 AP Scholars in 2018-19!”

As Fenwick Turns 90, ‘We Give Thanks to You,’ Oak Parkers!

The Catholic high school’s spiritual leader does not take for granted the partnership forged with the greater, local community over nine decades.

By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., President of Fenwick High School

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Ninety years ago next week, the Dominican Order established a college-preparatory secondary school on Washington Blvd., bordered by East Ave., Scoville Ave. and Madison St. When Fenwick High School opened on September 9, 1929, some 200 boys ventured through its wooden, church-like doors. Many of them walked to school from their homes in Oak Park and on the West Side, while others coming from farther away in Chicago took streetcars.

Over these many years, Fenwick has survived and thrived, despite the Great Depression (which started six weeks after the school opened!), world wars and changing times, including enrolling female students in the early 1990s. However, the mission at the outset has stood the test of time: Guided by Dominican Catholic values, our priests, instructors, coaches, administrators and staff members inspire excellence and educate each student to lead, achieve and serve.

Fenwick today has a co-educational enrollment of nearly 1,150 students as well as two Golden Apple-winning teachers on its esteemed faculty. Our school’s impressive list of alumni includes a Skylab astronaut, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, a Heisman Trophy recipient and other leaders making a positive influence locally and internationally.

Great neighbors

From our beginning, Fenwick and Oak Park always have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. “Fenwick and the Village of Oak Park have a long history of working together,” Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb has stated. “From its inception, our fortunes and our futures have been intertwined.”

As an investment in our future in Oak Park, last month we began construction on a six-story parking structure seeded with generous funding by former McDonald’s CEO and alumnus Michael R. Quinlan, Class of 1962. By next summer, some 325 cars will be taken off the streets, so to speak.

“With this new garage, Fenwick will be taking a major step toward reducing its impact on the neighborhood,” Mr. Abu-Talen noted at the August 13 garage groundbreaking ceremony. The private school “has always worked to be a great neighbor …,” and “also is a key partner in the development of the Madison corridor.

“Fenwick has been a great contributor to Oak Park in many ways,” the Mayor continued: “first, as an educational institution of national reputation; second, as a Catholic school filling the needs of a diverse and inclusive community.”

We are, indeed, proud of our racial and socio-economic diversity. More than 30% of our talented student body identifies as something other than Caucasian, and we provide nearly $2.5 million in need-based financial aid annually to our students through the generosity of many benefactors.

They come to Oak Park

As Mayor Abu-Taleb notes, “Fenwick always has been a reason why many families choose to live in Oak Park — and the reason many others visit the Village and support our local economy.” Last school year, our students came from more than 60 cities, towns and municipalities, including these top 20:

Continue reading “As Fenwick Turns 90, ‘We Give Thanks to You,’ Oak Parkers!”

Alumni Friars Teaching in Academia

It’s “cool” to be smart at Fenwick, and these Ph.D. scholars have taken their intellectual talents to a higher level as university professors.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick instructors have honed developing minds of highly intelligent people over thecourse of 90 school years. From physics and politics to English and French, some of those students took their passions for learning to the next level by pursuing research, education and scholarship at some of the world’s most prestigious private and public universities.

Holder Hall at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, where two Fenwick alumni teach.

At Princeton, the Ivy League research school with New Jersey roots dating back to 1746, two Fenwick alumni-turned-professors can be found teaching on campus: Thomas Duffy ’78 (geophysics) and John Mulvey ’64 (operations research/financial engineering). In Boston, Professor William Mayer ’74 has been a political-science guru at Northeastern University (established in 1898) for the past 28 years. After Fenwick, Mayer attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he also earned a Ph.D. (in 1989). “I don’t like to move,” he dead-pans, “plus my wife loves the New England area.”

On the West Coast, one of Prof. Duffy’s classmates, Larry Cahill ’78, is a neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California at Irvine. And in the Midwest, Robert Lysak ’72 is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis – Saint Paul.

Additionally, two members of the Class of 1961 were college professors and are now retired: Terrence Doody (English Literature) at Rice University in Houston and Thomas Kavanagh (French), most recently at Yale University in Connecticut. Another Professor Emeritus isJohn Wendt ’69, who taught Ethics and Business Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) for 30 years. (Read more about them.) Spread out geographically across the United States, Fenwick is the common denominator for these seven Ph.D.’s and college professors. Read on for a glimpse at their impressive works.

A Computing Love Affair

John Mulvey in 1964.

John Mulvey is a professor within Princeton’s Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) Department, which he founded. He also is a founding member of the interdisciplinary Bendheim Center for Finance as well as the Statistics and Machine Learning Center at the university. Mulvey is captivated by the ongoing revolution in information and machine-learning. The ORFE Department focuses on the foundations of data science, probabilistic modeling and optimal decision-making under uncertainty. “Our world is a very uncertain place,” he stresses.

The work Mulvey does has applications throughout the service sector, including in communications, economics/finance, energy/the environment, health-care management, physical and biological sciences, and transportation. In the past, he has worked with aerospace/defense-technology firm TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman) to help solve military problems, including developing strategic models for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (U.S. Department of Defense).

“Today we work with major firms, including some of the largest investors in the world, which are interested in integrating their risk,” Mulvey explains. For example, “hedge funds and private-equity firms need to manage their portfolios over time to protect themselves. When the crash occurred in 2008, people thought they were diversified. The banking and finance world refers to systemic risk as contagion,” which is the spread of market changes or disturbances from one regional market to others.

Mulvey also analyzes data for supply-chain management, which he calls a “transformative industry. Production and distribution models were separate before,” he points out, “but we’ve brought it all together now. Amazon has built its whole system based on this commerce model.”

Prof. Mulvey at Princeton.

Machines running algorithms and computer optimization became passions for him at a relatively young age. At Fenwick, Mr. Edward Ludwig helped mathematics to make sense for young John. “He was an amazing math teacher,” Mulvey says of Ludwig. “His class was fantastic. I didn’t necessarily want to be an engineer but felt I could go into a technical area.

“In the 1960s we were at the cusp of computing, and the University of Illinois had one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the time,” recalls Mulvey, who grew up on the West Side of Chicago and attended the old St. Catherine of Siena Parish. “That’s why I wanted to go there, and I fell in love with computing.”

The ILLIAC IV supercomputer is what drew Mulvey to the University of Illinois in the mid-1960s.

He next ventured west to study business administration at the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California (Cal), then earned a second master’s degree in management science in ’72 from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Three years later Mulvey completed his Ph.D. at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management. His dissertation topic, “Special Structures in Large Scale Network Models and Associated Applications,” won the 1976 American Institute of Decision Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Competition.

Mulvey taught for three years at the Harvard Business School and, 41 years ago, came to Princeton “to have an impact at a smaller school,” he says. (Princeton has some 5,200 under-grads.) “I came here to grow the basic, general engineering program for undergraduates.” The 72-year-old thoroughly enjoys his work: “If you had a job like mine, you wouldn’t want to retire.”

Continue reading “Alumni Friars Teaching in Academia”