WILMINGTON – Throughout every step of his lacrosse career Shawsheen Tech senior midfielder and captain Conor Rooney has continued to take his game to a higher level. Whether that was starting out by playing youth lacrosse at the age of seven years old, or moving on to play with more talented club teams as he got older, or finally moving on to Shawsheen Tech where he put together a brilliant career, Rooney has consistently shown the ability to raise his level of play.
For evidence, all one needs to do is take a quick look at that tremendous high school career with the Rams. He went from scoring just eight goals as a freshman still learning the ropes, to 32 as a sophomore and then a remarkable 59 as a junior before his career, like every other senior’s was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s 98 career goals in all for those of you counting at home. Add in three straight Commonwealth Athletic Conference (CAC) titles, a 48-15 overall team record (36-3 in the CAC), and it has been a career worthy of the Shawsheen history books.
But now Rooney must do it all over again, starting from scratch once again. Next season he will be at the bottom of the totem pole once again, as he continues his academic and athletic career at Franklin Pierce University.
He will join a Ravens team that is looking to build the same type of winning tradition that Rooney enjoyed at Shawsheen. The transition will not be an easy one, as it never is for a player moving from high school sports to the college level. But if one person is most qualified to offer an opinion on whether or not Rooney will be successful, it is Shawsheen Lacrosse coach Chuck Baker, who has coached him for the past three seasons.
“Conor absolutely can (make the transition.),” Baker said. “Will there be ups and downs and require him to work harder than he ever has? Absolutely. Do I feel he is ready for that challenge? I am and I am excited to see Conor on the field at Franklin Pierce University.”
Truth be told, big challenges have never bothered Rooney, whether academically or athletically. Rooney has struggled with dyslexia throughout his school years, but he has never let that stand in his way while achieving success in the classroom as well as the athletic field.
Rooney attended the Landmark School in Beverly from second grade through seventh grade before transferring to Wilmington Middle School in eighth grade and then of course Shawsheen as a high school freshman. Like his athletic career, the transition from Landmark to a more traditional educational setting was not an easy one, but like his athletic career, hard work helped him overcome any obstacles.
“It wasn’t that difficult really,” Rooney said. “I mean, everything is a little more difficult for me, but I just knew I had to work harder. My mindset is always that nothing is ever given to you. I stayed after school a lot, especially in eighth grade, and got extra help, but I was able to do it. It will be the same with college. I figure I will need extra help at the beginning, but I am willing to do that.
“That is why I picked Franklin Pierce, because it is a smaller school, and also because they have a very good EMS program.”
Rooney, who hopes to one day use his degree to become a firefighter, will also be looking to be successful out of the classroom and on the lacrosse field next season, and seasons beyond with the Ravens. He hoping that lessons he learned in the classroom will help him in every aspect of college life.
“I think it will be challenging, but I don’t think there is anything I can’t do,” Rooney said. “One thing I learned from Landmark is that nothing is handed to you. If you want it bad enough, you have to earn it, and that is what I plan to do.”
Hard work will obviously not be a problem for Rooney, but make no mistake, neither will talent. Rooney is not some grinder who struggles to get the most out of his limited ability. Yes, he is a hard worker, but he also supremely talented, and he has only gotten better during his time at Shawsheen.
“Conor has been a great player for us over the years,” Baker said. “Watching him grow as a player on and off the field, I was expecting a great year from him. I feel terrible for him and the rest of the team. I know that especially Conor, was very excited about this season.”
Nobody was more disappointed than Rooney to see his senior season taken away from him. But while devastated to miss his final season with his teammates, he is able to take a mature look at the situation, showing wisdom beyond his years in handling the situation.
“It’s very hard, but I do understand,” Rooney said. “There is nothing you can do about it. I just look at and realize that you can’t take anything for granted. It is hard, but we are all going through the same thing.”
While Baker was looking forward to seeing Rooney light up the score sheet once again this season, he was also looking forward to seeing him lead the team as a captain once again this season, after having done a tremendous job as a junior captain last season
“Conor’s work ethic is one of his greatest leadership qualities. Conor works hard for everything he accomplishes on and off the field,” Baker said. “As far as lacrosse, he plays in the off season at the highest level of competition and he works constantly to get stronger and faster to be the best athlete he can be.
“He leads mainly by example. If I could get all of the kids to put the time in that Conor does, I would be thrilled as a coach. Conor is also a vocal captain. He keeps the team rolling when things are going well and he is not afraid to speak up when things aren’t going our way to try to lift the team up.”
Rooney was also a captain of the Rams football team this past fall, helping lead the Rams to a 10-2 overall record and a CAC title. Shawsheen football coach and athletic director Al Costabile also praised Rooney’s leadership ability.
“He is a true leader by example,” Costabile said back in November, in the days leading up to the Rams eventual Thanksgiving Day win over Arlington Catholic. “He is such a positive kid and that is so important to a football team. The football season can be such a grind. The ratio of practices to games is so much greater than in other sports, with only one game a week, you need positive people around to keep everyone going through a long season and Conor does a great job with that for our team.”
As much as Baker and Costabile have enjoyed having Rooney as a member of their team, he equally enjoyed playing for the two long time Shawsheen coaches.
“All of the lacrosse coaches helped me a lot to become a better player. Coach Baker, coach (Ryan) Woolaver, coach (Ryan) Hunt and coach (Scott) Hewitt have all been great. They pushed me a lot to get better,” Rooney said. “And coach (Costabile) was great. He made sure there was no ‘I’ in team. He was all about family and team. He pushed us. He was a very good coach and he was very good to me.”
Rooney also spoke very highly of his two coaches at Laxachusetts Lacrosse Steve Della and Dave Evans. Rooney has played for Laxachusetts for the past few seasons, helping him take his game to another level against great competition.
“They have helped me a lot,” Rooney said. “They have helped me become a much better player.”
As supportive and helpful as his coaches have been, there has been nobody more supportive of Rooney than his parents, Ranee and Ken.
“They have helped me overcome a lot of obstacles,” Rooney said. “They helped me get into Landmark and then helped me transfer out and go to Wilmington. And they also helped me get into Laxachusetts. I know college won’t be easy, but I also know that I will have them at my side like they have always been.”