Kenneth O'Friel, Men's Lacrosse, Bates College
Defensive midfielders can be among the most overlooked elements of a successful lacrosse team, and 2016 Bates College graduate Kenneth O'Friel deserves significant credit for the role he played in the Bates men's lacrosse team's renaissance of the past two years.
A four-year member of head coach Peter Lasagna's Bobcats, O'Friel (Scarsdale, N.Y.) saw Bates negotiate a major turnaround in 2015. A year after going 1-9 in NESCAC play in 2014, the Bobcats scored upset victories over conference and national powers Tufts and Middlebury, en route to gaining their first-ever invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Bates advanced to the Round of 16 in the tournament and finished 11-6, the program's most victories in 28 years. The 2016 team didn't draw a second straight NCAA invitation, but it might have been even better than the 2015 club, finishing with an 11-4 record.
As a senior, O'Friel ranked second on the Bobcats in both ground balls (39) and caused turnovers (13), while scoring two goals and handling face-off duties 34 times on the year. As a junior, O'Friel was equally as effective: he led the 2015 Bobcats in caused turnovers (18) and scooped a career-high 71 ground balls, ranking second in that category on the team. Indeed, O'Friel played a vital role in his final three years on the team, totaling 156 ground balls and 49 caused turnovers while sneaking in four goals and three assists on the way despite only nine shot attempts.
Throughout, O'Friel was also a standout student at Bates, double-majoring in economics and East Asian Studies. The title of O'Friel's thesis in Economics was "Temporal effects on Motor Vehicle Accidents from 2003-2011." His thesis title for East Asian Studies was "Fukushima: An Unavoidable Nuclear Disaster." Following his graduation, O'Friel planned on moving to Tokyo.
O'Friel finished with a cumulative grade point average of over 3.50 and became one of 38 student-athletes in the Class of 2016 to receive the Department of Athletics' Senior Scholar Award, after also winning NESCAC Spring All-Academic honors in all three years in which he was eligible.