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O’Reilly earns high marks for Red Flash

By Jeff Nations — jnations@nvdaily.com

Michael Casper would like to take all the credit for bringing Sean O’Reilly to Saint Francis University, but he’ll just have to settle for reaping a few of the benefits instead.

Casper, the men’s soccer coach at Saint Francis, usually makes a concerted effort to track down the best available players for his program. It didn’t work that way at all with O’Reilly, a Front Royal native who attended Seton School in Manassas. O’Reilly came to Casper, not the other way around.

Three years later, and O’Reilly had not only made the team, but had earned a starting spot as a defender for the Red Flash.

“It’s a great story, and all the credit goes to Sean,” Casper said. “As his senior year [at Seton] unfolded, he had basically applied and decided to come to Saint Francis and he got into contact with us.

“We had never seen him play, so we were unsure of what he could do.”

Landing a starter without lifting a finger is plenty reward for Casper, but O’Reilly provides yet another bonus for Saint Francis — a straight-A student, he is a major boost to the team’s overall grade-point average. Last month, O’Reilly — now a sophomore — was named to the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District II Men’s Soccer Team. His GPA of 3.96 was the highest on the District II team.

“It does require a certain level of work,” said O’Reilly, a management information systems major. “I guess I’ve been pretty blessed. I’ve been able to achieve in both the classroom and on the field.”

O’Reilly’s start with the Red Flash was humble enough. Without a scholarship or even a roster spot available, the best Casper could offer was the job as team manager. O’Reilly took it, and the opportunity to practice with the team and watch games from the sidelines proved to be a big help.

“I tried out for about a week, and that first week [Casper] was happy with what he saw,” O’Reilly said. “I trained with the team the whole year, and I didn’t really have the stress and pressure of playing in games hanging over my head. I knew I wasn’t going to get any playing time, so I was just out there to have fun and get better.”

Casper added O’Reilly to the team as a red-shirt freshman, and he logged significant minutes as a midfielder for the Red Flash, a member of the NCAA Division I Northeast Conference. Heading into his sophomore year, O’Reilly complied with Casper’s request to move to the back line to take over a starting spot.

“One thing about Sean is he’s very versatile,” Casper said. “He can play in the midfield and he can play in the back. He’s very steady, which we like.”

O’Reilly, who began playing soccer growing up in Front Royal with the Warren County Parks and Recreation Department team “The Rookies” and played travel ball with the Winchester United and the SYA Rangers, made a major impact for Saint Francis this season. He started all 18 games and tied for second on the team with two assists. The Red Flash finished just 6-11-2 overall, and 2-6-2 in the Northeast Conference, but can count a 2-0 victory over then-No. 7 Monmouth as a season highlight.

“I think we showed what we’re capable of,” O’Reilly said of that win. “We just have to come together as a team [next year] and get our chemistry down. This year we were a young team with only two seniors. Next year, we’ll have five or six. Hopefully, that will bring us up a little bit.”

Casper expects O’Reilly to continue contributing to his team’s success — after all, he’s the proverbial gift that keeps giving.

“He’s a fantastic student-athlete,” Casper said. “These are the kind of guys every coach dreams of, who come in and get it done on the field and in the classroom. He wanted something, he worked hard for it, and he got it done.”