Wellesley Athlete of the Week is made possible with sponsorship support from Deland, Gibson Insurance. The family-owned and operated business has carried on this Wellesley tradition for over 30 years.
Athlete of the Week: Reagan O’Neil
Sport: Boys’ hockey
Siblings: Older brother, Aidan
Favorite class: Metals Intensive
Pump-up song: “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill
Game day meal: Egg-and-cheese sandwich on an English muffin and nutella and banana on another English muffin
The Wellesley High School boys’ hockey team is on a roll so far this season with a record of 10-2-3. As of Feb. 9, they were ranked sixteenth in the Division 1 power rankings, and eleventh in the All-State rankings from the Boston Globe. They’ve beaten top-20 opponents, as well Bay State Conference rival Needham twice.
Junior goalie Reagan O’Neil has been integral to this success. Saying he hopes to be “the anchor of [the] defense,” O’Neil has come up big in important games, posting a shutout against then top-ranked Belmont to help the team to a 2-0 win, and only allowing one goal in a 3-1 win against top Bay State Conference opponent Braintree.
O’Neil said he “has always wanted to be a goalie since I first really saw hockey, which was when my mom took my brother and I to watch Babson College play a game,” in first grade. He has come a long way since then, honing his skills to boast impressive statistics like an average of 2.07 goals against per game and a .918 save percentage last year.
“My greatest achievement as an athlete so far is making varsity freshman year,” said O’Neil. Although he was a backup goalie that year, O’Neil assumed the starting position as a sophomore and has impressed since. Teammate and fellow goalie Austin Herlihy says that O’Neil’s most admirable quality is how focused he gets during games and in practice. “When he’s in the zone, there’s no getting through to that kid,” said Herlihy. “I learn a lot from watching him play. I don’t think everyone realizes how good he actually is.”
O’Neil’s goal for this year is clear: to win a state championship. Unlike last year, where playoffs did not happen due to the ongoing pandemic, the team has a goal to look forward to, and O’Neil said “we really feel that we can make a run at it.” He cites how the team has been able to control the game particularly well and play their best against their toughest opponents as proof the team has the ability to go all the way. O’Neil’s role in this? “I hope that even in games we don’t control, I can keep my team in them so that we can pull out a win anyways,” he said.
For O’Neil, the highlight of the hockey season is the games. “I play my best when I am loose and enjoy it, so I have a lot of fun during games. I love the feeling of making a save,” he said. Even though being a goalie has special pressure as it’s the last line of defense, O’Neil says he actually enjoys this feeling and is motivated by it.
On game days, O’Neil prepares by listening to a variety of music across different genres. “Katy Perry is a pregame staple,” he said, “but once I’m at the rink, I listen to more traditional pump-up rap.” This includes the same mashup of the songs UCLA, Colors, and Antidote that he’s listened to before every game he’s started in high school. He juggles off the wall of the rink to warm up his hand-eye coordination before the game, and practices saving shots taken by teammates during team warm-ups.
Outside of hockey, O’Neil plays tennis and golf as well, in addition to playing the guitar and singing for fun. He would like to play hockey in college, most likely at the club level.
Article written by The Bradford’s Caroline Thornton.